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Fast pasta

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I was working on my computer all day and realized at 7.30pm that I had almost passed dinner time.
It is all about having things in the food pantry and in the fridge. And don’t let them see you sweat.

Just throw something together. A fast pasta does the trick.

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fast apsta 1*

Fast pasta with swiss chard, tomatoes and bacon.

Serves 4.

1 package of pasta, any kind (make sure it serves 4).

1/4 of a package of bacon. Finely chopped.

2-3 cups of cherry tomatoes.

1 medium size bundle of swiss chard (ab.out 6 cups)

1 cup of heavy cream or creme fraiche (you could also just use a stock if you don’t want the dairy)

3 garlic cloves.

1-2 tbsp. of soy sauce.

A splash of hot sauce.

1 tbsp. anchovy paste.

1/3 cup grated parmesan.

2 tbsp. of Dijon mustard (optional).

Pepper to taste.

Directions;

Fry the bacon bits until crispy. Lift them out and let drain on a paper towel.

Take out some of the rendered bacon fat, leave about 1 tbsp. Add the garlic and anchovy paste. Stir for 30 seconds.

Clean the Swiss chard and cut into bite size. Add to the bacon fat. Fry for about 3 minutes. Add the split cherry tomatoes. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes.

Add the pasta to some boiling water. Boil until “al dente” (with a little bite not too soft).

Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

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fast pasta 2

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Plate the boiled pasta. Add the sauce over the top. Sprinkle over the bacon bits. Finish with some grated parmesan cheese and a little sprig of any herb you have at home.

Enjoy!

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fast pasta 5

 

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When I was a teenager in the 70′, one of the favorite dishes at the time was to make a sandwich cake.

It would be served at any party & for any occasion.  It really fits the Swedish “smörgåsbord” format. It sits well on a buffet table and can be done ahead of time.

My mother worked as a “kallskänka” (“cold-cut” chef) for one of the most fancy grocery-stores for a few years. I remember her making all the sandwich cakes and all other buffet and cold-cut dishes. It is a very Scandinavian way of eating. It took my husband a while to really get onboard with all the cold food that Swedes eat. All the cold-cut dishes creates the famous “smörgåsbord”.

The sandwich cakes can be varied in infinity. It really is all about what you can lay your hands on or what you have in the fridge.

The basic rules for the cake is good bread cut in big slices (you can if need be, also stack regular slices of bread. The important thing is to cut of all hard edges so that you never know that all bread has been pieced together).

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You can mix layers of different breads. I usually go to a good grocery store that has their own bread or bakery department. You can ask them to slice the bread for you. They will be very puzzled when you ask them to slice it lengthwise. Just remember to cut of all hard edges. I usually make croutons of the edges.

*The cake usually has two or three layers of filling. You can make it easy for yourself if you don’t have time, to buy already made salads as an egg-salad, ham-salad or anything else that your deli sells. I prefer to make my own fillings. It is all about what you feel like making. It is good to have a theme as in smoked salmon or fish, veggies or perhaps meats.

You make all fillings with either mayo, sour cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche. Or a mixture of any two of them.

For example. I used smoked salmon in one layer. I used equal parts mayo & whipped heavy cream. I finely cut the cold-smoked salmon and dill. You can add pepper or other spices after requirement. I happened to have white caviar in the fridge, so I dropped that in, but this was just because I happened to have it at home.

Another layer was a chicken salad with grapes and walnuts. You just take baked (or boiled chicken), mayo, ranch dressing seasoning, grapes cut in half, crushed up walnuts and some hot sauce (optional).

It all depends on how big you make your sandwich cake, but you should calculate that it takes about 1 cup of filling to one loaf layer of bread. But as I said, it all depends on what kind of bread you get. You need to plan it accordingly.

To my sandwich cake above, I used almost 3 loaves of bread.

2 layers of filling. One cold-smoked salmon & one chicken salad layer. It takes about 1 cup of filling per layer (give & take, depending on how loose the filling is).

You need about 1 cup of mayo & 1 cup of whipped heavy cream for the covering of the cake. It should be well mixed.

