Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

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While Insta has proven to me that the ~hip~ people of the world have been spending their weekends partying in bunny costumes, I have spent mine doing laundry, petting my hedgehog, and watching Stranger Things.  *raises the roof*.  I just got back from Toronto, where my friend Stephen took me to all kinds of breweries, Niagara Falls, aaaaand (!!) I had poutine for the first time!  Where can I get poutine in Reno??  I need it more frequently in my life!  Usually when it comes to deep-frying foods at home, I dodge it like it’s hot (the messssss), but for poutine, I might be willing to pull out all the stops.  Or maybe I can rig it with some extra-crispy tater tots right out of the oven?  Canadians: would that be sacrilege??

On another note, I will be spending my Halloween night eating white chili with my cousins and taking the kids trick-or-treating!  I found an amazing vintage 1960s dress at a thrift store the other day that I was planning on utilizing in my costume, but now that I’ll be walking around in the cold weather, I’m thinking of pulling out my classic Rosie the Riveter costume and calling it a day.  It’s almost a tradition at this point after all.

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A couple of weeks ago, I surprised my parents for their birthdays by coming home from London a week earlier than I told them.  (Although, they did end up going on vacation for their birthdays, so I had to pretend I was still in England for a few extra days yikes!).  I showed up at their front door and rang the doorbell cake-in-hand.  They were so excited, we went to a delicious steakhouse for dinner, and then we celebrated with this cake for dessert!  It was exactly what I wanting, and they loved their birthday present (me, obvs).  This cake was the perfect addition: a lightly sweetened pumpkin cake with a touch of sage flavor and a sticky brown sugar icing that tastes faintly of caramel and butter.  It’s the perfect fall dessert and makes a great addition to a Halloween party or even a Thanksgiving dessert table (it has sage in it after all!).  Plus, you can decorate it like a pumpkin or turkey or something if you really want to make it festive.  Obviously, I went the easy way with a few sage leaves and a rustic ‘happy birthday’ sign.  Have a spooky night!


Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing
Serves 6-8

*Cake is for High-Altitude baking.  Please refer to alternative measurements if you do not live at high-altitude!*

Cake Ingredients

1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. + 6 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda**
1 egg
1/2 c. Tbs. buttermilk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.  Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, sugar, egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and milk.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick shows a few crumbs.  Let the cakes cool.  Meanwhile prepare the icing (below).  Level each cake, and cut each cake in half so you have 4 even layers.  Spread frosting between each layer, stacking them until there are 4 cake layers.  Frost the outside of the cake.  Decorate as desired.

* Use 3/4 tsp. baking powder for regular-altitude recipes.
**Use 3/4 tsp. baking soda for regular-altitude recipes.

Icing Ingredients

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
1 3/4 – 2 c. powdered sugar

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Cool to lukewarm – add milk.  Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until thick.  If it becomes too stiff, add a little hot water to thin.  Frost over cake!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Atmosphere by Joy Division

 

 

Beef Sliders with White Cheddar + Bacon + Peach-Bourbon BBQ Sauce

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Well guys, I’m graduated!!!  A couple weeks ago, I crossed the stage, didn’t even trip in my tallest heels, and I’ll be mailed my actual diploma in a few weeks time!  It was great.  The tradition at UNR is to go to the famous college bar, The Little Waldorf, before graduation and drink mimosas and maybe relive your most wonderful/awful times as a college student?  Idk, because I had never even been to The Wal until that day, but I was able to get past the sticky, beer-soaked floors that I’m sure have never been mopped, and my friends and I drank cheap champagne on empty stomachs and it was perfect.  After graduation, I stuffed my face with Thai food at our favorite local joint, and then after I attempted a nap, we had a huge graduation BBQ with my friends and family.  My parents ended up playing rage cage with all of us young kids, and also it was my first time playing!  Of course I had all of my college experiences the day I graduated.  But it was a super amazing time, everyone drank and had fun, and I got to sleep the whole next day with a less-than-fun hangover (shoutout to Gatorade for getting me through that one).

I’m off to Europe in less than two weeks (!!!), so I’m trying to enjoy some of my favorite Reno summertime activities before I leave.  Namely, Lake Tahoe, fun outdoor bars, and sitting at patios at cute local restaurants.  Also, I spent the last weekend in San Francisco drinking lots of coffee and cocktails with my cousin.  We even found a bar that had a “bondage” theme, and I was impressed.  Oh SF, I <3 u.

