Coconut Cream Pie with Macadamia Nut Caramel

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To know me and my dad is to know that we are utterly obsessed with coconut.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I planned a family BBQ and somehow got talked into making an entire coconut cream pie.  The conversation went something along the lines of –

Me: “So we’ll have tri-tip, carrot salad, and I’ll make a pie.  What else would be good with this?  Some asparagus?”

My mom: “Maybe potatoes gratin.”

My dad: “I think coconut cream pie would go great with all of those things…”

So apparently, I was making coconut cream pie.  Although I was planning on making a peach galette, the coconut cream pie option was totally fine, because I lovelovelove coconut and have been thinking about making a coconut cream pie for ages.  The original plan was to make it with a graham cracker crust in a springform pan that would tour high and show off all its beautiful layers.  However, my dad made it clear that it was to be made with a regular pie crust.  SO I used my favorite, trusty, all-time favorite, fool-proof pie dough recipe using my food processor (because I was feeling lazy), and then threw a bunch of good shit into that pie crust, because pie dough in any form + good shit = the best dessert ever.

In the end, my ideal BBQ centered around the wonderment of the three bushels of pansies I planted didn’t work out.  It rained and hailed the whole day in true Reno fashion 😭  In a more positive light, it was the most wonderful day for baking in jammies, and we still BBQed our tri-tip even though it was only, like 30° F outside!  Also, my mom and I may have gotten to talking over a bottle of Pinot Noir, and my asparagus got baked for too long and turned into what I can only call “asparagus chips”.  Which, as it turns out, are a perfect food.  I’m going to start a new trend of asparagus chips that replace kale chips, do not @ me on this.

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This coconut cream pie was quite the process, and I can’t even lie to you, it is for sure a weekend project.  Especially if you make your pie crust like I did, which I highly recommend, but will not judge you if you go store-bought.  You will also be making homemade caramel sauce with macadamia nuts.  The caramel adds a nice textural component that I usually do not find in coconut cream pie, and it is absolutely necessary for this recipe, unless you are deathly allergic to macadamia nuts, and then I guess you’d better skip them.

THEN!  You’ll make this slightly-sweet, lightly-coconutty custard that is both easy to make and so silky you’ll practically die.  This is not me being dramatic, ok?

Lastly, you’ll cover the somabitch in whipped cream and toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes, and it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever had.  Just trust me on this.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dark Side of the Gym by The National

 

Carrot Salad with Pistachios + Queso Fresco + Shallot Dressing

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I feel like I don’t have any good stories to share with you guys lately.  I just work and cook and do a little yoga.  Is this what post-grad life is??  I get a degree, and I become someone who looks forward to coming home on Fridays and eating takeout pupusas in my sweatpants while watching Arrested Development reruns?  Because that’s exactly what I did this past Friday, and it was kind of amazing.  Although Saturday I went to a party and had two whole beers sooooo…yay?  Raise the roof?  I don’t know how to be young anymore.  Help!!!

In other exciting news, we also got a new Indian restaurant in town, and it’s the best one yet!  And this weekend, I’ll be in Seattle hopefully going to lots of fun bars and coffeeshops.  So, things are looking up in the ‘cool department’!

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On another note, may I introduce you to one of my new favorite recipes?  I didn’t know it was possible to like veggies this much, but omg this carrot salad is sososo good!!  I don’t think we appreciate carrot salad enough in the states, because I’ve never seen one here unless I was at an authentic-European deli of some sort, but I’m starting a petition to make it a thing.

I made this salad for Easter, and it was perfect with ham and scalloped potatoes.  Then, I used the leftover dressing to make more carrot salad for work lunches the next few days.  I’m pretty sure I ate like, 8 servings of vegetables a day that week.  I hope this obsession lasts and eventually upgrades to a spinach obsession.

For this salad, you can peel the carrots into long, pretty ribbons like I did.  Texturally, it’s my favorite, but peeling carrot ribbons takes a long time, and you end up with weird little carrot pieces once you can’t peel anymore.  In this case, I just turn them into carrot sticks and snack on them alone.  When I was being lazy with it, I just used grated carrots which is way faster and can be done with a food processor.  Either way, the real star here is the shallot dressing.  It’s slightly-spicy and creamy from the yogurt.  I would dip anything into it.  If you don’t like carrots, at least make the dressing and put it on some kale or something.

