Sparkling Strawberry Bourbon Lemonade

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Ok, I know it’s been 10 days since July started, but happy July!!!  Did everyone have a great Fourth?  I spent mine getting fried to a lobster-y red crisp while floating the Truckee River on a donut tube, and it was *worth it*.  Everyone was out, and it was like a giant Fourth of July party!  The water wasn’t even that cold, and I became friends with a guy dressed like Jack Sparrow.  I christened him Pirate Steve, and then he gave us a bunch of PBRs that were kept cold by the melted ice water that is the Truckee River.  Pirate Steve was the ~homie~.  We kept scraping our backs and booties on the rocks, since the river was fairly low, but if you don’t have battle scars, did you even float the Truckee?

After floating for a few hours, we doused our sunburned bodies in all the lotion we could find in the house, and then we went out for some beers at a local biergarten!  We ate lots of chicken wings and watched some fireworks and stayed out well past my bedtime.  The next two days at work, I wanted to absolutely die from exhaustion and mid-week, post-holiday laziness.  However, I made up for it this past weekend, because I helped move the boyfriend into his new apartment, and there was no parking in front of his house which meant we were carrying boxes down two blocks and up two flights of stairs in 90-something degree weather.  It was ok though, because I think I got, as the kids would say, swoll, and then we celebrated with pizza and beer!

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Now let’s talk about the perfection that is sparkling strawberry bourbon lemonade!  When I was in Vegas, I met the bf’s family, and they made this huge, amazing dinner.  His cousin is apparently a cocktail-aficionado, and he threw together a huge pitcher of bourbon lemonade that almost made me die.  It was so good.  I basically took the same idea for this recipe, and then added strawberries, because everything is better with tons of strawberries added to it.  It’s perfect for summer BBQs and summer drinking, because it doesn’t taste toooo heavy and boozy, but it gets the job done.  The hardest part is pureeing the strawberries, which I’m confident you can handle.

We took this in a big punch bowl to a Third of July BBQ.  Third of July BBQs are when you want to have a Fourth of July BBQ but you work the next day, so you celebrate the day before instead.  Or, in my case, you make bad decisions and celebrate both nights and don’t recover until Sunday night.  Whatever.  I digress.  This lemonade rocked.  Everyone who tried it loved it.  Make it.  Double it.  Put it in a huge bowl, and let people ladle it out and party their faces off.  The end!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Little Dark Age by MGMT

Thai Cucumber Salad

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I just got back from Vegas, and it was hot as f%^#*@((%.  I totally forgot what Vegas summer is like, and I think I almost died.  There is no escape.  It’s like being under a blowdryer.  It’s that feeling of when you open the oven and it burns your face.  It’s like your body is turning to dust and also you’re pouring a waterfall of sweat at the same time.  But!!! I had so much fun.  I got to go shopping with my grandma and spent probably three days worth of work on sandals.  My grandpa took me to breakfast at the golf club on multiple occasions.  I went to the second tiki bar of my life (the first being in Bergen, Norway, fun fact), and I drank all kinds of rum drinks and laughed with my friends.  Then, I woke up with my first Vegas hangover.  I breathed in a whole lot more cigarette smoke than I have ever wanted to.  I also got lost in my own hometown, and I was offended.  When did Vegas change the roads??  And, I found a lovely specialty coffeeshop near my childhood home, which didn’t even open until after I moved away!

Lastly, and this is the biggest and most confusing change since I moved away, I saw a professional hockey stadium!  And like, ok, the hockey stadium has been there for a while, but we have a real, professional sports team in Nevada!  It’s INSANE around here.  Every sports bar until recently had been filled with black-and-gold laden hockey bros surrounding every TV in every bar across the state.  I hate to shatter the illusion that is Vegas, but this really is the most exciting thing happening in our state rn.

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Now that I’m back in Reno, and it’s still hot as all get out, I’ve been working on summery recipes to help cool me down.  I’ve been making tons of salads and eating cucumbers like it’s my damn job.  I know that makes me sound like someone who doesn’t get out much, and you’d be right.  But I really do love cucumbers and especially when they’re covered in vinegar.

