While Insta has proven to me that the ~hip~ people of the world have been spending their weekends partying in bunny costumes, I have spent mine doing laundry, petting my hedgehog, and watching Stranger Things. *raises the roof*. I just got back from Toronto, where my friend Stephen took me to all kinds of breweries, Niagara Falls, aaaaand (!!) I had poutine for the first time! Where can I get poutine in Reno?? I need it more frequently in my life! Usually when it comes to deep-frying foods at home, I dodge it like it’s hot (the messssss), but for poutine, I might be willing to pull out all the stops. Or maybe I can rig it with some extra-crispy tater tots right out of the oven? Canadians: would that be sacrilege??
On another note, I will be spending my Halloween night eating white chili with my cousins and taking the kids trick-or-treating! I found an amazing vintage 1960s dress at a thrift store the other day that I was planning on utilizing in my costume, but now that I’ll be walking around in the cold weather, I’m thinking of pulling out my classic Rosie the Riveter costume and calling it a day. It’s almost a tradition at this point after all.
A couple of weeks ago, I surprised my parents for their birthdays by coming home from London a week earlier than I told them. (Although, they did end up going on vacation for their birthdays, so I had to pretend I was still in England for a few extra days yikes!). I showed up at their front door and rang the doorbell cake-in-hand. They were so excited, we went to a delicious steakhouse for dinner, and then we celebrated with this cake for dessert! It was exactly what I wanting, and they loved their birthday present (me, obvs). This cake was the perfect addition: a lightly sweetened pumpkin cake with a touch of sage flavor and a sticky brown sugar icing that tastes faintly of caramel and butter. It’s the perfect fall dessert and makes a great addition to a Halloween party or even a Thanksgiving dessert table (it has sage in it after all!). Plus, you can decorate it like a pumpkin or turkey or something if you really want to make it festive. Obviously, I went the easy way with a few sage leaves and a rustic ‘happy birthday’ sign. Have a spooky night!
Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing
*Cake is for High-Altitude baking. Please refer to alternative measurements if you do not live at high-altitude!*
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. + 6 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda**
1/2 c. Tbs. buttermilk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350* F. Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, sugar, egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk. Then add the remaining flour mixture and milk. Divide the batter between the two cake pans.
Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick shows a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool. Meanwhile prepare the icing (below). Level each cake, and cut each cake in half so you have 4 even layers. Spread frosting between each layer, stacking them until there are 4 cake layers. Frost the outside of the cake. Decorate as desired.
* Use 3/4 tsp. baking powder for regular-altitude recipes.
**Use 3/4 tsp. baking soda for regular-altitude recipes.
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
1 3/4 – 2 c. powdered sugar
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add brown sugar. Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm – add milk. Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until thick. If it becomes too stiff, add a little hot water to thin. Frost over cake!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Atmosphere by Joy Division
2016 is over!!! Can we all just breathe a sigh of relief, already? From what I’ve seen & heard, it seems as if 2016 was a difficult year for a lot of us, soooo…solidarity and all that jazz. While 2016 was pretty rough, I’m so excited for everything that will happen this year! Some things to look forward to:
- Spring Break trip!!!
- New career (???)
- Probably tons of things I don’t even realize are going to happen yet!
Seriously, 2017 should be pretty amazing! Although I realize not all of my problems will be thrown out with my 2016 calendar, it does at least feel like an opportunity to take control and make this year much better than the last. I’m especially looking forward to improving my mental health and taking some risks in my life! I definitely don’t always choose the riskier option, but I’m hoping to step out of my comfort zone and see where it takes me.
I’m also beyond grateful for all of the positive people and events that helped make my year brighter: my new job, friends & family, therapy, continuously learning, and some self-love helped me through my difficult moments and made me stronger! Mental health illness can be a bitch, but I feel so very lucky to have a strong support system!
I will be spending this New Years with some close friends eating good food (of course), and venturing the downtown crowds for the 2017 count down! Since New Years is always for celebrating, I put on one of my favorite 1920s-inspired party dresses, shook last-night’s curls out of my hair, and threw on some red lipstick. Every time I wear this dress, my situation goes something along these lines:
Stranger: “I love your costume!”
Me *on the outside*: “Thank you so much!”
Me *on the inside*: “Actually I just dress like this all the time!”
It’s always a good laugh between me and my friends, but I love when people notice my unique outfits! Talking about vintage, thrifted fashion is one of my favorite things to do (;
I hope your night is filled with messy hair, cheap champagne, and some wonderful people! Have a beautiful 2017 filled with love and adventure!
And as for you, 2016, tonight I’m dancing on your grave.