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Since I’m leaving so so soon, I’m trying to get all of my cooking in while I can.  Although I’m soooo excited to eat at wonderful European restaurants for 4 months, I also will miss the luxury of a kitchen, even though I’m sure my airbnb hosts will be accommodating if I really get the itch.  Namely, I’ve been taking advantage of my BBQ, because we just got a brand new sparkly one, and in the summertime, I’m pretty sure the only acceptable food is any that is BBQed.  The other day I was craving burgers like no other thing in the world, but I wanted something a little more creative than my standard beef-cheddar-veg-bun combo I normally go for.  I really love smashed burgers, but since it’s summer I have a difficult time cooking indoors when my brand new sparkly grill is in eyesight from my kitchen window.  Also, I really wanted something with BBQ sauce but not ribs or pulled pork, so I just combined everything into one package and then added bacon for good measure.

It’s a little more work to make the homemade BBQ sauce, but it’s honestly a super easy recipe and totally worth the effort.  However, if you really can’t be bothered, you can always buy some store-bought sauce, but you’ll probably miss out on peaches and bourbon which is not the kind of world I want to live in.

P.S. the BBQ sauce will make quite a bit, and you definitely won’t need all of it for the recipe.  You can either put it in jars and seal it (if that’s your thing) or you can use it for another recipe, but I’d use it within a week (or two if you’re willing to risk it, which I am).  This sauce would be perfect on pulled pork, ribs, or chicken.

Also, I served my burgers with wedge salad, but some oven fries would be amazing too.

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Warned You by Good Morning

Savory Palmiers with Parmesan & Everything Bagel Spice

These savory palmiers with parmesan and everything bagel spice are a simple, crowd-pleasing appetizer. They are great with artichoke dip, on a cheeseboard, or just by themselves!

On overhead image of a man's hand grabbing a savory palmier with parmesan and everything spice from a white plate of palmiers. The plate is on a dark green table spinkled with everything bagel spice next to two glasses of white wine and a beige linen.

After a week and a half of recovering from surgery I’m finally back!  Although I can’t say my senior-year spring break was worthy of being considered a “spring break woohoo!” by any means, I can’t really complain about playing lots of guitar, having an excuse to eat ice cream for all three meals, and watching Season 2 of Love for an entire week, right?  Take it from me, if you’re sick and also feeling blah about a breakup, ice cream and Love will solve all of your problems…or at least help you pretend you don’t have any in the first place*.

*jk, this is probably not the healthy way to deal with feelings, but we can all be self-indulgent once in a while, right?

Anyways, my week off was fun, but I’m ready to drag myself back into my regular routine so that I can get ready to graduate! As I get closer to graduation, I’m looking for some fun, simple appetizers that I can throw together for my party, and these savory palmiers are definitely my new go-to. They come together in just a few minutes, and honestly, who doesn’t love everything bagel spice?

About palmiers + this recipe

If you’ve never had a palmier, let’s chat, because you’re definitely missing out! Also known as palm leaves, elephant ears, or French hearts, palmiers are a traditional French pasty made with puff pastry and sugar. Puff pastry is a laminated dough similar to croissant dough, but without the yeast. The result is a cookie that is buttery, flaky, and a bit crisp!

As a busy student who loves to cook, I’m always looking for easy appetizers or snacks that I can bring along whenever I’m invited to someone’s house for dinner.  Normally, I go for a cheese plate, because cheese = ♥, but I also am passionate about everything spice.  So for this recipe, I put the two together for a savory palmier combo that’s reminiscent of an everything bagel with cream cheese, except with more butter. Because, duh.

An overhead image of puff pastry, a jar of flour, a grey bowl of everything spice, a white plate with cream cheese, a white bowl with an egg, a rolling pin, and a pastry brush on an emerald green table.

Ingredients you will need

  • Puff pastry – frozen or homemade, although I’ve only ever used the pre-made kind.
  • Cream cheese – the kind that comes in a block. Make sure to leave it out to soften!
  • Parmesan cheese – preferably grated but any kind will work.
  • Everything bagel spice – don’t worry, I’ll give you a recipe for how to make your own! You can also buy it pre-made.
  • Kitchen basics – Kosher salt and an egg.
Three images; on the left, an overhead of a wood board with puff pastry coated in cream cheese and seeds on a green table next to a beige linen. In the middle, a closeup of partly folded puff pastry on a wood board with a grey bowl and beige linen in the background. On the right, the puff pastry is folded on top of each other.
Two overhead images; on the left, sliced palmiers are placed on a wood board with a knife on a green table. On the right, the slices are arranged on a sheet pan next to a bowl of egg wash.

