PSA: Browning Butter Is Super Easy, And Also Life-Changing

It’s so good, I almost wish I never learned.

How to Brown Butter For Any Recipe - Sarrandipity Blog

When I go to a restaurant, if there’s a menu item that incorporates “brown butter” (i.e. “brown butter butternut squash ravioli,” or something to that effect), there’s an extremely strong chance I’ll order it. I know I love the taste of brown butter-enhanced foods, but I always kind of assumed brown butter was some fancy chef secret, and that only fancy chef types could concoct something that incorporates it. Until now. Yesterday, I was browsing Pinterest, looking for something to bake (because it was a lazy Sunday, and it was cold and rainy outside, so…of course), and I came across some brown butter cookie recipes. Typically, my thought process would be, “Oh, I don’t know how to do brown butter, that sounds complicated; next!” But for some reason, my curiosity was piqued enough to look up how to make brown butter, and thanks to the kitchn, I discovered it’s ridiculously easy.

So, I made some brown butter—which, by the way, smells SO GOOD—and then used it in my go-to cookie recipe (Thank you, Neslée Toulousé) to see if I could taste a difference. Truthfully, the difference was more noticeable in the dough before I added the dry ingredients (obviously I tasted the dough at every stage of the baking process), but it definitely still upped the overall flavor factor, and now I basically want to use brown butter in every recipe I make…that includes butter. Anyway, yada yada yada, below are the very simple instructions for how to brown butter, and a picture of the cookies (and cookie bars) I made with it. They look exactly the same as cookies made with regular butter, but I needed some more imagery for this post because browning butter is that easy, so just go with me here.

How to Brown Butter - Sarrandipity

How to Brown Butter:

  • Put butter in a light-colored pan (so you can see the color change), over medium heat. Stir the butter or swirl the pan occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly.
  • As it’s cooking, the butter may or may not make a strange gurgling noise like mine did (see below Snapchat video, and btw feel free to follow me @emz713); don’t worry about that, but also don’t let it boil over the top of the pan. Keep stirring.

  • The butter will gradually start foaming, and the liquid will eventually turn brown. I didn’t notice the changing color of the liquid underneath the foamy surface, so be sure to check regularly, because it doesn’t take very long.
  • Once the butter is brown, take it off the stove and pour it into a heat-proof bowl, using a mesh strainer (or cheese cloth) to keep the solids out.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars - Sarrandipity

Related Posts: 

Yum: Salted Caramel Chocolate (& White Chocolate) Chip Cookies
Cooking for the Anti-Chef: 10-Minute Lentil & Beet Salad
Cooking for the Anti-Chef: Crockpot Quinoa Chili 

2015 Gift Guide: White Elephant Gifts That Don’t Suck

Please, think outside the nearest drugstore.

White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - Sarrandipity's 2015 Gift Guide

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the whole “white elephant” thing—usually because the whole buying-gifts-for-unknown-recipients means that everyone receives cheap, random tchotchkes that they’ll never use (but will collect dust and add to stressful household clutter). That said, if you’re part of a group who commits to doing the blind gifting tradition right, it can work. In my opinion, that means setting a budget of at least $15—but ideally $25—and making the effort to find cool, usable gifts rather than frantically shopping the “As Seen On TV” aisle at CVS. Here, my second-annual list of suggestions (I still stand-by the first annual round-up, too) for some quality white elephant gifts you can bring to your next exchange. (Just use your judgment: If the exchange is with your officemates and half of them are dudes, probably don’t go with the jewelry dish.)
White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - Sarrandipity's 2015 Gift Guide

1. Telestrations
This game is AMAZING. I recently bought it and tested it out with my (sometimes difficult-to-impress) friends at our last game night, and it was a hit. I’m obsessed.

2. Wine Glass Writers
I bought these because I have stemless wine glasses and thus can’t use the typical wine charms, but I love them more than the charms anyway. The metallic colors are pretty, they’re fun and easy to use, and three pens suffice for any number of people.

3. Umbrella Ring Dish
White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - Umbrella Ring Dish - Sarrandipity 2015 Gift Guide
These little trinket dishes are endlessly handy for anyone who wears jewelry (PSA: it holds more than just rings).

4. Ponytail Holders (Set of 15)
A slightly prettier, snag-free alternative to those ribbon hair ties that are everywhere (and that sadly, lose their elasticity too easily for my thick hair…).