Also!  This salad can be made a day in ahead, but put the pistachios on right before serving or they will lose their crunch.  Ok?  Ok!

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Carrot Salad with Pistachios + Queso Fresco + Shallot Dressing
Serves 8-12

Ingredients for the Salad

2 lbs. carrots, washed, trimmed, and peeled
4 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 c. pistachios, toasted
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, chopped

Ingredients for Dressing

1 small shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
3 Tbs. plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1/3 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots into long ribbons.  Alternatively, you can shred them in a food processor.  Cover carrots with a wet paper towel to keep fresh.

To make the dressing, add shallot, white wine vinegar, Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and honey to a food processor.  Pulse until combined.  Drizzle in olive oil until emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare salad, add the queso fresco, pistachios, and parsley.  Toss with the shallot dressing, to taste.  Start with half the dressing and add more as needed.  Serve immediately.  To make the recipe ahead, combine everything but the pistachios.  Add the pistachios right before serving.


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Sleep Apnea by Beach Fossils

Croque Madame Galettes with Everything Crust

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It’s a rare Sunday when I’m actually human enough to have a proper brunch before noon.  Beyond the mandatory sleeping in portion of Sundays, I also have to lay in bed scrolling through my phone, drink a cup of coffee, and snuggle my dog on the floor for thirty minutes all before putting on my face and some real pants.  Luckily, I think Sundays always feel like morning until it starts to get dark and the anxiety of the next work day looms over me.  So, brunch usually happens anywhere between 12:30 and 3 in the afternoon which means I get to sleep in and skip all the Sunday-brunch crowds.  Win-win!

On the off chance that I have my shit together before noon on a Sunday and don’t think I can handle the weekend brunch crowds, I make breakfast at home and eat while cuddled up on the couch watching Friends for the hundredth time.  Usually, it’s just a bagel or cheesy eggs + lots lots lots of coffee.  However, every once in a while I will have my shit so together that I even have ingredients at home for a fancy brunch!  Those are few and far between, but they are sometimes totally real and make me feel like an actual grown up.

I think I would like to make it a new goal to get up at least one Sunday a month and have a fancy brunch.  Maybe I’ll even get into doing yoga on Sundays?!  Would that make me an overachiever?  It sounds a little meta….

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This past week(end), I had probably the worst cold of my life.  I felt like one of those wavy inflatable tubemen, but instead of being filled with air, I was actually filled with mud and also I was at the bottom of a swamp.  I practically drowned myself in cough medicine and Gatorade, and I ate whatever I wanted since I was feeling sorry for myself.  After watching approximately 200 episodes of The Office, I finally peeled myself off the couch and managed to get out of the house long enough to get some good coffee.  Also, I’m sending many blessings to past Sara, because when I opened my freezer, I had some of these mini galettes wrapped up!  (Ugh, past Sara can be a real MVP sometimes).  Since it was the first warm day we’ve had in ages, I swigged some Dayquil and enjoyed these galettes with plenty of fresh coffee at our local arboretum.

These galettes are super easy and a fun play on the French croque madame.  When I was in France this past summer, I was utterly obsessed with croque madames and ham and cheese baguettes.  Why is it that the French can make a ham and cheese sandwich so amazing and mine taste like they came out of a vending machine?  Anyways, I decided to take these ingredients and combine them with another one of my favorite French treats – the galette.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m totally obsessed with galettes, so it was about time that I made a savory version.

Oh, and I put everything bagel spice on the crust, because I pretty much want everything bagel spice on everything in my whole life.

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Croque Madame Galettes with Everything Crust
Makes 4 large servings or 8 small servings

Ingredients

2 – 9 in. pie crusts, store-bought or homemade
1/4 c. dijon mustard
8 oz. ham, thinly sliced
6 oz. swiss cheese, sliced or shredded
5 eggs
1/4 c. everything bagel spice*
Sliced chives, for topping

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Divide pie dough into 4 equal parts, and roll them out until they are about 6 inches in diameter.  Spread 1 Tbs. of dijon in the middle of each crust.  Place 2 oz. of ham and 2 slices of swiss (or 3 Tbs. shredded) in the middle of each crust.  Fold the crust edges over.  It doesn’t have to be perfect since they are supposed to be rustic!

Mix 1 of the eggs with about 1 Tbs. of water.  Brush each of the crusts with the egg wash, and sprinkle each galette with 1 Tbs. of everything bagel spice.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, and break 1 egg over the top of each galette.  Bake for about 10 more minutes, or until the white is set and the yolk is still fairly runny.