How to make these savory palmiers

  1. Start by rolling the creases in the puff pastry with a floured rolling pin until you have a 9×12” rectangle.
  2. Next, evenly spread half of the cream cheese on the puff pastry. Sprinkle with half of the Parmesan, everything bagel spice, and some Kosher salt. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Fold the puff pastry sheets to form two six-layer rolls (instructions below). Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and then cut each roll into sixteen 1/2” slices.
  4. Arrange the cookies at least two inches apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Brush with egg wash.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately!

How to fold

You have a couple of options for forming palmiers, but each is really simple! Let’s discuss folding vs. rolling.

Folding

To fold the palmiers, start with the long side facing you. Fold the sides of the rectangle towards the center until they go halfway to the middle of the dough. Next, fold the sides again until the two folds meet in the middle of the dough. Lastly, fold one half of the dough over the other half (like a book). You will have one roll with six layers.

Rolling

Alternatively, you can roll the palmiers for a swirlier look. First, lightly mark the center of the dough as a guide. Then, starting with one of the short sides facing you, roll the dough tightly ending at the center of the dough. Turn and roll the other side until the two sides meet. Use a little water or egg wash to help the rolls stick together.

How to serve

Although these savory palmiers are great on their own, you can also serve them alongside other snackies! Here are some of my favorite ways:

  • With artichoke dip, hummus, or whipped feta
  • On a cheese or charcuterie board
  • As a base for crostini (try smoked salmon and capers to stick with the bagel theme)
  • To dip into soup!

Storing leftovers

Palmiers are best when eaten immediately since they tend to lose their crunch over time. However, if you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container and leave them at room temp for 2-3 days. Just know that they might lost their crispiness. To crisp them back up, you can always reheat them in the oven at 350° for a few minutes. Just be sure to check on them to make sure they don’t burn!

A close up overhead image of savory palmiers with cream cheese, Parmesan, and everything bagel spice on a dark green table. In the left upper corner, one of the palmiers is broken.

A make-ahead freezer option

If you want to make these savory palmiers in advance, you can always form the cookies, slice them, and then just stick them in the fridge (covered) until you’re ready to bake them. I definitely recommend doing this and baking them right before your guests arrive so they are warm and crispy!

You can also slice the cookies, and layer them in-between parchment paper in an airtight container. Freeze for up to one month. Then, when you’re ready to bake them, let the cookies de-frost for about 30-40 minutes. Brush with egg wash, bake, and enjoy! I love this option for last-minute get-togethers. Especially when the holidays roll around, it’s nice to have something on hand to serve last-minute guests!

Tips & Tricks

  • The puff pastry will be a bit thick out of the package. Roll it with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s a 9×12” rectangle. Cut the edges with a pizza cutter if necessary.
  • If the puff pastry starts to get a bit soft and sticky, just stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm it back up.
  • The cream cheese can be a bit hard to spread, but just take your time and work gently. With a butter knife and a little patience, you’ll be able to get it spread evenly.
  • If the middles will not stick together, just use a little water or egg wash to help them stick.
  • Make sure to turn the pan halfway into baking or some of the cookies will be crisper than others.
  • Bake the cookies on the middle rack to prevent the bottoms of the cookies from overcooking.
An overhead closeup image of a white plate of savory palmiers with parmesan and everything bagel spice on an emerald green table sprinkled with everything spice. In the right upper corner is two glasses of white wine. The plate is on a beige linen and there are more palmiers in the upper left and bottom right corners.

More Simple appetizers

Marinated White Beans with Toast
BBQ Chicken Nachos with Cilantro-Lime Crema
Pigs in a Blanket with Everything Seasoning & Parmesan
Tempura Fried Cheese Curds with Sriracha Mayo

If you make this recipe, I would love if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting SSL!


Savory Palmiers with Parmesan & Everything Bagel Spice

These savory palmiers have Parmesan, cream cheese, and everything bagel spice for a unique, simple appetizer. Perfect on a cheeseboard, with artichoke dip, or just by themselves!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Cooling Time 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American, French
Servings 32 palmiers

Ingredients
  

Everything Bagel Spice

  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 Tbs poppy seeds, toasted
  • 1 Tbs dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1 Tbs dehydrated garlic flakes

Savory Palmiers

  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb frozen puff pastry (two sheets)
  • 4 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c everything bagel spice
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Instructions
 

Everything Bagel Spice

  • In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until combined. Set aside.