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Make a y kind of creamy salad or filling.

Mix all well. I t is smart to always have a little extra mayo/whipped cream on hand just in case you need to delude your filling or if you are running out of filling. A well spiced basic “white” sauce could also work.

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Make sure the filling reaches well out into edges all around 4 sides.

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Last layer is just as on a regular cake, the bread part.

Spread the mayo/whipped heavy cream as you would a regular icing or whipped cream layer on a cake.

Decorate with anything you want. I try to save something from what I use in the fillings.. Fruits and berries always works. Chopped herbs, cucumbers and even salad leaves could work on the edges as well as on top. Many times, we decorate with slices eggs and lemons.

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This was the sandwich cake we made for his latest birthday. It had shrimp and other seafood on and in it.

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A slice of sandwich cake looks pretty much like a regular slice of cake.

I really hope you try to make some sandwich cakes. Start small and work your way up to a large one if you feel a little scared of this. But I have to warn you, it really is delicious and can be addictive!

Yum!!!! Enjoy!!

 

 

Valentine’s day…

When I think back on our wedding, it feels as if it was just a few years ago. But it has been so many years that we get amazed every time we count. I don’t care what people say, it does make a difference to be married. I love it.

We have had so many big celebrations lately that we are a little low-key this Valentine’s. A little partied out, you could say. It could also be because we are expecting the worst and coldest weather in history, here in New York. Well, at least that is what they say.

So we cancelled our plans and are staying local. But, since we actually eloped and got married in Vegas, our revised plan is to go to the casino in New York/Queens, and have dinner there. Same same but different.

We already had our first Valentine’s dinner since we celebrate this for a few days since it actually is both our anniversary and Valentine’s.

This dinner was what we love to eat the most. Salmon. And lot’s of berries with some quinoa. Sweet dinner for my sweet & I.

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Sweet Salmon cubes with Berry & Fruit Quinoa.

Serves 2.

A mid-piece salmon, enough for two people. Cut into aprx. 1 1/2″ cubes.

1/2 cup. mixed fresh fruit & berries.

2 pineapple rings. Preferable fresh (canned is ok as well).

A couple of strawberries, cut in small pieces.

1 lime. Use the zest and the juice.

1 cup boiled quinoa.

2-4 tbsp. Thai chili (Hot & sweet)

1-2 spring onions, the semi green part cut in thin strips on a diagonal.

Salt pepper to taste.

Directions;

Let the pineapple rings dry of slightly. Cut into little cubes. Fry in a “dry” frying pan for a few minutes letting the pineapple get a little color. Add the boiled quinoa into a bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice &  1-2 of the Thai chili sauce. Mix & let sit and “marry”.

Fry the salmon cubes in a medium hot pan in a little good oil. Just a few minutes on each side. Don’t over cook them.

If you are using larger fruits or berries, cut them into smaller pieces.

Just before serving, mix most but not all, of the berries, the lime zest & spring onions with the quinoa. Plate with the salmon cubes. sprinkle over more of the berries and the spring onions. Place little drops of the Thai chili sauce over the salmon and on the plate.

I used blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, dragon fruit and a little of a kiwi. I took a piece of the dragon fruit and cut out a heart and placed it on the plate.

You could of course use a cookie cutter if you want a perfectly cut heart.

You can squeeze over a little bit more lime juice if you want. Before you plate, taste and make sure it is balanced and to your liking. If you want it more hot and spicy add a dab of hot sauce (optional).

I also added a passion fruit on top of it all. I just love that fruit. A little expensive but so delicious.

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valentines salad

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What can be better than waking up to flowers and cards from your hubby?

Followed by a typical and favorite Swedish breakfast. Pancakes with whipped heavy cream and fresh berries, smoothie and some Swedish tea. I am really fortunate…

Happy Valentine’s!!!