Sprinkle each galette with the chives and serve!

Notes

*To freeze, wrap each galette in tinfoil and store in an airtight container in the freezer.  To reheat, throw the wrapped galette in a 350* oven for about 30 minutes.
*I have a jar of everything bagel spice in my cabinet, but if you’re not one of those people, you can mix together 1 Tbs. poppy seeds, 1 Tbs. sesame seeds, 1 Tbs. dried garlic, and 1 Tbs. dried onion together.  Sometimes, I use a mix of black and white sesame seeds for fun!


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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Heart in a Cage by The Strokes

Black Sesame + Blood Orange Pound Cake

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I have this new hobby now where I come home on Friday night and immediately start baking.  Gone are my college days where Fridays meant getting excited about actually going out in public.  Now, I just want to make some brownies, eat Chinese takeout, and try to stay awake until 11 p.m.  While I can firmly say I would not trade working full-time for studying until midnight or being the only participant on “team projects” anymore, I also 10/10 understand why adults don’t do things.  At best, I can mentally prepare myself to go out on a Saturday night after a proper day of sleeping in and lounging around the house.  On the other hand, I have extreme FOMO, so if you offer something really tempting, I’ll probably down a few cups of coffee and make myself socialize.  But only if I can bring my dog.

One of the most stressful things of late has been deciding what I actually want to bake on these Friday nights, because if you see my “Recipes to Try” list, it’s as long as the Game of Thrones books.  Granted, not all of it is baked goods, some are cocktails which actually would be the perfect for Friday-night recipe developing, and a lot are rando health-foods that are not acceptable for Fridays.  But the baked goods list is long and arduous, and when I have to spend three weekends developing a cake, I get sad 🙁  Mostly because it means I have nothing to share for a weekend, but also because it means no cake for that weekend!

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For example, this cake took me three fing times to figure out.  THREE.  And ok, I know that’s typical, if not modest, in recipe development world, but I’ve made cakes similar to this formula literally hundreds of times, so for it to not work three different times was appalling.  As a person who considers herself an experienced baker, I was fairly offended about screwing up such a simple cake and felt like I had to prove myself worthy to baked goods.  And although my salty-af first attempt inspired me to write a fairly impressive Vday-inspired caption, I also just really wanted this cake to work out some way or another, because black sesame + blood orange = 😍

In a perfect world, this cake would have been ready in time for Vday, because I don’t think it’s a coincidence that blood orange season is right around Valentine’s Day.  That’s just way too damn convenient.  However, I’m kind of fine that it didn’t end up working out that way, because the first batch of blood oranges I bought for this recipe were so-so, and the last batch I bought were unreeeeaaaaaal.  They were the most beautiful color, and their frangrance made my whole kitchen smell like it had just been professionally cleaned, although I can guarantee that wasn’t the case.  I think blood oranges are so underappreciated, because like, besides their ruby-red hue, they are so sweet and floral.  Maybe we should be adding lavender to this cake instead of sesame?

However, I really liked how the sweetness of the blood oranges meshed with the earthiness of the sesame seeds.  This color combo is perfection, and I liked the polka-dot look of the cake itself.  I’m putting black sesames on everything from now on thankyouverymuch.

A few notes about this recipe before we get into things:

  • Citrus is already somewhat salty, so it’s important to be stingy with the salt.  My first two attempts at this cake were soooo salty (for various reasons, but still).
  • Whip the butter, sugar, and eggs for much longer than you believe to be necessary.
  • Definitely don’t over-bake this cake.  Since it’s pound cake, it doesn’t use moisturizers like oil, so it’ll get dry if you wait too long.
  • Use aluminum-free baking powder, or the metallic taste will be very present in this recipe.
  • Use a higher-quality powdered sugar for the glaze.  Since the glaze is almost exclusively powdered sugar, you will notice any chalky tastes and textures found in cheaper versions.
  • Oh, and one more thing!  These do great baked in mini loaf pans, but make sure to butter the bejeezus out of the pan, or they will come out as little hot messes like mine did (see below).  However, if yours do come out that way, trash them up with extra glaze and maybe a little sprinkles, and you’ll be A-ok.  I highly recommend this method, because baking mini loaf cakes means extras for the freezer, and they are the best way to eat cake for breakfast in a socially acceptable way!! #science

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Black Sesame + Blood Orange Pound Cake
Serves 12

Ingredients for the cake

1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. blood orange zest
3 c. flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
2 Tbs. black sesame seeds

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.  Heat oven to 350* F.