XO Sara Lynn
*Song of the Day: What Are You Doing New Years Eve? by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
You can ask anyone in my family about my hot chocolate preferences, and they will tell you that I am a hot chocolate snob. No really, that’s a thing, and I am part of the demographic. When I was really little, my dad would make me hot chocolate every night with Ovaltine. If it was too hot outside, he would make me chocolate milk. I called it “brown milk” and I specifically remember asking for it while my parents read me my books. So naturally, the first time I had the packet-mixed-with-water type of hot chocolate, I was sorely underwhelmed. As a kid, I hated it, and I hate it now. I don’t even want flavored hot chocolates-peppermint, orange zest, and cayenne pepper have no right. I’ll just take my regular hot chocolate made with milk and Ovaltine or some type of pretentious homemade chocolate syrup, thank you very much.
Until now….Because in case we haven’t yet discussed my obsession with coffee or how I want to own my own cafe someday (we have), I have quite the love affair with all things coffee. And like my hot chocolate, I don’t want extra added flavors-I want pure, good quality, black coffee, maybe with a little cream and sugar when I have a craving.
I was fairly skeptical at the idea of mixing together my beloved espresso with hot chocolate. While I do appreciate a good mocha every once in a while, it’s not usually my cup of
tea coffee, and I wasn’t really looking to make a mocha here. What I really wanted was a creamy hot chocolate with intense cocoa flavor. Borrowing the idea that sometimes coffee is added to chocolate cake recipes to enhance the cocoa flavor, I decided adding a little espresso to my hot chocolate might to do the same thing.
I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I will reiterate that this is not a mocha. The espresso is definitely noticeable, but its main function is to complement the cocoa flavor. I added some vanilla whipped cream to the top, which melts with the heat, and creates this cool layer on top that mixes in with the hot chocolate, and overall, it was probably my favorite part. Honestly, I was worried that with only five ingredients, it would be bland, but it was anything but.
Merry Christmas Eve to you and your family! Make this hot chocolate when you’re opening presents or having dessert tonight, or even for breakfast tomorrow. It’s the perfect mix of your favorite childhood drink and your favorite (morning) adult drink, so it will be sure to make everyone happy!
*Song of the Day: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra
Times my family uses my great grandmother’s china: 1. When I’m in town and pull it out of the cabinet with the upmost precision so I can take pretty, feminine pictures of cookies delicately sprinkled with powdered sugar. 2. For a holiday about once ever four years when my mom doesn’t talk herself out of using the plates, because they have to be handwashed. Other than that, they essentially sit in little boxes, covered in bubbly plastic wrap stacked neatly on top of one another. I’d like to think that someday I will have a fancy Alice in Wonderland themed tea party or host an extravagant ball that requires black ties and antique, fragile plates laced with gold. But for now, they’re the host of my grandma’s crumbly butter cookies that are filled with walnuts and literally melt while you eat them.
I love these cookies, because they’re extra easy, only six ingredients, and it makes lots of cookies to gift to your neighbors and coworkers. My family has been making these cookies for as long as I can remember, although, if we’re being honest, I got all creative and added the almond extract. I really think it adds extra flavor to these cookies, but you can also leave it out if you want simpler, more vanilla-flavored cookies or if you just don’t have almond extract laying around.
On the other hand, you could also go crazy with these cookies and add whatever you have laying around your kitchen. Dried fruits, nuts, citrus zest, cocoa powder, vanilla bean, etc. The cookies are so versatile that you could get extra creative and add some matcha powder or lavender buds or even dip them in chocolate. If you don’t have time to bake, these cookies are the effortless, buttery, icebox cookies your kitchen needs right now.
Song of the Day: Everlasting Arms by Vampire Weekend
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.
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??)
*Photos courtesy of my brother*
*Song of the Day: Inside Out by Spoon*
After some things didn’t go *quite* according to plan today, I ended up taking on the 7 hour drive to my hometown all by myself. This made an abundance of room for Sara Lynn time, which included motivating self-talks, judging everyone’s driving besides my own, and running through Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not three times. Recipes were developed, life plans were made, and I’m pretty sure I had at least four revelations.
All in all, it was a pretty spiritual day. And now, I have a cheesecake crumb bar recipe. Sometimes, things just work out.
While I won’t say that cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts, I also never pass it up when offered. Realistically, I had big plans of making a huge cheesecake before reminding myself that 1. I didn’t have the ingredients to make a whole cheesecake and I was already wearing pajamas, which meant that there was no way in hell I was going to the grocery store, and 2. No one should ever make a whole cheesecake when they live alone. But cheesecake bars? Portable. Sliceable. Freezable. Slightly more social acceptable to have hanging around the house.
These ended up being a mix between cheesecake, shortbread cookies, and crumb cake. They’re everything you want from each of those desserts, but I think next time I’ll cut the dough in half and double the filling. If you like more of the “cheese” part of cheesecake, I would recommend following that method. If you prefer shortbread, stick with the original.
Customize with pumpkin, raspberry, lemon, caramel, chocolate, etc. If it fits in a cheesecake, it fits in these bars. I opted for simplicity and added a little vanilla. Okay a lot. Whatever.
