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Archive for February, 2012

Fried rice is one of the easiest things to cook. For me, it is a way of taking care of left overs. You can make it vegetarian or use any kind of protein. There are no limitations to what you can add. My version says “anything goes”.

Coming from a salmon loving country, I always have smoked salmon at hand. When I make rice, I make sure to cook enough for lunch boxes and for a possible fried rice dish. This is one way of making fried rice.

Smoked Salmon fried rice.

Serves 4.

2 cups of cooked rice ( 1/2 cup per person. I use basmati rice boiled with a little turmeric and a stock cube.)

Smoked salmon, about 8 slices (I love smoked salmon, so I add more)

1 onion, finely chopped.

3 tbsp of dried cranberries.

1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half.

5-8 asparagus, cut in small pieces.

1-2 spring onions, cut into small pieces.

1 – 1 1/2 tbsp of capers, cut in half. (can be eliminated if you don’t like capers).

1/2 a bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped. You can also add cilantro or any other herb that you have in the fridge.

Pepper to taste. (no salt since the smoked salmon is salty enough).

Hot sauce (optional).

Mirin to taste (optional).

Soy sauce to taste (optional)

1 tbsp. olive oil for frying.

Directions:

Cut all vegetables into small pieces. Heat up a skillet. Add the vegetables. Cut the salmon into 1″ pieces or slightly smaller. Add half of it into the skillet. Make sure to stir well. If the vegetables are leftovers, just warm them up, if they are fresh, fry until soft. Add the cooked rice, cranberries, capers and spices. Mix it  well. Since the rice is already cooked it just needs to get hot. At the end, add the chopped dill and the rest of the smoked salmon. Stir a last time just to make sure all is well incorporated. You can add additional spices and herbs according to your taste buds. I like a little splash of mirin and soy sauce to this.

Plate and enjoy.

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What beats a bowl of nice hot soup on a cold dreary day?

It is so easy to make a soup , that it’s almost a crime not to make one. You can spiff up those “bottom of the fridge” items, by putting them into a soup. I know I say this a lot but there are really no rules for what you can make. One of the easiest ways would be to just simmer (slowly boil) vegetables, beans, peas or lentils (or whatever you choose to use in your soup.) When soft, just puree them with a hand mixer. Take out a little bit of the ingredients before mixing, then put them back into the pureed soup, so that you would get a little “crunch”. Spice it up and there you have it, a yummy soup.

I never liked butternut squash soup, since it was a little too sweet for me the way most people made it. Here is my version with a little bit of a twist.  Less sweet and “blend.”

Butternut squash soup with an orange twist.

1 butternut squash.

2 cups of broth (I use chicken, but vegetable broth is fine.)

2 tomatoes, chopped.

1 orange, squeezed.

The zest of the orange.

Hot sauce or any kind of pepper or spice/ herb. I like the taste of thyme to this soup.

Sour cream (optional)

Directions;

Peel and cut the squash into 2″ pieces. Put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper you can do without. Roast the squash pieces in the oven for about 20 minutes or until soft. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn. Turn them a couple of times.

Pour the chopped tomatoes, roasted squash pieces, chicken broth, spices. and the squeezed orange juice into a pot. Allow to come to a boil then let simmer for about 8-10 minutes. When all is soft and broken down, take off the heat and puree with a hand mixer directly in the pot. Put the soup back on to the heat.

Mix in the orange rind.  Pour soup into individual bowls. Shred a little green apple or a fresh carrot on top of the soup. Decorate with a sprig of thyme (or any herb of your choice.)  You could also add a tablespoon of sour cream into the soup.

Enjoy.

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A good friend of mine asked me how I would describe my food and cooking style. I had to think about it for a while,  since I cook anything & everything. But the answer is I cook “good” food made from great produce. I am very down to earth. I grow lot’s of vegetables in the backyard. I love fishing, going to the butcher to get meat, to the farmers market for vegetables, to my local ethnic stores for any kind of specialty items. I believe one should try to buy as much organic foods as possible, it tastes so much better and it is healthier for you. It can be expensive to buy organic. A tip would be to stay in the season to get a better  price.

Buying directly from the local farmer is a fantastic way of shopping, they need our support. You don’t have to go and buy “food” you could for example go apple picking. People who don’t eat apples, love going apple picking and coming home with bags full of apples not knowing what to do with them besides just eating them. It’s about the work & the experience and knowing where the food comes from that makes you feel good.

I also think that what you cook should be pretty. Have great colors and “style”. Whether you make a bowl of oatmeal, a fancy steak or a decadent dessert  “Make it look good.”  Tease those taste buds from the first second you lay your eyes on the food. I let the designer in me pull it all together on the plate.

Cooking should be easy and  the food should be “clean” not complicated and messy. Things aren’t as difficult to cook as we think and if it is, how can it be simplified?