Meanwhile, cream butter and sugar until it’s very incorporated, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly until the butter mixture is very light and fluffy, about another 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and blood orange zest.

Stir in half of the flour and half of the milk until just mixed.  Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.  Stir in the black sesame seeds.

Pour batter into a buttered and floured bundt cake pan.  Bake for about 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached.  Flip it onto a cooling rack and let it cool before glazing.

Ingredients for glaze

2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 c. blood orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Milk, as needed

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, blood orange juice, and vanilla extract.  Mix in milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.  If the glaze gets too thin, add more powdered sugar a couple Tablespoons at a time.

Pour glaze over cake.  Sprinkle with black sesame seeds!


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Become the Warm Jets by Current Joys

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Orange Liqueur Cupcakes + Marzipan Buttercream

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In high school, I went to a baking and pastry high school and to make a little extra money, I would sell homemade cupcakes.  Some of my bigger projects were for weddings and bridal showers, and I also did smaller events like 9 year old’s birthday parties.  I actually won third place next to a bunch of professional pastry chefs at a couple of competitions, which was my crowning achievement at the time.  I was famously known for my marshmallow buttercream that people used to call “crack frosting”.  Obviously I lived that rockstar life back in the glory days of my youth.

Honestly though, going to my high school taught me invaluable lessons about food and the melding of flavors.  It helped me land my first job in the industry that eventually led me to my coffee-career and love for food blogging.  In a way, it was kind of like a weird, food version of Glee, but I got to do cool things like meet Vic Vegas and work in a bunch of kitchens in the casinos on the Strip.  I think going to my high school gave me the confidence to actually start this food blog like, almost 6 years ago?!  And luckily, I’ve come a long way since my first post, because *wow* I did not know how blogs worked 😬  I still have memories of having a mental breakdown, because I couldn’t figure out how to make an “About Me” page.  I’m still not quite sure why I couldn’t just have a Tumblr page like every other 16 year old in the early 2010s.

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I haven’t been making cupcakes “professionally” for a while, but of course, I still love to bake, especially now that I’ve gotten more adventurous with my flavor profile.  So when a few weeks ago (well, before Christmas) Molly Yeh posted a recipe for marzipan buttercream, I diiiiiied.  Marzipan buttercream is everything I dream about.  Plus anytime I make anything with almonds, I immediately have the instinct to shove oranges in there somehow.  And (!) since I’m not still in high school, I added orange liqueur, because boozy cupcakes = the best cupcakes.

This recipe is adapted for high altitude, because as I’ve mentioned in the past, for some reason I have to use high-altitude recipes for cakes and nothing else ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  I’ve been celebrating extra hard, because I *finally* figured out how to adapt my fave cupcake recipe to high-altitude almost five years after moving to Reno!!  If you need me, I will be celebrating with extra orange liqueur.


Orange Liqueur Cupcakes + Marzipan Buttercream
Makes about 16 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar*
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
1 tsp. orange zest
1/3 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. flavorless oil
3/4 c. whole milk**

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Preheat oven to 375* F***.

Beat the butter and sugar together until thoroughly mixed.  It will likely remain grainy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely.  Add the vanilla extract, orange liqueur, and orange zest.  Stir in the buttermilk and oil.

Mix in half of the flour mixture and half of the whole milk.  Repeat with the remaining flour mix and milk, stirring just until combined.

Using a scoop, fill cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way with batter.  Bake, checking for doneness at 15-18 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when an inserted toothpick has a few crumbs stuck to it.

Let cool and frost with Molly Yeh’s marzipan buttercream (1/2 recipe).  Top with sprinkles!!

*use 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder for sea-level
**use 2/3 c. whole milk for sea-level
***bake at 350* F for sea-level


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Misty Morning by Travis Bretzer

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Stockholm + Gothenburg 2017

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When my mom was in high school, my grandparents decided to host a foreign exchange student, and they were paired up with a girl named Malin from Sweden who was just about my mom’s age.  They rode horses and visited Vegas to drive along the Strip; I remember hearing stories about my mom and May while I was growing up even though I never met her.  This past summer, over thirty years after she had lived with my mom and grandparents, I had the opportunity to stay with Malin and meet her fiance and kids!  It ended up being one of my most unforgettable memories from my trip.