Back in Vegas, there’s this Thai restaurant that I love, and it’s the Thai restaurants that got me into Thai food.  It’s soooo good.  I think about it a lot, especially their basil noodles and lemon chicken.  However, when I moved to Reno and started trying other Thai restaurants is when I discovered Thai cucumber salad.  And I died.  Because it’s like pickles but so much better.  I will make an entire batch of this for lunch, and sometimes I add carrots and peanuts!  I like to make it with chicken satay, yellow curry, Thai noodles, etc.  Also, it’s perfect with BBQ even if it’s not Thai BBQ.  It just works for all things is basically what I’m trying to say.  I posted a recipe for Thai cucumber salad a while back, and that one was good, but this one is definitely the way to go.  If you need me, I’ll be on my back porch grilling and eating cucumbers in abundance, bye!!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Ran by Future Islands

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

 

Funfetti Pancakes

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I have used more sprinkles in the past few weeks than I have over the course of my entire life.  First, it was Molly Yeh’s funfetti cake, which my best friend and I decided to add extra sprinkles to, and then I unicorned it for my cousin’s sixth birthday.  (Side note: The amount of effort it takes to make a unicorn horn that doesn’t look like a wiener is actually impressive, but I don’t think I did too bad for my first time?).  The next notable encounter with sprinkles involved these pancakes.  Back in the good old days of SSL, I made a ‘birthday cake pancakes’ recipe with ‘homemade cake batter’.  As an avid anti-cake batter proponent, I was dead set on making the birthday cake pancakes that were floating around Pinterest but without boxed cake mix; at the time, this was downright impossible to find on the internet, and I went through a whole process of making homemade ‘cake batter’ that involved a food processor and a freezer.  Overall, way too much time for Sunday-morning pancakes, and while they tasted like cake, it still wasn’t the perfect funfetti flavor that I was looking for.

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I’m not sure if the ‘birthday cake pancakes’ trend is still relevant anymore, but as far as I’m concerned, anyone who doesn’t support sprinkle-y, rainbow-y breakfast foods is just a force of negativity nobody needs in their lives 🤷  That’s why I recently decided to revisit the funfetti pancake trend sans cake mix using some recently discovered knowledge!  It all started when I read Bon Appetit’s feature on Momofuku Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake.  The main takeaway was that the key secret ingredient to any homemade funfetti cake is artificial vanilla flavoring!!!  At first, I kind of freaked out, because I am a die-hard member of #TeamRealVanilla, but I thought about it and thought about it, and it totally makes sense.  After I read Molly Yeh’s funfetti recipe, I was downright convinced.  I looked over my original funfetti pancakes recipe, and realized that the ‘homemade cake batter’ step was 100% unnecessary; you don’t need ‘cake batter’, you just need artificial vanilla flavoring + sprinkles.  Duhhhhhhhh.  With this knowledge fresh in my mind, I decided to take my favorite pancake recipe (that I’ve never actually posted here, sorry world) and add artificial vanilla flavoring and my favorite rainbow sprinkles.  These can be found in most baking or ice cream sections of the grocery store – they are colorful and pretty and include absolutely no chocolate sprinkles which is of upmost importance to me.  However, if all you can find is the kind with chocolate sprinkles, I will forgive you and move on with my life.

What resulted from all of these experiments was a fluffy, buttery pancake that brought me back to childhood birthday parties, except in this scenario, I’m an adult who gets to eat cake-flavored treats for breakfast whenever I feel like it!!!  6 years of funfetti pancake research was 100% worth it.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: You Say I’m in Love by Banes World

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.

At these sleepovers, my grandpa would always go to bed super early, and my grandma and I would watch a movie on their old, boxy TV that always had the color off-balance.  Each time, my grandma and I would make popcorn before watching My Fair Lady or whatever new cartoon had just come out on VHS.  Usually, we would just make the microwavable, bagged kind, but one night when we didn’t have any, my grandma pulled out an old, yellow popcorn popper and some kernels in the back of the pantry.  We had hot, buttery, salty popcorn, and it was life-changing.  From then on, we only had popcorn from that machine.  Eventually, my grandma gave me that popcorn popper, and it’s the one I still use today.

You know the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted has a coffee-maker named Shocky that always zaps him when he plugs it in?  The Popcorn Pumper is my Shocky.  It’s not quite as bad as Ted’s, but it definitely sparks a bit when you plug it in, and all of the pieces fall apart if you just breathe on the machine, so it’s kind of like playing Jenga every time you make popcorn.  But it’s my favorite thing in my kitchen, and I will keep it until it just doesn’t go anymore.  According to a quick Google search, it was made in 1978, so I think it’s here to stay.