5. Silicone Popsicle Molds
I know, I know, the listing says “For Kids.” But trust me, these things are awesome. Fill them with some mashed up fresh fruit (I highly recommend watermelon), or any other food and/or drink you want to experiment with, pop ’em in the freezer, and get some tasty treats out of it.

6. BeeSpa Hand & Foot Cream
This stuff is a dream, especially for those of us who live in cold-weather climates and have to deal with dry air and dryer skin for multiple months out of the year.

7. Country or State Slate Cheese Board

White Elephant Gifts That Don't Suck - State or Country Cheese Board - Sarrandipity 2015 Gift Guide

Go state-specific if the whole group is big on local pride, or keep it general with the USA version.

8. ‘Maison Holiday’ Petite Candle Set
Voluspa candles are my absolute favorite. They smell so good; they’re pretty much impossible to resist.

9. Wood Appetizer & Dip Tray (With Glass Bowl)
Who doesn’t need a good chip-(or appetizer)-and-dip vessel? Even non-entertainers can use it to class-up their post-work snack times.

10. 90s TV Trivia Game
May as well buy one for yourself while you’re at it because, come on.

Related Posts:
2014 Gift Guide: Unique White Elephant Gifts That Don’t Suck 
Giveaway: A Stylish Soiree Gift Basket From Windy City Bloggers
Exploring Amazon Handmade: 9 Jewelry Finds to Snag Now

This post contains affiliate links. You won’t pay more by using them, but Sarrandipity may receive a (very) small commission if you click on a link and purchase something. Please check out my policies for more info. 

 

Yum: Salted Caramel Chocolate (& White Chocolate) Chip Cookies

Perfect with cold weather, candles, and loose-fitting pants.

Salted Caramel Chocolate & White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sarrandipity Blog

Here’s the thing: I hate cooking, but I love baking. I look for excuses to bake cookies, or pumpkin bread (I’ll share my favorite pumpkin-banana bread recipe later), or brownies, or pretty much anything sweet. And I love getting seasonal with it. I have a Pinterest board titled “holiday inspo” and sometimes wish I could do nothing but try out the festive recipes on it. Anyhoo, I recently decided it was high time to make some sort of salted caramel treat (I associate salted caramel with fall and winter—anyone else?), and somehow landed on All Recipe’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I incorporated white chocolate chips into mine, because I find joy in seeing what sort of random things I can add into cookies. (Mini anecdote: I lived in NYC during Hurricane Sandy, and the storm hit right after my roommates and I threw a Halloween party. In a genius, stranded-in-our-apartment-with-endless-time-on-our-hands moment, I baked cookies filled with at least seven different varieties of leftover Halloween candy. They were unbelievable, and we ate every last cookie.) Though the cookies in this blog post aren’t quite that inventive or amazing (No cookies ever will be. Those were my peak.), they’re still delicious and I highly recommend giving them a go.

Salted Caramel Chocolate & White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sarrandipity blog

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (plus more for coating the caramels/topping the cookies)Salted Caramel Chocolate & White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sarrandipity blog
  • 1 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (I honestly rarely make a conscious salted vs. unsalted decision. Just go with your gut), softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I rarely actually measure vanilla; I love it so I’m not wary of adding too much. But if you want to be precise, 2 tsp is good.)
  • Chocolate chips (I never measure chocolate chips, or candy, for inclusion in cookies. Add a few or add a ton. You do you.)
  • White chocolate chips
  • Approximately 18 unwrapped caramel candies, cut into 6 or so small pieces

Salted Caramel Chocolate & White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sarrandipity blog

Instructions: 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl
  • Beat brown sugar, butter, and sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until creamy.
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended.
  • Beat in vanilla.
  • Gradually add in flour mixture, until just combined.Salted Caramel Chocolate & White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sarrandipity blog
  • Add chocolate chips and white chocolate chips: You can either add them together, for combo cookies, or separate out half the dough and make half of the batch with chocolate chips and the other half with white chocolate.
  • Arrange dough on cookie sheet in desired cookie-size balls.
  • Roll each caramel piece in sea salt, and press 3 or so pieces into each dough ball.
  • Bake in 350-degree preheated oven until edges are golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes.
  • If you’re going for extra-salty, sprinkle some extra sea salt on cookies immediately after removing them from the oven.
  • Transfer to wire rack to cool.
  • Try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting. (Or do. YOLO.)