In addition to being a nurse, May flies planes for fun.  I didn’t even know that people could do that!  But she does, and she took took me up in the Swedish skies in a vintage plane from the 60s.  We flew from Stockholm to a small island off the coast called Visby where we walked along the beach, found some of the cutest coffeehouses, and then ate lingonberry ice cream.  On the way home, we followed one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen, and then I got to try Swedish-style cheeseburgers!

May and I spent the rest of our days riding bikes around Stockholm decked out in neon-orange helmets!  We found some amazing coffeehouses, and after a long day of bike-riding, we came across this Thai food-truck where we picked up curry and then picnicked at a nearby park!  I got to experience Stockholm as a local, and it delivered.

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After Stockholm, I took the train over to Gothenburg where I spent my whole day there eating buns and drinking coffee.  Gothenburg is wonderful to just walk around in, taking pictures, and looking at cute local shops.  I also found myself along the coast on my first night there and saw an incredible sunset even though it was probably midnight or something.

The next night, my airbnb host took me to the most stereotypical American-style sports bar I have ever done seen, and we watched golf, drank Swedish beer, and ate artificially-buttered popcorn.  Later at home, we talked over beers at his kitchen table until it was super late, and then I got to regret it during the whole plane ride the next day!  I hated myself at the time but looking back, it makes me smile, and I almost don’t remember the headache!

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Things to do in Stockholm:

  • Rent bikes – Stockholm was one of my favorite places to just stroll around and take pictures, and bikes are definitely the most convenient way of doing so!
  • Vasa Museum – visit the old 17th century ship here and learn all kinds of cool history.  There was a really amazing installment on women of the Vasa, and it was definitely my favorite part.
  • Picnic – Stockholm has some amazing parks, so pick up some sandwiches or Thai food and picnic while watching the sunset!
  • Fabrique – delicious coffee and the best cardamom buns!!
  • Rooftop bars – Stockholm has some amazing rooftop bars for wine-ing and sunset-watching.
  • Visit Visby – oh, you mean you don’t have a pilot-friend to take you to Visby for a day?  Don’t worry, you can take a ferry!
  • Drop Coffee – order the capp and also get a brownie + whipped cream for good measure!

And for a day in Gothenburg:

  • Haga – This street has all kinds of cute shops and places to brunch – I easily spent half a day here.  It’s also really close to other nice areas of town!
  • Walk near the coast – this is especially fun around sunset.  Most of my day in Gothenburg was spent walking around and taking pictures!
  • Bakeries – if you walk around Haga long enough, you will come across some of the best bakeries even on the side of the street!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: All your Love by Jakob Ogawa

Beef + Porter Chili with Cornbread Dumplings

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Over the past week, I had a new, nagging conundrum stuck in my head that kept me awake at night, and that conundrum was how I was going to make chili look sexy.  It’s a real Catch 22 folks, and after a lot of research, Pinteresting, and going through Bon Appetit’s archives, I came to the conclusion that it can’t be done.  However, don’t even worry, because at the very least, chili can be made to look at least presentable, and dare I say, appetizing (?), even if you have to cover it with lots of cheese and cornbread and bright jalapenos.  ALSO, I think that Superbowl may be coming up which means I actually posted a holiday-appropriate recipe before said holiday occurred?!?  *wow*

The original plan was to make this recipe last weekend, but then I unexpectedly came down with this strange, 24-hour flu that kept me in bed all of last Sunday.  I think it worked out though, because not only was my recipe far better developed over the week, but it finally got cold in Reno, and chili was the answer!  The clouds came out and made some perfect lighting for taking photos.  It was so nice.  I wish I could have cloudy days for photo-taking every week.  It didn’t snow all that much in Reno itself, which is kind of a bummer, because I love when the city looks like a snow globe.  But at the very least, it actually kind of feels like winter, and I may even have to wake up a little earlier tomorrow to scrape frost off my car windows!  Imagine that.  The lower temperatures made for some excellent cozying-up weather that forced me to lay on my couch eating pizza and watching Skin Wars most of yesterday and today, so I’d say I had a pretty kick-ass weekend.  Is anyone else here really obsessed with Skin Wars and willing to admit it so that I don’t feel like a garbage person for watching almost an entire season this weekend??  Pls?