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IMG_3735_2Valentines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Stew.

stew

 

This winter has been “on/off” since early december. It goes from an “arctic blaze” to just a few degrees above freezing and then back down into the big frozen pit again. We have had a few snow storms and in American terms “blizzards”. But for a Swede, you can only call it a blizzard and a really bad storm when the snow comes at you from down and up and shakes you around as if you were stuck in tumbler. Yes, it has snowed but nothing to write home about. We survived.

Since we unfortunately miscalculated our supply of “snow melt” last year (we ran out of it and couldn’t find any to buy anywhere). We didn’t want to take any risks of that happening again this year. We have a large bucket of snow melt sitting at the bottom of the stairs in our basement right now. A pain to jump over any time you have to go down into the basement but it surely is worth the trouble. We will have leftover snowmelt for next year.

I think we are out removing snow every week. It really feels like an extremely snow filled winter this year. When I first moved to America there was never any snow in the winter. What has happened? Did “Global warming” cousin, “arctic cold winters” move in?

Another way to make the snow melt, well perhaps not make the snow melt but at least feel warm, is to eat winter hardy food. Stews are easy and really fulfilling. A little less rustic stew is to start with ground meat instead of chunks of meat. It can be stewing down in different liquids such as beer, wines or broths.

To mix it up a little, this stew has ingredients from the “antipasto” (or antipasti as some call it) counter at the grocery store. I find it fast and it mixes it up a little from my regular kinds of stews.

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*I love the marinated garlic cloves, marinated whole shallots, marinated olives all kinds, marinated artichoke hearts. It is so hearty to chop this up and add to any kind of dish. Anything from stews to omelets.

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Thanks to my dear friends at home, I get dried chanterelle mushrooms from home. They are absolutely fantastic to add to stews. You just put them in some cold water (don’t use hot water) and let them re-hydrate for a few minutes. Squeeze out the water and add them to the stew.

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Winter Stew:

Serves 6.

1 lb. of ground meat (I used ground beef).

1 finely chopped medium-sized onion.

1 cup chopped mushrooms. Either fresh or dried re-hydrated.

1 cup mixed antipasto items. You decide what. I used marinated garlic cloves, olives, onions and artichoke hearts.

1 cup chopped tomatoes. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, 1 can of crushed tomatoes works well.

2 tbsp. tomato paste (optional).

1 bottle of good a little darker beer or 1 cup wine. Red or white either works or  2 cups of stock. I always use low sodium chicken stock.

Splash of hot sauce (optional).

2 tbsp. concentrated stock (optional. I used my favorite Swedish “secret weapon”).

Salt pepper to taste.

1-3 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley for decoration.

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Directions;

Heat up a cast iron pot or a heavy-duty pot on a medium hot heat. In a splash of oil, fry the onion and the ground meat. When the onion is translucent and the meat has been browned slightly, add all the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Let cook down for about 5-10 minutes. Add the liquids and the antipasto. Let simmer on a low heat for about 35-40 minutes or until all is well stewed down and nice and soft. Taste and make sure the balance of spices is correct and to you liking.

Serve with some home-made mashed potatoes.

sprinkle over some finely chopped parsley for decoration.

Enjoy and stay warm!

 