Savory Palmiers

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 Tablespoon of water. Set aside.
  • Unroll one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll the sheet into a 9×12'' rectangle. Evenly spread 2 ounces of the cream cheese onto the puff pastry, and sprinkle with half of the Parmesan, half of the everything bagel spice, and a few pinches of salt.
  • Next, form the cookies. Starting with the long side towards you, fold each side of the puff pastry halfway towards the middle. Then, fold the sides again until they meet in the middle. Fold one half over the other (like a book). You should have one roll with six layers.
  • Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry and remaining ingredients. Refrigerate the rolls for about 20 minutes.
  • Trim the ends of each roll. Cut each roll into 16 1/2-inch slices (32 cookies total). Arrange the cookies about 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined sheet pans (you may need to bake in batches). Brush the cookies with the egg wash.
  • Bake the palmiers on the middle rack of your oven for 22-25 minutes until golden brown, turning the pan halfway through baking. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

This recipe is a great template for other flavors as well (cheddar + rosemary, feta + za’atar?).
If the puff pastry gets sticky, just stick it in the fridge for a few minutes.
Be gentle when spreading the cream cheese on the puff pastry or it will tear. Use a butter knife and work patiently!
To crisp up leftover palmiers, just stick them in the oven at 350° for 3-5 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1palmierCalories: 105kcalCarbohydrates: 6.6gProtein: 2.3gFat: 7.6gSaturated Fat: 2.6gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 97mgPotassium: 18mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 0.2gCalcium: 34mgIron: 1mg
Keyword appetizer, cheese, cookie, snacks
Did you make this recipe?Tag @serendipitybysaralynn on Instagram!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Give it to Me by HOMESHAKE

Matcha Kettle Corn

Matcha kettle corn is an earthy, almost floral snack. Lightly sweetened and flavored with matcha powder, it is Perfect for movie night or a snack bar!

Matcha Kettle Corn
Popcorn lightly sweetened and flavored with green tea.
Hand reaching into a bowl of popcorn.

I know that St. Patty’s Day is not a super celebrated holiday in the U.S. (and probably we don’t really celebrate the correct way), but I’ve always felt drawn to it purely based on the fact that my favorite color is green.  As a little girl who was obsessed with green, I thought it was the coolest that there was a holiday where everyone wore my favorite color.  And now, I’m planning my trip for Ireland!  And guuuuyyyyyys.  I’m crushing hard on Ireland.  Based on pictures, I’m pretty sure I’m utterly in love.

I’m a little bummed about this St. Patty’s Day this year, because I’m having surgery the day before.  No beer or corned beef for me wah wah 🙁  But then!  I was innocently going about my day, and god knows why, but I started thinking about kettle corn. (Do I really need a reason?).  And then suddenly without hesitation, matcha kettle corn popped into my brain.  And what better way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day than with green kettle corn?!

Remember in elementary school when we would have parties for all the holidays, and without fail, at every single celebration, someone’s mom would make those sweet popcorn balls with shit tons of Yellow 6 and Red 40 and Blue 294u304889?  I have a vivid memory of trying my damnedest to bite into one, but it was absolutely impossible.  Why did no one’s mom just think to make regular kettle corn?  Anyways, the point is that matcha kettle corn is essentially an adult-friendly throwback to green-colored sweet popcorn balls except without the poison, so you’re welcome !!

Matcha Kettle Corn
Matcha Kettle Corn

Notes: As for the matcha part of this kettle corn, I would say you have to be a pretty big fan of matcha to enjoy this. Well, obviously. If you want a light coating, start with about 1 tsp. of matcha. You can add less for a very light coating. Add another 1/2 tsp. if you want a little more flavor.  I liked it with 1 1/2 tsp., but I luuuurve matcha.  Also, I believe that the kettle corn is perfectly sweet with 1/4 c. of sugar, especially to balance the earthiness of the tea. But, feel free to use less if you don’t like sugary kettle corn. My dad doesn’t like super sugary kettle corn but said it’s the perfect balance of sweet. So take that as you will!

Matcha Kettle Corn


An overhead closeup image of a white bowl of popcorn with matcha placed on a marble counter.

Matcha Kettle Corn

Matcha kettle corn is an earthy, floral snack. Lightly sweetened and flavored with matcha, it is perfect for movie night or a snack bar!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Snacks
Cuisine American, Japanese
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp neutral oil or coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp matcha
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions
 

  • In a heavy stockpot with tall sides, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add a few popcorn kernels. Once they’ve popped, reduce the heat to medium and add the butter and the remaining popcorn kernels. Stir.
  • Sprinkle the sugar over the top. Cover the pot with a lid, and gently shake the pot until most of the kernels are popped, about 1-2 seconds between pops.
  • Immediately pour the popcorn into a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl or container with a lid. Sprinkle the matcha powder and salt over the popcorn. Place the lid on bowl or container, and shake until the matcha is evenly distributed. (You can also use a large brown paper bag if you don’t have a container with a lid!). Let cool (the sugar will be hot!). Happy snacking!