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Part of the problem I’ve found with living in colder temperatures is the resistance to want to do anything outside, even if it’s just taking a walk or going to get coffee.  On one hand, I get super stir-crazy and a little frustrated at myself for not being able to achieve the motivation to make it to the grocery store, but on the other hand, it helps me develop some really excellent recipes that actually get made in real life and not just in my head.  This chili felt weird to make, because I always use my mom’s chili recipe, which is so easy and can be made with either ground beef or turkey depending on my mood.  Making a different recipe almost felt like I was cheating, and I just couldn’t get over that I was making chili without tomato sauce in it.  However, when my cousins gave me some of their coarse-ground beef, I knew I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try a new recipe and maybe throw some beer in there for good measure.  So I did.  And it was great.  And there’s dumplings in it!!!


Beef + Porter Chili with Cornbread Dumplings
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

for the dumplings:

1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. stoneground cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 c. cheddar cheese
1 c. corn

for the chili:

2 Tbs. flavorless oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 lb. coarse ground beef
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 15.5 oz. can beef broth
1 15.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 12 oz. bottle Porter, or other dark beer
6 oz. tomato paste
1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas
1 15.5 oz. can kidney beans
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2-3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
A few turns of black pepper
Salt, to taste

Cheddar cheese, extra jalapenos, scallions, cilantro, sour cream, etc. for topping!

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add the milk and butter.  Mix in the eggs until just incorporated, and stir in the cheese and corn.  Set aside, and heat the oven to 350* F.

In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and jalapeno, stirring until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef, breaking it up with a spoon until no longer pink.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the beef broth, tomatoes, Porter, tomato paste, beans, and all of the spices.  Bring it to a gentle simmer, and remove the chili from the heat.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop the cornbread batter around the top of the chili until there are 6 dumplings (you may have a little bit of leftover batter than can be baked up).  Place the chili in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the cornbread is set.

Ladle the chili and cornbread dumplings into bowls.  Top with cheddar cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, or your other favorite toppings.

*Notes about this recipe*

  • This recipe is best eaten day-of.  Like most dumplings, the cornbread tends to fall apart in the fridge.  I personally like the texture of cornbread mixed in my chili, but if you do not, I recommend baking the cornbread separately in a 8×8 pan at 350*F for about 25 minutes and placing the cornbread on top.
  • I find that coarse-ground beef has a similar texture to stew meat.  If you cannot find coarse-ground beef, I would recommend using stew beef, although regular ground beef would also be delicious.
  • I used 1 Tbs. (3 tsp.) of cumin in my chili.  However, I would start at 2 tsp. and add more as necessary depending on your preferences.
  • If you don’t want to use beer, just use another can of beef broth!

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This chili was made using Sanford Ranch Beef, a ranch in Northern Nevada that raises all-natural, pasture-fed, hormone-free cows!  Their meat is affordable, healthy, high-quality, and I definitely recommend them if you live in Northern-Nevada.  Check them out here or on Facebook!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: For You by SALES

 

Oslo + Bergen 2017

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One of the places I was absolutely most excited to go during my Europe trip was Norway.  Not only am I obsessed with lefse and green mountains, but I have Norwegian heritage, and I just really couldn’t wait to visit the motherland and meet my kin!!  And guys.  It was #perfect #worthit #thebestnorwegianexperienceever #hashtag.  It was four hashtags amazing, and I had some of my greatest times there, and when can I go back?!?!

I started my Norwegian adventure in Oslo, where I saw viking ships and so many naked people!! (And by people I mean statues).  I stayed with a man from China who had lived in Norway for years, and he gave me some of the best recommendations and was the nicest ever!  I spent my nights before dinner eating chocolate, drinking tea, and sitting in his kitchen talking about the world with him.  After dinner, I would walk around Oslo until late hours of the night, because it’s ALWAYS sunset there after 9 PM.  I found some amazing coffee shops with beautiful blonde baristas and even found a secret lake where the metro ends.

After Oslo, I got on an eight hour train ride through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen, and it was absolutely, hands-down, the best train ride I took in all of Europe.  The rail slowly climbed through the tippiest-toppiest point of Norway, through a field of white and blue even in the middle of July.  In the more hospitable parts of Norway, I looked down upon rows of tiny, brown cottages with white trimmings, rainbow flower gardens, and older couples sitting on their porch enjoying wine and snacks.  I snuggled in my seat with a cup of milky, black tea from the snack carriage and stared in awe for the entire journey.  I think it may have been one of the best parts of Norway.