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We would not have known where playing the Super Bowl finals unless my brother-in-law was here visiting us a few weeks ago. Because he wanted to watch some American football, we actually watched the game with the “potentially” deflated balls (one of the teams in the semi-finals has been accused of deflating the footballs for a better grip). What can one say? Wouldn’t both teams playing benefit from that in that case?? Anyway, so this year I can actually say that we saw a game (even though I honestly only can say I was somewhat paying attention) before the actual final Super Bowl. But our discussions at home has not been around who will win, it has, as always been, “what are we going to eat”? My husband wanted to eat crawfish. We still have some in the freezer, but we forgot to defrost them, so plan B would had to be something with shrimp instead. Neither one of us likes chicken wings, but we like the idea of some kind of finger food. But less messy though. I always make sure to have some shrimp in the freezer. I would prefer to have had some fresh domestic shrimp, but sometimes one doesn’t have a choice. So this time I used frozen shrimp, deveined and peeled. * super bowl *III Some fantastic boiled shrimp & fried potato wrapped shrimp. They were served with a Asian/Caribbean dipping sauce and some hot salsa. * frying the shrimp * Potato wrapped Shrimp; serves 4. a couple of baking potatoes. About 20 Shrimp, larger version (about 5 per person). Directions; Peel some baking potatoes. Make shoestrings out of the potatoes either with a zester (that is what I used) or if you have a the little gadget that makes shoestrings out of vegetables you are the lucky one. It is a little tedious to make the shoestrings but it is worth it. Wrap the shoestring potatoes around the dried off and peeled shrimp. Heat some oil in a skillet. Fry the shrimp on a medium hot heat. Make sure not to burn them. Turn after a few minutes. Let them sit on a little paper towels to get rid of access oil. Salt to taste. * potato nest shrimp *   broth * For the boiled shrimp, first make a good tasting broth for boiling the shrimp. Boil some water together with stalks & leaves of different kind of herbs. Garlic cloves, fresh ginger, lemon or lime or just about any kind of herbs and good tasting vegetables that you have at home. I let this boil for about 20 minutes or so just to make sure it gets to me a full body and taste on the broth. You can make this ahead of time. Even a day before. When you are ready to boil the shrimp, drop them into the boiling broth. Boil for a couple of minutes until they are just about to turn pink. Turn off the water and let them cool down slightly in the broth. * boiled shrimp * For the dipping sauces, you can use any of your favorite sauces. Perhaps a salsa, hot or mild, a tartar sauce, cocktail sauce or an asian dipping sauce. Asian/Caribbean inspired dipping sauce;  4 tbsp. Soy sauce 4 tbsp. Mirin. 3  tbsp. freshly pressed lime juice. 2 tbsp. mango salsa or mango sauce (or even mango vinegar). If you don’t have any, you could use a little freshly ground fruit such as pineapple (use 1 ring of pineapple and puree it down, or use some apple sauce even). A pinch of Chile flakes. Mix all together. Add a little chopped cilantro at the end. This is just one of those improvised sauces that really is made according to what you have at home. The base, soy & mirin is the regular teriyaki sauce so if you rather use that, it is also ok. Just add some heat, some freshness with citrus and some sweetness from mango for example. The chili flakes makes the whole thing come together with a little bit of a kick. This is a really delightful dipping sauce. Just experiment with the tastes and make it your own favorite sauce. Enjoy, and let’s hope the best team wins!!!! Happy Super Bowl!!!   4vt0A_SH_400x400

My husband just celebrated his 50th birthday.

He is a very lucky one because this birthday has been celebrated a bunch of times at this point. The first time was when we were home in Sweden a while ago, the second time was a big birthday party for a whole bunch of family & friends (this also took place in Sweden) and the third and last time was this week when he had his actual birthday.

My sister with family and one of my brothers and his family gave my husband an overnight stay at this most fantastic Japanese spa “Yasuragi” in Stockholm. I was also a lucky recipient of the present.

It was the most fantastic experience. A little bit like a cult when you first looked at all the people walking around in the same robes and slippers, but what a different experience. It was all about eating, relaxing and doing a whole bunch of nothing. Just the way I like it.

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yasuragi

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My family had chosen Teppanyaki as dinner for us.

Teppanyaki is food prepared on a huge griddle or iron plate in front of a small group of dinner guests. It is clearly a visual as much as a taste experience. “Teppan” means iron plate and “Yaki” means grilled. So, it was a huge griddle. The chef prepared different smaller dishes for us. A reindeer fillet, dumplings in a broth, grilled kale, lobster, sushi and so much more.

There was one thing that really stood out. They had a marinated garlic that was absolutely marvelous. It had been marinated for 2 years. They heated it up on the griddle and folded it into some rice. Wow! What a taste memory that was. I am about to make this myself. I asked them for the recipe and they gave it to me gladly. Really easy actually. The problem is only to wait for it to be done… It will be a long 2 years wait.

marinated garlic.

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Marinated aged Garlic;

Good garlic, if possible, organic.

Equal parts Mirin

& Soy sauce. Preferably organic as well but a good Soy & Mirin will also do.