Salted Caramel Chocolate & White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Sarrandipity blog

Related Posts: 
Cooking for the Anti-Chef: 10-Minute Lentil & Beet Salad
Cooking for the Anti-Chef: Crockpot Quinoa Chili 

Cooking for the Anti-Chef: 10-Minute Lentil & Beet Salad

10 minute lentil & beet salad - sarrandipity blog

The past week has not been a winner as far as healthy eating goes: There was the weekly-post-volleyball-game-bar-food meal, the Japanese-takeout-and-ice-cream-at-Ravinia meal, the we-just-did-soulcycle-and-are-too-tired-to-cook-so-lets-order-pizza meal, the family-brunch-to-celebrate-my-new-nephew-and-everyone-brings-sweets meal, and a whole lot of other sweets and snacks in between. Even for me, who has a serious sweet tooth, this was overboard. So by last night, I was feeling the need for a serious detox. I needed fresh foods, vegetables, and protein, stat. Enter: this lentil and beet salad. My mom and sister have both made it, which is a take on one of the Trader Joe’s sample dishes, tons of times. I’ve always loved it, but being that I avoid cooking 99.9% of my life, I’ve managed to also avoid making it myself. (Technically, there’s no “cooking” involved in this dish, but you understand my point, I’m sure.) When my mom says a meal is “easy,” I can’t take it at face value because she is a whiz in the kitchen and invents new recipes for fun (WHAT?). But my sister, on the other hand, is pretty much in the same cooking-is-hard-and-overwhelming-and-tedious boat as I am, so I figured if even she endorses this, I could try it, too.

And, you guys, it seriously is so easy. It took me a tad longer than 10 minutes, but only because I forgot about the chickpeas (distraction is one of the biggest downfalls of my kitchen attempts); I had to text my mom and sister and ask if you’re supposed to rinse the lentils and beets (no to the lentils, yes to the beets—in cold water, to avoid staining your hands); and I realized I didn’t include enough cucumber or cheese for my liking the first time around (when in doubt, always add more cheese). But if you can manage to avoid my cooking pitfalls, this really will only take you about 10 minutes.

10 Minute Lentil and Beet Salad - Sarrandipity Blog

Ingredients: 
Most of these, aside from the lentils package, are estimations can you can adjust based on your own personal tastes. 

  • 1 package (17.6 oz) ready-to-eat lentils
  • 3 ready-to-eat steamed and peeled beets (Note: I used 3—from Trader Joe’s 8 oz ready-to-eat package—but I’m not a huge beet fan and wanted it just as an accent. If you like or love beets, increase the amount accordingly.)
  • Crumbled feta (I used almost all of a 6 oz container, but I LOVE cheese. So, do with that information what you’d like.)
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans
  • 2-3 tablespoons Farmed Here Sweet Basil Vinaigrette (or any dressing you fancy). (You can get the Sweet Basil dressing at Whole Foods and most other grocery stores.)

10 minute lentil and beet salad - Sarrandipity blog

Instructions

  • Place beets in a bowl of cold water to rinse some of the color and avoid staining your hands.
  • Chop beets and cucumber (unpeeled, but without the seeded part in the middle) into small pieces.
  • Combine lentils, beets, feta, cucumber, and beans (strained) in a bowl.
  • Mix in the dressing.
  • Eat. (The garbanzos and lentils make it a pretty hearty salad, but I paired it with sautéed brussels sprouts to make it an even more complete meal.)
  • Relish in the fact that you made something that is healthy, and looks and sounds rather mature, but really requires next to no kitchen skills.

Serves: About 4-5 people, based on my very non-scientific analysis of my leftovers

10 minute lentil and beet salad - sarrandipity blog

Related Posts: 
Cooking for the Anti-Chef: Crockpot Quinoa Chili

Cooking for the Anti-Chef: Crock Pot Quinoa Chili

Quinoa-Chili-Title

Cooking is, without question, one of my least favorite activities. I’m not a natural in the kitchen, I’m not creative when it comes to meal concepts, and I certainly don’t enjoy the process. My mom is a fantastic chef, and can seemingly pull recipes out of thin air, make them, and the end results are always delicious. But that gene was not passed down to me. I wish it was, really. Because then, maybe dinner wouldn’t loom over me like a very dark cloud every. single. night. But it does. And I’m left perpetually hunting for non-boring meals that won’t exhaust my patience and don’t have, on average, more than say, five ingredients. I finally bought a Crock Pots last year thinking it was magic: Just toss a bunch of random ingredients in there, turn it on, and you have a meal. Unfortunately, I discovered that’s not quite how it works, but it is slightly less painful than “regular” cooking.