When I arrived in Bergen, the magic ended momentarily when I got caught in the biggest rain storm in my life, dragging my suitcase through puddles while trying to find my airbnb.  And although my suitcase never dried the entire time I was there, I had a blow dryer to fix my hair, changed into a new dress, and met up with my airbnb host at a tiki bar with his friends, where we drank the sugariest drinks of my life and danced and danced and danced.  It was one of the times that I felt most welcome, and I will always cherish the experience of being taken in my a group of strangers in Bergen.  After the tiki bar, we met with all the other Bergen locals at the kebab shop down the street and sleepily leaned against the doorjambs while we waited for our takeout.  Upon arriving home at 3 a.m., I cozied up in my jammies, drank a pot of tea, and ate while chatting with my new friends.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe Bergen is just a secret hub of amazing Middle Eastern food, but I think it was the best kebab of my life.

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Oslo Stuff:

  • The Kasbah – a super cool Mediterranean restaurant & cafe with a boho vibe in a locals’ area of Oslo.  This place has lots of seating, some great hummus, and a yummy chicken pita!
  • Supreme Roastworks – A lovely coffeeshop with an even lovlier barista walking distance from The Kasbah.  I went twice, and I highly recommend their pour overs ♥
  • Sognsvann – the secret locals’ lake that is literally at the end of the metro.  Get off at the metro stop with the same name, and enjoy a serene walk around the lake right outside of the city!  Also, don’t forget to bring a picnic, because it’s the perfect spot.
  • Vigelands / Frogner Park – For a free, outdoor art experience, stop by Frogner Park and see hundreds of naked people statues.  The gardens are breathtaking, and honestly I just can’t believe this whole art gallery is in the middle of a park!
  • Oslo Opera House – the perfect, and I mean perfect, place to sit with a bottle of wine to watch a sunset.  I ate one too many chocolate-covered marzipan bars here while walking along the opera house roof and watching a pink and purple sky.
  • Bygdøy – take a ferry to this island to see all the museums including the Viking Ship Museum which I can’t recommend enough!!
  • Fuglen – an adorable coffeehouse with a name that translates to ‘the bird’.
  • National Gallery – a museum full of Monet, Degas, Picasso, and Munche!  I saw some of my favorite art pieces (I loooove Degas!) and then I went for more coffee at Supreme Coffeeworks.

Bergen Faves:

  • Selam – a really delicious Ethiopian restaurant recommended by my airbnb.  It’s barely advertised, hardly noticeable, but has a beautiful inside and delicious sega tibs!
  • Kaffemisjonen – my favorite coffee place in Norway, this is about a minute away from Selam.  The baristas are so knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is relaxing on a misty day.
  • Mount Fløyen – take a fernicular up the mountain for a pano view of the city.  Also, there is a music note fence up there, and it’s so cooooool!!!
  • Walking around town – it sounds silly to add this as a favorite ‘thing to do’, but this was one of the coolest experiences in Bergen!  I found some really adorable bakeries, great thrift shops, walked by the zoo, and got to see some adorable houses.
  • Fish market – ok, ugh.  I couldn’t do this.  I had to walk through it multiple times to get to Bryggen, and I gagged the whole time.  But if you like eating fish and whales and reindeer, I guess go here and live your best life.  On the positive side, the market vibe was wonderful!
  • Bryggen – old town Bergen with the best art shops, sweater stores, and restaurants!  10/10 recommend.
  • Naboen – a really wonderful restaurant with delicious steak + potatoes + beer.  It’s a more upscale place, and I had a lovely romantic solo dinner.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: It’s Always You by She & Him

Beef + Vegetable + Wild Rice Stew (Revisited)

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A few years ago when I was in college, I worked at a restaurant called The Cheeseboard, which makes the best soups and my all-time favorite grilled cheese sandwich.  When I worked there, we would essentially just make a giant pot of soup with whatever we had laying in the fridge.  Some of my favorites included our potato soup which I would top with absurd amounts of cheddar and the tomato soup with I would obviously pair with the grilled cheese.  One time, the chef made a stew with beef, wild rice, and all kinds of vegetables, and it was one of the best beef stews I ever done had.  It also happened to be one of the days that I didn’t help make the soup, and I had no idea what he did, AND to top it all off, he never used recipes.  SO I decided to make my own version, and I wrote a post about it, and it was good, but it wasn’t one of the best stews I ever had.  After that, I pretty much just forgot about beef soup until approximately one week ago when I found a package of stew meat in my freezer.

