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*

Cheesecake Crumb Bars

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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.

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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.

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Song of the Day: Fake Tales of San Francisco–Arctic Monkeys

Cabbage Crunch Salad

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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.

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Ingredients:

Salad:

1 head green cabbage, shredded

4 green onions, chopped

1 c. slivered almonds

4 Tbs. sesame seeds

2 packages chicken flavored Top Ramen

Dressing:

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.

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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.

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Song of the Day: For Emma by Bon Iver

The Best Homemade Snickerdoodles

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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.

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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.

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. shortening

2 eggs

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.

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I really did make the dough for these in about 8 minutes.

Go make them you beautiful people.

XO Sara

Song of the Day: NYC Baby–Karen O

Orange Drop Cookies

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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.

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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.

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Ingredients:

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

1 c. shortening

2 eggs

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.

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!

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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!

XO Sara

Song of the Day: This Girl’s in Love with You (cover)–She & Him

Soft Almond Sugar Cookies

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Way to go with posting all the holiday stuff two days before Christmas, Sara.

I know that’s what you’re all thinking.

Don’t lie.

But I’m just now getting to it because 1. I was waiting until I got back to Vegas so I could bake with my mom and 2. I decided not to bake at home since I’m the only one there to eat all of this stuff.

That’s my excuse(s) and I’m sticking to it (them)!

But on the bright side, these are the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had.  I know that you’ve seen that phrase a sickeningly obnoxious amount of times on Pinterest but this is the for real truth.  I mean it!

They’re soft and biscuity and not to sweet and almondy and just plain delicious and the frosting is perfect okay?  So just take my word for it and make them, OKAY?!

Okay.

Also, I’m posting two different recipes for frosting.  The first is Royal Frosting and you use it to outline your cookies so the flood icing (second recipe) does not spill over the sides and give you a huge headache-y mess.  Just outline your cookies and designs with the royal icing (the thick white icing in my pictures) and fill it in with the colored flood icing and sprinkles and stuff.  Just add some food coloring to your flood icing to make a bunch of pretty colors and have fun!  Also, I recommend you use these kinds of bottles…

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…to spread your flood icing on your cookie.  It makes your life sooooo much easier, I swear.  You can get these at Michael’s in the baking section and probably at other grocery/baking stores.  Use a pastry bag (or plastic bag) and small round tip to outline the royal icing.

If you have any questions for me about these cookies, feel free to ask!  I have become an expert.

Cookies:

1 1/3 c. butter

1 1/2 c. sugar

3/4 c. buttermilk

2 eggs

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. almond extract (if you’re allergic, you can just leave this out!)

5 1/2 c. AP flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

In a bowl, combine butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the buttermilk, eggs, and extracts.  It will look kind of curdy and gross, but don’t worry.  Combine all of your dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture in 3-4 stages.  If the dough is too runny, add more flour.  If it seems good and sturdy at 5 cups of flour, just stop there.  Seal the finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.

Roll the dough about 1/4 in. thick on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to make your favorite shapes.  I recommend rolling in batches and keeping unused dough in the fridge because when this gets warm, it becomes a huge mess.  Lay your cut out cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 5 minutes.  Bake them for 8-12 minutes at 350*.  They should be slightly browned around the edges and when you press them, they will feel soft.  Let them cool before frosting them!  *The time it takes to bake them depends on the size of your cookie cutter(s) and the thickness you roll out the dough*.

Royal Icing:

1/4 c. meringue powder or dried powdered egg whites

1/2 c. water

3 3/4 (1 lb.) powdered sugar

2 tsp. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract (use vanilla if allergic)

Combine water and meringue powder (dried egg whites) and mix until frothy.  Add the rest of the ingredients and beat for about 6-8 minutes or until thick and stiff.  It should not be runny!  Outline the cookies using a pastry bag and small round tip.

Flood Icing:

1 c. powdered sugar

1 Tbs. milk

2 tsp. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)

Combine ingredients together with a whisk.  It should be the consistency of syrup.  Add more milk if it is too thick.  Add food coloring and put in bottles!  You can do as many or as little colors as you like.  We did dark green, light green, red, blue, and white.  I think we ended up making about 4 recipes of this for our cookies, but we had a bit leftover so I would start with maybe 2 or 3 batches and add more if needed.

Then just fill the outline of your designs with icing!  And add sprinkles or whatever else you like.  We used some black gel frosting from the store to make small designs on our cookies.  But be careful not to add too much or there will be a funky taste.  Which is bad joo joo.

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Aren’t they just so cute and happy?  These are a few of my favorites.  But we had some real gems.

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Merry Christmas!  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your families.  P.S. These cookies would be good for any holiday in any shape!

XOXO Sara

DIY Dollar Store Halloween Wreath

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Happy Halloween….almost!

Reno is so super chilly right now.  Like, so chilly that it snowed all night so that when I woke up there was snow all over the ground!  I’ve never woken up to snow before so that was awesome.  Perks of living super close to the mountains.  The middle of the city doesn’t get any snow!

Yay us.

But like I said, it’s so cold.  Like, I am having a really hard time typing right now because my fingers are so cold.

The things I do for you people.

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With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to make a festive wreath to celebrate.  I decorated the rest of my house with Halloween too, but this is probably my favorite decoration I have.

And yeah, I know…Halloween is Thursday so I’m kind of getting to this kind of late.  But now you can get all your ribbon on sale on Friday and make it for next year!

Luckily for those of you who want to make one before your trick or treaters arrive, this was less than $2 to make.  Frugal score.

Actually, does anyone else hate the word frugal too, or is that just me?  So inexpensive score?  Cheap score?  Whatever, it looks cute.

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Things You’ll Need

1 stick wreath from the dollar store (they’re a little smaller than normal stick wreaths, but still cute!)

Black paint (or whatever color you like)

1-3 kinds of ribbon (I found that two looked best)

Hot glue (with glue gun, obvi)

Fake spider webs

Spider ring (optional)

Total cost:  $1 for wreath, $2 for ribbon (only used probably $.25 of it though), $1 for fake spider web (probably used about $.05 of it), had hot glue/gun, had black paint (cheap at store though!)= Like I said, under $2 but I don’t know the for sure price.

Directions:

Paint wreath using a sponge brush.  You could also spray paint it, but I liked the brown showing through the black paint a little bit.  Let the wreath dry for 2 hours or overnight depending on how much paint you use.

When dry, flip the wreath over and glue strips of ribbon opposite sides from each other.  Put as much as you want, and cross a few to make it look cute!

Glue a few strings of fake web across from each other as well.  Spread them to make them look more “webby”.

Add a spider ring if you want!  I did later on which is why only one of my pictures has a spider on it.  But isn’t it so much cuter?!

I think so.

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I think it would also be so cute to use orange, purple, or green ribbon for the wreath but since my door is a blueish gray, I decided black and white would look best.

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Without drying time, this wreath took me about 30 minutes.  That’s my type of project!

Just add a little ribbon on top and hang on your door.  I got a wreath hanger at WalMart for $3.  Worth it.

Hope you all have a great Halloween!

What are you guys going to be?  B and I were going to be Shaggy and Daphne (and Lacy was going to be Scooby) but he has to work so now I’m going to be a scarecrow.  Another DIY?  Perhaps.

Have a great week!

XOXO Sara