Last night, I ate popcorn for dinner.  I came home from work, and there were no groceries in the fridge, and I had eaten my last leftovers for lunch.  I had two options: go to the grocery store (not likely) or scrounge up whatever I could.  I found an array of veggies, some nutritional yeast, popcorn kernels, and a container of plain Greek yogurt.  After eating all the veggies I could manage in order to make me feel like a grown up, I decided I only had one choice: popcorn for dinner.  Plus, I had that nutritional yeast, and I have heard time and time again that it goes swell with popcorn and gives it a “cheesy” flavor.  And it’s good for you, so healthy cheesy popcorn for dinner is ok?!?! Also, I added everything spice, because when don’t I add everything spice?  The savory, cheesy flavor from the nutritional yeast combined with the everything spice actually tasted like a bagel which is all I can really hope for in life.  I made a big batch, cuddled up on the couch, and watched movies while the rain drizzled outside.  Bell slept next to me, pausing from her naps to take an occasional bite of popcorn.  I thought of my sleepovers with my grandma and grandpa.  It was perfect.


 


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Still Lovely by Banes World

Vanilla + Cardamom Scones with Strawberry Curd

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Yesterday, we had a rare March day with wonderful weather, and it was also the first day in three weeks that I haven’t felt like utter garbage.  I am currently in the midst of the longest sinus infection of my life, but even so, it could not ruin my spirits prompted by warm weather.  And by warm, I mean 45* F.  But, still… the sun was out for a change!  I had planned on spending the day cleaning my house after looking around and realizing that it looks like my closet threw up my entire shoe collection and I have a very impressive herd of dust bunnies breeding in my hallway.  But life is short, and sunny, windless Sundays are rare in March, so I forced myself to put on pants and get out of the house.  I got a coffee and took Bell to run around the dog park, and it wasn’t even muddy!  It was freezing, but every once in a while, the clouds would clear for a minute, and the sun would warm everything up.  The air smelled so good.  I always forget how lovely early spring is until it comes back around again.

Other than toughing it through the freezing-warm weather for as long as I possibly could, I spent the whole day cooking up some new recipes.  I love all the produce that’s out right now, and I’m taking advantage of it for as long as I can.  It inspired me to make some roast chicken with lots of potatoes and fresh herbs and then watch Julie & Julia, because what else would you watch when food is inspiring you?

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Another one of my spring favorites in the produce section is all of the fresh strawberries!  Strawberry shortcake has always been a very Easter-y dessert in my family.  We make our strawberry shortcake with biscuits instead of angel food cake, and I am convinced it’s the only way to even eat strawberry shortcake.  Also, you have to absolutely drench it in whipped cream, it’s a rule.

Like I was talking about last week, I’m trying to take advantage of my very short weekends by getting up earlier and brunching more.  Without some sort of goal, I have the tendency to sleep in and then lay in bed on my phone scrolling through embroidery instagrams for three hours.  SO, instead of scrolling, I’m sconing.  And eggs-benedicting.  And waffling.  If it’s brunchy, I want something to do with it.

But I digress.  This is about scones.  And strawberries.  And mixing it all together to create some sort of strawberry-shortcake inspired scone.  And also adding cardamom, because cardamom + strawberries = lalalala one of the best combos ever!!  Why didn’t I do this earlier, it’s such a good idea?  Cardamom is fairly expensive, but a tiny bit goes a long way, so you’ll definitely notice a little hint of it in these scones.  The strawberry curd is a little extra step, but if you don’t want to go that far, you could always just serve these with jam or chop up some fresh strawberries to throw on top!  These are perfect for Easter brunch, especially because they can be made a day in advance!  Aaaaand they are best served with lots of fresh coffee, obviously.

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Vanilla + Cardamom Scones with Strawberry Curd
Serves 8-16

Ingredients

3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut in 1/2 in. cubes
1 egg, whisked
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. whipping cream + more for brushing
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbs. milk or cream

Preheat oven to 375* F.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom.  Toss very cold butter in the flour.  Using your hands, work quickly to break the butter into the flour until it is pea-sized.  You may have some larger, flatter pieces.