Song of the Day: Fake Tales of San Francisco–Arctic Monkeys
Reno weather has finally gotten much more sunny and much less rainy. I don’t really quite understand what’s happening but the rain was non-stop for like, 2 weeks.
At this point, I’m not sure why I’m even surprised with crazy Reno weather. One time a few months ago I walked into the grocery store in 80 degree, completely sunny weather and walked outside to a blizzard.
It may not have been quite that dramatic, but it was pretty close. Anyways, that’s typical Reno weather. Welcome to Northern Nevada!
Although I have loved the constant rain, cool weather, and cloudy skies, I’m also really excited for it to clear up so that I can go to Tahoe and lay on the beach next weekend! I’ve heard it’s going to be in the 70s and sunny. Being an OG Vegas girl (where you barely wear clothes from mid-May to mid-August), I’m going to need to wear a swimsuit very soon. Although I definitely consider myself a Renonian at this point in my life, I can’t completely get away from that part of my upbringing.
Anyways, to celebrate the warmer weather, my friend invited me to go to a BBQ that her friends are hosting. To feel like I contributed in some sort (and since I feel the incessant need to please people), I decided to make one of my family’s favorite recipes.
To be honest, I’m not really sure where this recipe came from, but I know my grandma has been making it for forever. We make it quite frequently in the summer, which is why it’s definitely my BBQ staple item.
The recipe itself seems a little odd. It is. I may have even used the adjective “ghetto” to describe it before.
But it’s soooo good, and you definitely need to make for your Memorial Day BBQ.
1 head green cabbage, shredded
4 green onions, chopped
1 c. slivered almonds
4 Tbs. sesame seeds
2 packages chicken flavored Top Ramen
1 c. vegetable oil
6 Tbs. sugar
4 Tbs. cider or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package Top Ramen seasoning
Heat oven to 350* F. Spread almonds and sesame seeds evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until nuts and seeds are evenly toasted. Cool.
Combine shredded cabbage, green onions, almonds, and sesame seeds in a large salad bowl. Set aside.
Combine dressing ingredients until smooth. Toss dressing with salad, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to marinate cabbage.
Right before serving, crush Ramen noodles and toss with salad. Serves about 20.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Thank you to our amazing troops, past and present, who have fought for our freedom.
We are so, so grateful.
Song of the Day: For Emma by Bon Iver
I like the name snickerdoodle because it’s cute and funny, although it does not sound appetizing in the least.
But I think most people will agree that snickerdoodles are actually super appetizing.
I may or may not have already eaten like, 10 of them.
These cookies are a family recipe, and they’re by far my brother’s favorite. He asks me to make them whenever I bake, and they’re gone in just a few minutes. And I normally do make them because they’re sooooo easy.
However, I will warn you that they have shortening in them. I am totally against shortening in almost all cases, but not in a few family recipes (where shortening is used a lot). The shortening makes these cookies chewy and gives them a great texture, so just go ahead and trust me on this, okay?
I wouldn’t give you guys any recipe that wasn’t amazing, I promise.
Cause you guys are da besss.
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
2 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar mixed with 1 Tbs. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350*. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. In a mixing bowl, cream sugar, butter and shortening until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Form into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
I really did make the dough for these in about 8 minutes.
Go make them you beautiful people.
Song of the Day: NYC Baby–Karen O
This is the first time I have left the kitchen all day. Literally, I have been in the kitchen since I woke up this morning.
(Granted, I slept in til 10:30, but that is irrelevant).
Every single year my mom makes this whole big deal about how “we’re not doing any holiday baking this year!”
And then I say, “Hahaha okay, if you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen baking cookies” (Because baking around the holidays is just a thing. It’s the only time you can eat as much as you want and blame it on a holiday…?!?!)
We then proceed to make about 100 more baked goods, because once you start, you can’t stop. Luckily, we have a good compilation of holiday recipes going on.
These orange cookies are one of my family’s favorite recipes. It’s my grandma’s recipe, and the family always gets excited when these are around. We make them for all occasions, but I thought they’d be good for Christmas since oranges are a winter fruit (although I always associate them as summer-y?)
They pretty much taste just like cupcake tops with sticky, melty icing, which would normally be my worst nightmare, but when something is this good, exceptions can be made.
Thanks to Grandma for passing this recipe along.
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. shortening
1 c. buttermilk
1 scant tsp. baking soda, dissolved in buttermilk
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Grated rind of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2-1 orange (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350* F. Cream the shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in buttermilk, orange rind, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Drop by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. They will seem too soft and will dent if you press them in, but they will be done and slightly browned on the bottom. Frost with icing.
3 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbs. butter, softened
3 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. orange rind
1-2 Tbs. milk, or enough to desired consistency
Mix ingredients together with a mixer until desired consistency. Frost slightly warm cookies with icing and let it harden before stacking and storing!
To make them more Christmas-y you could even add dried cranberries! That might be my project next year…
Keep an eye out for more holiday recipes in the next few days!
Song of the Day: This Girl’s in Love with You (cover)–She & Him