Notes

This is obviously a matcha-centric recipe, so I like to use 1 1/2 tsp. of matcha, but feel free to do 1 tsp. for a lighter coating.
I use 1/4 c. of sugar for a slightly sweet flavor, but feel free to add more for sweeter kettle corn!

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 89kcalCarbohydrates: 7.4gProtein: 0.4gFat: 6.7gSaturated Fat: 2.2gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 32mgPotassium: 6mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 6.3gCalcium: 1mg
Keyword american, japanese, matcha, popcorn, snacks
Did you make this recipe?Tag @serendipitybysaralynn on Instagram!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Abducted by Cults

Matcha Kettle Corn | Serendipity by Sara Lynn
Matcha Kettle Corn | Serendipity by Sara Lynn

Salted Caramel Sauce + Brownie Party!

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Over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that I have a brownie problem.  I think that brownies have the potential to be super delicious or super not delicious, but I seem to never turn them down either way, so who am I to judge?  It’s just really hard to avoid making brownies, when my recipe tastes like damn fudge and only takes 15 minutes to mix together.  I think the brownies themselves are really inhibiting my creativity and motivation to try new goodies on the weekend, because why try a recipe that miiiight be good when I know my brownies will turn out flawless regardless?  Also, I have a list of recipes to try, and I just get overly excited about all of them that it turns into overwhelming anxiety about all the things I want to try in the world.  Someone please tell me this also happens to them?

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Anyways, the whole reason for the brownies is that I decided this past weekend was Galentine’s weekend which means I had my friends over to eat mac n cheese, drink rosé, and of course, have a brownie party!  However, since I’m currently a single lady, this week will also be spent celebrating Galentine’s, because yay for lady love!  The Galentine’s party consisted of lots of food plus spending a solid 2+ hours talking about uteruses and weird men we meet at bars, so it was a fairly solid girls’ night if you ask me.  Also!  I made homemade caramel sauce for the first time in forever, and it didn’t even take me a million tries to get it right!  The Galentine’s goddess was looking down on me, and I’ve been blessed.

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Here’s a guide to throwing your own brownie party!

  1. Start with my homemade 15-minute brownies, because they’re just perfect.
  2. Make a few yummy fillings!  I had chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  You don’t need a ton of fillings, because it’s really all about the toppings!
  3. Lots of toppings is key.  I had animal cookies, pretzels, PB cups, mini M&Ms, chocolate kisses, and Oreos!  Oh, and salted caramel sauce!
  4. Have some cute little cups for assembly.  I used my candlewick teacups and other glass mugs I had laying around the house, but you can use anything.
  5. Have everything prepared before people come over, so you can just put everything on the table when it’s dessert time.  Otherwise, you’ll be placing pudding in bowls when you could be talking about uteruses and dumb men (aka the important stuff).

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saltedcaramel

Have a beautiful day celebrating love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song by Jim Croce

 

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Orange & Amaretto

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I am unashamed to admit that I am currently involved in a love affair with a cheesecake.  I have to say, this is fairly out of character for me, considering I’m not a huge cheesecake fan – cheese = yay!  cake = yay!  cheesecake = meh.  Many of my friends and family are cheesecake lovers, but I tend to fall more towards the creme brulee side of the custard spectrum – I can’t resist a burny-caramely top, and I hold firmly to that belief.  I find many cheesecakes to be a little too creamy, or even worse, crumbly, and oftentimes they aren’t sweetened enough, leaving the filling reminiscent of a bagel that’s been sitting on the counter getting cold.  Not a pretty visual there?  Well, that’s how the cookie  cheesecake crumbles, and I think there absolutely needs to be a seminar on how to properly bake a damn cheesecake.  Sorry, not sorry – I’m putting an end to this.

Okay, maybe I have a holier-than-thou attitude towards cheesecake, but seriously, have you ever read reviews on any NY cheesecake recipe?  Good lord, those east-coast peeps have a cheesecake power complex of epic proportions.  (Okay, I really do get it though – you’re a tried and true New Yorker, and you’re desperately trying to recreate the cheesecake your grandmother used to throw together sans recipe.  I promise, my family has been trying to do this with my grandmother’s enchiladas for years, and we can’t get it right – this is what happens when you let a Norwegian woman make Mexican food).