Make a well in the center.  Add the egg, buttermilk, cream, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  Mix until just incorporated.  The dough will be sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Press into a 1-inch disk.  Cut into 8 sections.  Alternatively, for smaller scones, you could press it into two 1/2 in. disks and cut each of those into 8 sections.  Space on a baking sheet 2 inches apart.  Brush each scone with cream.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the powdered sugar, 1 Tbs. of milk, and 1/4 tsp. of vanilla extract until smooth.  Drizzle over scones.  Serve with curd (recipe below).

Strawberry Curd

1 lb. strawberries, finely chopped
Zest + juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbs. corn starch + 2 Tbs. water whisked
6 Tbs. butter

Combine strawberries, zest, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until bubbling.  Add the cornstarch slurry and stir until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat.  Whisk in the butter.  Cool curd and serve with scones + whipped cream.


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Let it Happen by Tame Impala

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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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White Pizza with Sausage + Garlicky Kale + Lemon

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I have a confession: I’m not a huge “pizza person”.  And because of this, I get constant shit from every human on the planet, because apparently I am part of a small majority that doesn’t lose their mind over pizza.  I, of course, love a good pizza when I am in the mood for it, but the rest of the time, I’ll happily choose tacos or Thai food instead.  However, I do have a fave pizza place in Reno that makes me jalapeno + cheese pizza without judgement, and as a rule, this particular pizza must be eaten with a draft beer, absurd amounts of ranch, and the leftover crust must be dipped in honey.

(On a side note, do people in other parts of the world dip their crust in honey, or is that just a Reno thing???)

And while pizza is not my absolute favorite food, I do feel passionate about dough + cheese, and I’ve been loving experimenting with pizza flavors at home lately.  On some Fridays, I will come home, pull out all the leftover ingredients from the week, chop up tons of fresh mozz, and pop a bottle of wine while the perfect combination of crust puffing and cheese bubbling occurs in my oven.  I almost always go out for dinner on Fridays, but if for some reason I’m really in the mood to cook after work, it’s almost always some version of pizza.  There’s something so calming about coming home, chopping up some veggies, and making a quick, delicious dinner.

And, if I really need pizza without the effort, I always have my trusty jalapeno-special ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Yesterday, we had probably our craziest snow of the season (yes, in late February, ugh come ooooon Reno).  I was at my parents’ house after shopping with my mom, and this blizzard just started out of nowhere.  It looked like a snow globe and made me need Christmas all over again.  However, since I can’t redo Christmas, I went for the next best comforting winter activity which is obviously cooking and watching British TV.  So, while the snow flurries drifted down outside my window, I threw together this recipe and cozied up on the couch watching Lovesick.  These ingredients are a perfect mix of flavors – the kale gets so crispy and garlicky in the oven, sausage adds a little sweetness, there’s lemon for tartness, and of course, I added a simple bechamel and mozzarella for a creamy component.  At the end, I like to add pine nuts to give it an earthy flavor (and also because I’m obsessed with pine nuts, they’re so good 😛).  I like to sprinkle a ton of red pepper flakes on top of my pizza, but of course, you can leave those off if you don’t like spice!  Lastly, the sauce is fairly creamy, especially when combined with the cheese.  If you prefer a lighter, almost flatbread-style pizza, I would just brush the crust with olive oil and put the toppings on sans white sauce.  In fact, it sounds rather amazing, and I think that will be my approach next time!


White Pizza with Sausage + Garlicky Kale + Lemon
Serves 4

Ingredients for the white sauce

1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the flour, stirring until no clumps remain.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.  Slowly whisk in milk, bringing it to a boil and cooking for a couple of minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients for the pizza

1 lb. pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
White sauce (recipe above)
2 links of sweet sausage, casings removed
2 c. kale, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced and quartered
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 Tbs. pine nuts

Preheat oven to 425* F.  Roll out pizza dough to 1/8 inch thickness and place on a baking sheet.  Brush with 1 Tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink.  Meanwhile, toss the kale, remaining 1 Tbs. of olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl – set aside.  Drain the sausage, and discard the fat.  Set sausage aside.

Spread the white sauce over the pizza dough.  Sprinkle sausage and mozzarella over the sauce.  Spread the kale and lemon slices over the pizza.  Season with red pepper flakes.

Place the pizza in the oven for 16-20 minutes.  When finished, the crust should be golden brown, and the cheese should be bubbly.