In an attempt to help others out there like me, I will share recipes from time-to-time that I’ve actually found manageable. This one, for a black-bean-and-chicken-sausage-and-quinoa chili, is one I adapted from the blog Queen Bee Coupons (Thank you, Pinterest), with some changes motivated either by laziness or personal taste. Enjoy!

Quinoa-Chili-Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • One 28oz can of diced (or crushed) tomatoes
  • One 14oz can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • Two 16oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained
  • One 15oz can of corn, drained
  • 3 cups of chicken stock (can use vegetable broth, too–I’ve done both. Can’t even tell the difference)
  • 2-3 chicken sausages, cut into pieces (We used these instead of plain chicken, because we already had them and it seemed easier. The types of chicken sausage out there are endless–just use one you like. Or, leave the meat out altogether to make this vegetarian.)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Can also add 2 tsp chili powder if you like spicy. I do not, so I left this out. 
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt (This is in place of sour cream. Seriously, it works. We use Fage Total, 0%)

Quinoa-Chili-in-Pot

Instructions
1. Put everything but the cheese and greek yogurt in the Crock Pot.

2. Turn the Crock Pot on.

3. Cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4-7 hours on high.

4. Add shredded cheese and yogurt on top as desired. I typically pile the cheese on; my fiancé is healthier and does just a “sprinkle.” To each his own.

Do you know any other easy winter recipes? Share in the comments. Seriously, I need help. 

7 Very Specific New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions

I’ve never been much of a resolutions person. I always saw the idea as being too vague and unrealistic. I mean, am I really supposed to make a goal for the entirety of one year and not get sidetracked or forget about it? I’d rather just assess my life as the months pass and make changes as needed.

Except for this year. This year, I decided to try this resolution thing out. And, while I did make a couple lofty and vague resolutions (Give up Regrets and FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, if you must know), I’m mostly focusing on some very specific goals for the coming year. If I can check all of these off my list, well then, perhaps I’ll reward myself with some FOMO and Regrets.

1. Read a paper book 

I’ve been using a Kindle for years now, and I love it. The convenience is amazing, and the only downside is how easily I can go on spontaneous and excessive book-buying sprees with just one click. That said, I have a sizeable collection of unread paper books collecting dust. They’re books I really want to read, like Not That Kind of Girl and Stories My Grandmother Told Me (a brand-new gift!), but when it comes time to start something new, the Kindle always wins out. I mean, it takes up minimal space in my purse, syncs with my phone and iPad, and allows me to read in bed with all the lights off. Can you blame me? If I can read just one of my old-school paper books this year, I’ll be happy.

2. Finally Make The Polenta That’s In My Cabinet

I hate cooking, I really do. But I’m trying to do more of it, especially now that I work from home and have much less of an excuse not to. This past summer, I was wooed by a polenta dealer at the local farmer’s market and decided to buy some. I like polenta, and its often paired with cheese, which I love, so I figured it’d be a great thing to try out. But as of now, the farthest I’ve gotten with it is thinking about making it for dinner a few times, only to settle on something quicker, easier or more familiar. This year, I take on the polenta. With cheese.

3. Find a System For Organizing My Important, Grown-Up Papers

The thing about doing grown-up things like buying a car, buying a condo, getting married, and working for yourself is, there tend to be lots of important documents that go along with them. It seems like every day, something new comes in the mail that we need to keep track of, and we have no system by which to do so, other than creating various piles throughout the condo with zero rhyme or reason. It’s starting to slowly drive me mad. I only hope I’ll get the system figured out before that happens.

4. Figure Out How to Cancel Those Catalogs That Keep Coming In The Mail 

I can’t believe paper catalogs still get sent out—it’s the age of online-shopping, people! Sure, occasionally I’ll get sucked in and actually browse through one (looking at you, Athleta), but it’s completely unnecessary and I can live without. What’s even more maddening though, is that the majority of catalogs that come to my address are just leftovers from previous residents. No, I don’t want to buy anything from Quilts Monthly, thankyouverymuch. I must figure out how to stop these from coming, for the sake of the environment and my sanity.