Anyhow, let me tell you, those recipe-reviewing-cheesecake-aficionados know their craft – crumbly cheesecake?  Waterbath.  Chunky chunks of cheese?  Room temp the cheese and eggs!  Genius.  Props to you guys (and your grandma’s tips!).  I appreciate you and your power complex (;

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And on another note, here I am about to crush your OG-cheesecake loving souls.  Because I added mascarpone to my cheesecake.  And I added orange zest.  And I added amaretto.  And the crust is made with almond cookies.  And it’s the most delicious, light, wonderful cheesecake I ever did eat.  If it makes anyone feel better, I’ve heard a lot of Italian cheesecakes use mascarpone and amaretto!  Does that help?  Bueller, Bueller?

Anyways, I decided to use mascarpone, because as I said earlier, I don’t love the super-thick, creamy cheesecake in most restaurants (I’m especially looking at you Cheesecake Factory).  However, the mascarpone rids of that overly-rich cream cheese taste and adds a fluffy, light texture that I adore.  Orange zest was added to get away from the lemon that typically adorns cheesecakes.  As for the amaretto, it was almost not added – I stared at that bottle  in the grocery store for approximately 15 minutes, walked away from it, and thought, “Sara, that is so not the spirit”, turned back to the liquor aisle, and added it to my cart.  It was a dilemma of vast proportions, but it made the cut, and I’m so relieved it did.  Alcohol helps desserts always.

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cheesecake

Btw I brought this cheesecake to my parents’ house for a family dinner and, I almost freaking DROPPED it while slipping on ice.  But not to fear, my clumsy footing still appreciates the sanctity of $12 worth of cheese.  I held onto that cheesecake like Harry held onto the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Yes, I did just make a HP reference, and I stand by that decision.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Stay This Way by Peter Bjorn and John

 

Single Lady Mac & Cheese

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This past weekend was kind of rough for a multitude of different reasons.  Even though I had some relaxing moments spending time with friends and family, most of my weekend was spent in a state of “blah” that I couldn’t quite shake.  When I’m feeling like this, I know the best thing to do is to engage in self-care with a little bit of comfort food and TV.  My craving was mac and cheese, but I didn’t want to make a huge pan of leftovers that could go to waste.  After a few minutes of thought, I realized I could easily make a tiny mac and cheese that would feed just myself.  Even in my difficult times, my brain comes up with great things!

This recipe is perfect for a feel-sorry-for-yourself-night, because it only requires one pot and it’s super versatile.  You can use whatever cheese and pasta you have around the house, although smaller pastas with plenty of nooks and crannies are always the best!  I’m also partial to a cheddar-parmesan mixture if you have that around the house.

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As far as fanciness, this mac and cheese is pretty fancy-free.  I just blend it all together, top it with a little parm, and broil it until browned.  I add a little ceyenne pepper, mustard powder, worcestershire, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Feel free to add whatever spices you want or none at all.  Broil or don’t broil.  Eat it out of the pan and leave the dishes for later, or wash the pot while the pasta broils (my method, because dirty dishes give me anxiety).  Once your mac and cheese craving has be fulfilled, you can crawl back in bed or take a walk or go grab a coffee.  This mac and cheese is about you and your needs after all.

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Take time for self love this week my friends ♥  We all deserve it.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dandelion Wine by Gregory Alan Isakov

 

Homemade Apple Cider

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Apparently at the tender age of 21, I have succumbed to the eternal tiredness accompanied with socializing until midnight and drinking 1 glass of sangria + a single gin and tonic.  This past weekend consisted of both of those events at a Friendsgiving celebration, where a few friends and I enjoyed a hodgepodge of family recipes along with a distracted game of Cards Against Humanity and a slew of various spirit glasses.  While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, I’m starting to realize the value of a successful Friendsgiving, which in my experience is pretty similar to regular Thanksgiving without the pressure of telling your great-aunt and four second-cousins your life plans post-college, and also, you typically don’t have to talk about the disappointing political climate (except not always, but that can be solved with a simple “Sangria anyone?!”.  I know how to please the crowd).