When the pizza is cooked through, sprinkle the pine nuts over the top.  Serve with additional pepper flakes and parmesan, if desired.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day* – Big Sis 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

Pistachio Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

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I’m just going to start off this entire post with the disclaimer that this recipe for zimtsterne is absolutely not traditional.  I’ve been known around these parts to bastardize traditional recipes, such as when I baked a “New York” cheesecake with mascarpone + amaretto or when I made tater tot poutine.  And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the internet, it’s that people get actually upset when you don’t make a recipe exactly like their recipe.  It’s the precise reason that I probably will never post a recipe for goulash or huevos rancheros, and why I keep disclaimers on these posts in the first place.  But I digress…this is about cookies.

Ever since I went to Germany, I’ve been obsessed with Germany.  Like, all I think of is Five Elephant and eating schnitzel with fries + mayo.  And then yesterday, I went to a local bakery in town, Bavarian World, and honest to god it’s probably one of my favorite places in Reno.  On one side, there’s a bakery/market that has absolutely the best baklava and pretzel rolls, and pecan cakes.  And then on the other side is a restaurant that I’ve never eaten at, but I have secret dreams of going on a date there Fast Times at Ridgemont High style.  While I was in line waiting to buy my pretzel rolls and roast beef for Christmas-day lunch, I saw a package of zimtsterne, a star-shaped cinnamon cookie,  which I had never heard of before, but then I got really excited (!!!) because I literally stayed up the night before trying to think of a cookie I could make with pistachios.  And even though zimtsterne is usually made with almonds, I am having a love affair with pistachios almost always, so I figured I could add those too.  Yay Bavarian World!!!

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This past week, I’ve had approximately three or four different Christmas parties to attend, and I am partied tf out.  I have spent two too many mornings hugging a Gatorade and popping Ibeuprofen for my headache after an evening of Moscow Mules and late-night tacos.  Which is why I spent my Friday night listening to She & Him Christmas albums and making this cookie dough.  And it was perfect, because it has to chill for at least a few hours, and it was perfectly chilly by the time I woke up to bake them this morning!  Traditionally these cookies are made with a meringue, but there are two ways you can go about things:

1. If you’re a sinner, you can just add the egg whites straight to the dough (hi), which yields a denser, chewier cookie.

2. If you’re a traditionalist, you can whip up a meringue and fold the nut mixture into the meringue which will result in a cookie reminiscent of a macaron.

Out of sheer laziness, and because the last time I whipped egg whites ended in an epic failure, I went with the “adding the egg whites” option, and I love that the texture is somewhat biscuit-y and chewy.  However, next time I’m going to try it the meringue way, because I also love airy cookies.

Now, if I can just somehow get myself back to Germany ASAP I promise to try real-life, traditional, Christmasy zimtsterne.  Scout’s honor.

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Pistachio Zimtsterne
Makes 28 two-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

100 g ground, unsalted pistachios (about 1 c. whole)
200 g ground, unsalted almonds (about 2 c. whole)
100 g (about 1/2 c.) powdered sugar
50 g (1/3 c.) flour
2.5 g (1 tsp.) cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
4.2 g (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
2 egg whites

Glaze

200 g (about 1 c.) powdered sugar
30 g (2 Tbs.) orange juice
30 g (2 Tbs.) milk
2 g (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine pistachios and almonds.  Pulse until they are finely ground, but be careful not to grind them too much, or they’ll turn into a nut butter!  In a bowl, combine the ground nuts, powdered sugar, flour, cinnamon, and orange zest.  Stir in the vanilla extract and egg whites until a crumbly dough forms*.  Using your hands, knead until everything is mixed together and the dough forms.  Flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least an hour, but you can make it up to 2 days in advance.

Preheat oven to 350* F (170* C).  After the dough has chilled, roll it on a powdered-sugar surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out about 28 cookies, re-rolling as necessary.  I like to dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting, because it prevents sticking.  Line on a greased baking sheet.  They can be pretty close together, because they don’t puff up much.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Let cool completely.

*Alternatively, for airy cookies, you can whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, add the vanilla, and finish the recipe as directed.

While the cookies are baking, combine the remaining powdered sugar with the orange juice, milk, and vanilla.  I start with 1 Tbs. each of orange juice and milk and add more liquid to get my desired consistency of icing.  After the cookies have cooled, dip each one in the glaze.  Add sprinkles if desired!  Let harden, and keep stored in tupperware.


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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by She & Him