5. Follow a Skincare Regimen

I’ve never been great about skincare. I only recently started to consistently remove my makeup at night, I rarely apply moisturizer, and I use drugstore face wash. Truthfully, I’ve always taken my somewhat decent skin for granted. But, as I approach—gasp—30 (this year!), I’m starting to wise up. (Meaning, I got a facial recently and the esthetician gently shamed me about my skincare routine, or lack there of.) I’m already getting better about using face lotion every morning and night, and I just caved and spent a painful (for me) amount of money on “grown up” cleanser and “buffing grains.” I better be glowing by the end of 2015.

6. Drink More Wine 

Kind of. I love wine, but I’m not a huge drinker and almost never have a glass of anything while I’m just hanging out at home. It’s so rare, in fact, that I buy those mini four-packs of wine so that when I do want some at home, I don’t have to open a whole bottle that I know I won’t finish before it goes bad. That said, somehow, my fiancé and I have amassed a rather large collection of vino over time, and it’s just sitting there, taking up space in our cabinet. Yet every time we go to a BYOB restaurant or a friend’s house, we buy a new bottle to take, claiming we want to “save” the ones we have, for God-only-knows-what. This madness needs to stop, and that can clearly only be done by more consistent consumption.

7. Wear Jeans Once a Week 

I work from home, so theoretically I could work in my pajamas all day, every day if I wanted to. I don’t, though, because I feel like showering and getting dressed helps put me in a productive mindset. So every day, I do just that: Shower and get dressed…in leggings and various oversized, comfy tops. As I type this, during the first official Polar Vortex of 2015, I’m wearing fleece-lined leggings and the coziest cardigan ever. While it’s comfortable, the problem with this uniform is that all my other wonderful clothes get neglected. And, let’s be honest: Without wearing jeans, I have no way of keeping tabs on my potentially-expanding-winter-waistline. So, tomorrow, I’m going denim. Or maybe Friday. We’ll see.

What are your resolutions? Tell me in the comments!

Sparkle and Shine Holiday Decor

mantle-with-title
My gold and glimmery mantle. 
I love decorating for any holiday, and when it comes to the winter, I’m all about sparkle and shine. I’m obsessed with mercury glass anything and everything, twinkle lights and pretty much anything else with white, silver, gold and glitter. Fancy up your home for the holidays (or, if you’re like me, for all of winter), with these glimmering pieces.
Sparkle and Shine Holiday Decor

Marnie Glass Candle: Candles are another one of my obsessions. At any given time, I have at least two lit. This one adds some serious winter-wonderland essence. Nordstrom, $30

Coiled Twig Silver Tree: It seems that I’m starting to collect trees like this; after all, I’d much rather think of the outdoors during winter as silver and sparkly than grey and dreary. Target, $20

Etched Glass Hurricane: One of my favorite things on my mantle is the mercury glass hurricane. Light a candle in it, and the light flickering through the glass is magical. Ethan Allen, $63

Glittery Nutcracker: As far as I’m concerned, these are about a million times more fun and festive than the traditional black and red nutcrackers. I have two very similar to this one. They’re good men. Target, $10

Glitter Berry Mini Wreath: Again, so much better than the standard holiday red berries, or the standard green wreaths. The perfect welcoming piece to hang on your door. Pier 1, $15

Glittered Joy Decoration: In case you feel yourself getting Scrooge-y, just take a look at this shimmering reminder to enjoy the season. Target, $14

Wire String Lights: These lights have been popping up all over, and they’re so cool. Because they’re on wire, you can bend and wrap them any which way you please. One use I can’t wait to try: squeezing them into a wine bottle for some awesome rustic lighting. Amazon, $18

Glass Snowman: The only kind of snow I like. Nordstrom, $24

Lighted Glitter Branch: I find metallic or lighted decorative branches to be so cool and classy, and definitely something that you can keep on display all winter long. Z Gallerie, $20

Mercury Glass Votives: Just like with the hurricane, when you light candles in these, the flickering light is gorgeous. You can place them all together on a mantle or shelf, or spread them out around your home. Z Gallerie, $15