Typical to Sara Lynn antics, I provided the aforementioned sangria and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, which after a few hours, turned into a weapon of mass destruction as it was flung throughout the kitchen, into hair, and onto faces while I ducked under the breakfast bar with my wine glass.  Once whipped cream starts flinging, this chick is out.  However, the pumpkin pie was amazing and enjoyed for breakfast before work the next day.  As for the sangria, a twist on the classic using apple cider for a autumnal flavor, it needs to be worked on slightly.  It was delicious, but it also reminded me of bubblegum which just isn’t really my style.  Don’t worry…I’ll keep working on it for winter holidays.

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After a weekend of socializing with friends and working, I came down with a bad chest cold that I can just tell is brewing into something horrid.  Luckily, I got my ass into the doctor ASAP, and hopefully the antibiotics they provided will knock this thing out before it even develops, because again, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!  I want to enjoy my family time even if it does make me evaluate my life plans and strive to keep my mouth zipped when certain President-elects are brought up.  Also, I have a ton of pie dough to make before Wednesday, and this hacking out my lungs thing is making me want to do nothing but pass out in my bed with a heating pad suctioned to my chest.  Yes, I like to feel sorry for myself, but I did work today and take a test and do a presentation, so I feel like I deserve a little credit here.  I’d probably whine a little more, but I am hugging some warm apple cider and watching Full House reruns, so it can’t be all bad, right?

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And that leads to the apple cider.  As I mentioned before, my parents just moved here and have an abundance of apple trees on their property which equates to me having fresh apples in my house constantly.  Pros: beautiful, freshly picked apples all the time!!!  Cons: I will never be able to eat another apple pie with store-bought apples again.  How come homemade apples are so much sweeter and flavorful?  Anyways, I found myself with pounds on pounds of fresh apples, and that is how this apple cider recipe came to fruition.

Now, you can make this apple cider recipe on the stove which will take a couple of hours.  I chose to prepare it in a slow cooker so I could pop it on before class and come home to a cinnamony-appley-smelling goodness when I came home.  Either way, this recipe is fool-proof and will taste absolutely delicious.

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*If you are using orchard apples, you may notice that the cores look a little funky every once in a while – yay organic!!  I chose to cut these parts off, but if the cores look okay, don’t worry about removing them.  You can even leave the seeds in – they’ll all get strained out in the end.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine

The Best Damn Pie Crust of Your Life

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IT’S FINALLY HERE.  Even after countless pies and months of promising you all the best pie dough recipe in the whole damn world, I had not delivered.  That is, until now.  I really should stop making promises like these considering I’m a full-time student, I have 2 jobs, plus I try to volunteer a few hours a month on top of all the normal things I have to do on a day-to-day basis a.k.a. I’m freaking busy and don’t always have time on the weekends to do a pie dough tutorial.  Honestly, I don’t know how I have free time sometimes, but bless my marketing internship for giving me college credit to work only a couple hours a week from home is all I have to say.  Aside from that major tangent, my point is that I know the wait was worth it, and I would like you to agree with me, because it would make me feel much better about my slacking.

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Let’s have a conversation about pie dough, my friends.  I’ll try to keep an open mind here, but let’s just face it, I’m biased and totally Team Make Your Own Pie Dough.  Most people refuse to even try to make their own dough, settling for either freezer-aisle roll-out pie dough (boo) or worse, store-bought pies from the grocery store (double boo).  We’ll call this side Team Wrong.  No offense if you’re on that team, I understand why you are, but hear me out.  I have a major theory that pie dough is one of the most misunderstood forms of pastry, and I can attest to this, because I was a frozen pie dough fan for many years.  After making pie dough once, I was a forever changed woman.  It’s so. damn. easy.  Surprisingly so, but it makes all the difference in the world.  If you care about pie, make your own dough!  I’m not kidding, you will not be able to go back to the store-bought stuff.  It’s really life-changing, especially this recipe, which yields the flakiest, buttery-est crust I ever did eat.  Thanks to Bon Appetit magazine for inspiring me to give it a try and also for giving me the recipe.  I appreciate for real ♥

So, after a long guilt trip from Team Make Your Own Dough, do you feel inspired to make your own pie dough for (please, at least one of) your Thanksgiving pies?!  Yes you do!

Let’s get started!

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First, you’re going to start off with 2 sticks + 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Cut the butter into cubes, trying to work quickly to avoid melting the butter with your warm hands.  I like to use a bench scraper for this so I don’t have to touch the butter, but a regular knife works well too!  Put that butter in a bowl and pop it in the fridge while you gather your dry ingredients.

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Now we’re going to prep for the next few steps.  Whisk together 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour, 2 Tablespoons of sugar (1 Tablespoon for a savory-pie crust), and a scant teaspoon of kosher salt.  Also prepare a glass of ice water and set the glass aside.  Toss the butter in the flour mixture.