Water for blanching the garlic cloves in.

Directions;

Bring water to a boil. Add the peeled garlic cloves to the boiling water and blanche them for about 3-4 minutes. Let the garlic cloves dry off & put them into a dark glass canning jar (or other jar) with a tight-fitting lid. Pour over equal parts Mirin & Soy. You reach the best result if you fill the container to the very brim. Make sure the lid is tightened well. Let the jar sit in a dark place for 2 years.

At the spa, the chef told me that they are making new batches of marinated aged garlic cloves every year. It is one of their staples in the kitchen.

 

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One of the vegetables they prepared for us was fresh kale, well cooked on the griddle with garlic slivers.

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raindeerlobster

 

 

 

 

 

 

full force

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The whole meal was a perfect display of cooking and showmanship. Perfectly pared with different kinds of drinks such as aged Sake.

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japaneese dining room

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A more traditional Japanese dining room.

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hot springs*

The outside hot springs were fantastic. Even though it was below freezing outside when we where there, we didn’t feel the cold since the different heated springs kept us nice and warm. We ended up staying there for hours. Some of my friends that has visited the spa told me they had spent time in the hot springs looking at the snow falling.

sauna

 

Scandinavians loves their saunas. At the spa, they had one called the “Panoramic Sauna”, overlooking the water. We sat there late at night in the dark, looking at the cruise ships going to Finland. I must say it was the first time I ever have liked these ships.

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viking line

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They were even nice to look at during breakfast in the morning….

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room

Part of our room.

robe

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And my little husband in his “yukata”, Japanese robe.

 

 

I can have cravings for a plate of a good old spaghetti and meat sauce, served with parmesan and a cold beer! A plate of something old fashion, “everyday meal”. Something your mama used to make.

I think that many of us has pasta as a “go to” or a “fast fix” meal. For me, one of the easiest sauces to make is a meat sauce. You can switch the meat out for anything else that you would prefer. Perhaps some tuna, pulled pork or just keep it vegetarian if you prefer that.

I don’t measure anything. I just take a little of this and a little of that. Whatever I have in the fridge will be the base of it all.

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Good old Meat sauce.

Serves 4.

10-16 oz. Ground beef.

1 medium or large onion. Any color.

1-3 cups of chopped fresh vegetables. I usually use a mixture of fresh mushrooms, peppers, carrots, celery.

1 medium can of crushed tomatoes. If you are lucky and have fresh tomatoes, cube those up and use those instead.

Lot’s of garlic. I like it a lot so for me, it will be about 6 cloves but if you only want one, that is good enough.

3-4 tbsp. of tomato paste (or ketchup if you don’t have tomato paste).

Any kind of fresh or dried herbs. About 1-2 tbsp.

Salt & pepper to taste.

A splash of hot sauce in my case but that is optional as always.

Milk or heavy cream. You could also use creme fraiche. If you don’t want to use dairy, just use a broth.

Directions;

Chop or shred your vegetables while you fry up the ground beef in a skillet on medium high heat. When the meat is done, pour over to a bowl. Fry the chopped onions and the vegetables in the same skillet. When the onions are getting a little translucent, pour in the fried meat. Add the tomato paste or ketchup. Start with half the amount since it is easier to add than take out. Let the garlic fry with the veggies and meat just a few minutes so they don’t burn. Add the crushed tomatoes  and the milk/heavy cream/ broth or whatever liquid you prefer to use, to the skillet. Let boil down for anything from 15-30 minutes. It all depends on how much liquid you have added. I add about 2 cups of liquid. If it gets to “dry” before I get a loose and soft sauce, I just pour in more milk. Salt & pepper to taste. Add the herbs the last few minutes.

I serve this with any kind of pasta. This is such an easy weeknight dish. The trick is to cook a lot of sauce and freeze it in badges. You just take it out the night before and let it defrost in the fridge over night. boil the pasta when you get home and heat up the sauce. Super fast. Just the way I like it. And that cold beer is just the crowning of this easy, basic dish.

Add some shredded parmesan and call it a day.

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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