After a few years of learning more about food, and re-reading my original beef + wild rice stew recipe, I realized I had done some cooking techniques that made little sense, and the ingredients were a little off for my tastes (3 years will do that to you I guess?).  So I decided to remake the recipe with some different ingredients and some updated techniques, and I have to say, I think this maybe is one of the best beef stews I’ve ever had.  Yay!!

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For starters, I learned that a good quality stew meat + broth makes a big difference in taste!  I used stew meat from Sanford Ranch Beef which my cousins own, but you can use whatever good-quality meat you can find.  Also, try to find a nice wild rice mix without any added seasonings or preservatives – those will affect the overall flavor of the soup.  For veggies, I use a mire poix with some squash, but next time I may add turnips or leeks!  Basically, whatever you have in the fridge.  Also, I serve the stew with either a mixed salad or charred broccoli and fresh, crusty whole-wheat bread!

The stew lasts well in the fridge and can even taste better after a few days.  The rice usually soaks up some of the broth, so try to have extra on hand for leftovers!!

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Beef + Wild Rice + Vegetable Stew
Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. beef stew meat, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. red wine
4-6 c. low-sodium beef broth*
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. marjoram or thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot sauce or cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. wild rice
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 zucchini, diced

In a large soup pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and brown on all sides for a few minutes.  Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside.  If necessary, add the remaining oil and saute the carrots, celery, and onion cooking until soft.  Add garlic, and let it cook until fragrant.

Lower the heat, and deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Stir and let it cook for a few minutes.  Add the beef broth, bay leaf, marjoram (or thyme), parsley, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the wild rice and cover the pot with a lid.  Simmer the stew for about 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.

When the rice is cooked, add the peas and zucchini.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender.  Serve with lots of crusty bread!

*I used 4 cups of broth which made a very thick stew.  The rice soaked it all up for leftovers, so I had to add more liquid.  If you like a brothy stew, add 6 cups!


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Piazza, New York Catcher by Belle & Sebastian

Tater Tot Poutine

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Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!  Today, my Canadian friend, Stephen, comes into town to experience real American Thanksgiving, so to celebrate, here’s a classic Canadian recipe!  If you read about my Canada trip, you know that I spent one late, post-beer night at Smoke’s Poutinerie, which I’ve been told is the classic around those parts.  I ate “traditional” poutine, some drunk college kids told me I look like Bjork, and then we piled into an uber and I woke up with a gravy hangover the next day.

Tomorrow, I also plan on waking up with a gravy hangover although I’m hoping this gravy is topped over a mountain of mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing.  Yesterday I went to the liquor store after work, which was absolute utter madness, but I got some fancy gin, and I’m ready to party.  I will be spending my weekend surrounded by 40+ people who share my DNA, and I have dubbed myself the official gin + tonic maker for the weekend.

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When I asked in my Toronto post if it would be sacrilege to use tater tots instead of french fries in poutine, Stephen came back with a resounding “YES”.  However, because I have no manners, and because deep frying foods in my own house is something I avoid like spiders and vacuuming, tater tots were the obvious choice.  Plus, tater tots ♥

While we’re on the matter, would if be totally inappropriate for me to top mashed potatoes with gravy and cheese curds?  Do you think Stephen would just totally leave the country and never come back???  Would mashed potatoes + gravy + cheese curds be delicious with gin + tonics?  Or is that the gravy-hangover remedy??  If you have answers for these questions, pls let me know ASAP.  There isn’t much time before I pick up the Canadian from the airport and the festivities begin.

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Tater Tot Poutine
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 lb. tater tots (I eyeballed 1/2 of a 2 lb. bag)
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. beef broth
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 c. cheese curds
Parsley, for garnish

Heat oven to 450* F.  Place the tater tots on a greased baking sheet making sure the tater tots don’t touch.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  You want them to be super crispy but not burned.

Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Whisk in beef broth, salt, pepper, onion powder, and thyme.  Stir until thickened.  Keep warm.

Drizzle gravy over tater tots.  Top with cheese curds, and broil it in the oven until the curds are slightly melted.  Top with parsley, if desired.

Serve immediately.  Extra gravy optional, beer required.


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Cosmic Sass by Good Morning