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Now, working quickly, use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, creating shaggy pieces of butter.  Some of the pieces should be thin and long while others are chunkier.  Be careful not to let the butter melt in your hands.

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Mix together 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 3 Tablespoons of iced water.  Swirl to combine.

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Drizzle the vinegar-water over the butter mixture, running your fingers through the flour mixture to incorporate all the ingredients.  Quickly knead the dough until it starts to come together.  It will be a little crumbly and dry, but resist adding more water or your crust will turn out tough.

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Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead it a few more times, incorporating the drier areas.

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Cut the dough in half and press into 1 inch thick discs.

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Wrap your dough in plastic and set it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 5 days.  You can also freeze the dough for up to 2 months!  I like to make dough in advance and save it in the fridge for big events like holidays.  When you’re ready to use it, roll it on a floured surface and fill with whatever makes you happy.

Here’s a few pie ideas, if you needed any (;

Apple Pie with Sugared Crust
Pumpkin Pie
Beef & Veggie Pot Pie
Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie
Pear & Ginger Galette
Strawberry and Grapefruit Galette
Mixed Berry Pie

And here’s a handy-dandy recipe card:

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I hope this recipe makes the pie dough of your dreams as it did mine ♥

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Where is my Mind? by Pixies

 

 

 

 

Pear & Ginger Galette

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Sometimes I yearn for the kind of life that involves an airy, brightly-lit house on a large, green property surrounded by a variety of fruit bushes, trees, roots, and stalks.  In my little dream, I don’t necessarily have a job per se, unless by “job” we’re talking something along the lines of “fruit-picker who makes artisan pies and breads and fresh salads while experimenting with ingredients all day”.  Then yeah, that’s my job.  Also, I wear a lot of sun dresses and big floppy hats.

Oh!  Lastly, and I don’t want to ask for too much here, but since this is a dream after all, my life would include a flannel-beard partner who plays guitar and makes me pour-overs and we have at least 2 dogs.

It’s precisely at the flannel-beard-dog moment that I realize this dream is not very realistic, mostly because 1. nice flannel-beards who play guitar and make pour-overs are hard to come by these days and 2. I really like my big-city-luxuries, including easy to find specialty coffee shops, great bars and restaurants, and 24/7 access to a grocery store, even if those “big city-luxuries” are in the BLC itself.  However, a dream is a dream is a dream, and I still like to think about it now and again.

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My dream was re-inspired the other day while I was walking my parents’ property, picking fresh apples and pears from their newly acquired fruit trees (from their newly acquired house, go figures).  Stumped over what to do with a million half-ripe pears, I decided to follow my go-to philosophy surrounding fruit and all foods in general:

Turn it into a *pie.

Turn everything into a pie.

If you’re going to cheat on your **healthy-eating pact, you should just really go for it and eat pie, right?  Say it with me: Right!  And on that sentiment, I went to work kneading pie dough, slicing pears, and grating ginger.  What resulted was probably one of the best desserts – no, recipes – I’ve made to date.  Oh pie, I ♥ you.

*If we’re going to get all technical here, it’s actually a galette.  I don’t discriminate against anything with pie dough.

**As far as the healthy eating pact goes, I mean, there’s pears in this, ya know?)

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Before I give you the recipe, I must say one more thing:  Remember when I gave you pie recipes multiple times in the past claiming to have hold on the best pie dough recipe of all time?  Remember how I alwaaaaays give you the recipe but never give you a tutorial?  Yeah, it happened again.  I’m the worst.  But I swear to you all so soon, I will have a step-by-step!  Let me just say that, as an early-twenty-something single woman, it’s hard to find people who 1. like cooking as much as you do (because early-twenty-somethings can’t cook anything but ramen as it turns out), which means your friends can’t demonstrate as you take pics or 2. use your very particular photography techniques or know how to use a nice camera in general.  But no worries, my friends, I already have someone lined up to help a sista out (literally…it’s my brother).  Pie dough dreams will arrive momentarily.

But for now, here’s a written step-by-step and one of my favorite desserts I’ve made to date ♥  Thanks for dealing with the crazy.

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*Note: I forgot to include this in the recipe card, but I highly recommend serving the galette with butter pecan, salted caramel, or classic vanilla bean ice cream.  Butter pecan was my choice, but any of those will go!  If you’re not an ice cream person, in which case, I don’t know if we can be friends (just kidding kind of), but a little whipped cream does the trick.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Flowers in Your Hair by The Lumineers