The better the produce the less attention it will need.

*

My absolute favorite fish is Char or Arctic Char as it also is called.

It is a relative to the salmon & Trout. It is called “redding” in Swedish. (The belly of the Char is bright red.) It is a cold water fish. You can fish it in Alaska, Canada and Iceland for example. It’s flesh is so pure and soft. Really delicious.

Char with home-made fries.

Char filets. You can also use salmon. or Trout. (Ask the vendor how much you need for the amount of people you are serving.  I usually buy my Char at whole foods.)

A pinch of salt & pepper.

Lemon or lime.

Idaho potatoes. One per person. (I prefer Idaho but you can use any kind.)

A couple of sweet potatoes.

A splash of oil.

Dried herbs.

Optional;

Dried coriander seeds. Crushed. (They give a little “lemony” taste)

Dill, chopped. For decoration.

Directions;

The fries.Put oven on 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes. Don’t peel them, the nutrition is in the peel. Cut in approximately 1/2″ slices, Cut the slices into fries. Add to a cooking sheet. Poor over the oil. Add salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Mix with your hands. Spread them out over the cooking sheet so that they are more or less in just one layer. Put into the oven. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Depending on what kind of potato you use and how thick they are. Check them now and them. Turn them once. When done, take out and sprinkle more spices over fries if needed.

* If you are in a hurry, microwave the fries for a few minutes before putting them into the oven. This saves time. (I do that with baked potato too.)

Plate the fries.

The Char. Salt and pepper the fish filets. Add to a medium hot pan. Skin down first (if the skin is still on.)

Fry for about 3-4 minutes per side. Check, you might just need a couple of minutes on the second side, since you only want a good color. Don’t over cook. Rather the opposite. The Char just melts in your mouth. Plate on top of the fries. finish off with a sprig with dill. Cut up the lemon. Put the lemon wedges on the side on the plate.

You can serve this with a mango chutney and a sour creme based sauce. For example with chopped onions, chopped fresh herbs , some salt & pepper.

Another alternative is to dip the fries in blue cheese dressing. It would be great to serve a side salad to this dish.

Enjoy.

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I know. Almost everybody knows how to make a smoothie.

But do you make one??  I love to make smoothies during the weekends. Either for breakfast or instead of lunch. You can really make this any way you want. It is smart to buy fruits and berries when they are in season or on sale. Wash and dry them well. Cut up and freeze in smoothie portions. We have tons of berries in our freezer. For me, blueberry is the power berry. There are no antioxidants lost by freezing them. They have so many great benefits.

Blueberries are ;

Packed with antioxidants.

High in dietary fibers.

Packed with vitamin C.

Good for lowering high blood pressure.

Great against urinary infections.

Great for an upset stomach. 

Has been said to help lower cholesterol.

 If  you can choose between wild or farmed, pick the wild ones. The flesh is blue all the way through, small and sweet.

If you are looking for a healthy good smoothie, this is how I do it.

Makes 2-3  glasses.

1/2 cup of Greek yogurt.

1/2 cup frozen blueberries.

1/2 cup of frozen raspberries.

1/2 cup of frozen strawberries.

4 tbsp of old fashion oats. (optional)

1 orange, squeezed. (optional)

Put the frozen berries in the fridge over night to de-frost.  Poor all into the blender. Blend well. If it is a little thick, pour more juice in or if you like milk, add a splash of milk. (Skim would be good.)

I don’t use any protein powders or sugars. The berries or fruits should do the job.

As they say, “Don’t drink your calories.” So why add sugar if you don’t need it. If you really “have” to have it a little sweeter, add a good honey into the smoothie before blending.

You could add a little cinnamon, banana or oats to make it a little “fuller” in taste. 

Honestly, a smoothie can be made in so many ways. This is just one version.

Enjoy.

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Happy Valentine’s day!!

I got married on February 14th, this was my husband’s idea, to get married on the most romantic day of the year.

Valentine’s is what you make it. You could make “stuff” in heart shapes all day. Or maybe you would choose typical “romantic foods” such as white wine/champagne & shrimps or oysters. A little note in a lunchbox or pocket could even be enough. I think it is a little boring with chocolate dipped strawberries or boxes. I love it, but it’s very predictable.

You can  make your favorite food served in a romantic way. It’s really not all about what you eat, but how you eat it or how it was presented, you can spiff up any meal to make it romantic or sexy…

I cut rose petals into little hearts. You just fold them over and cut half a heart. They are really pretty and different.

Here is my Valentines 3 course dinner.

* Potato pancakes with caviar.

* Baked Lobster tails.

* Strawberry mousse.


Potato pancakes with caviar.

1 potato per person. Grated.

1 tsp of very finely sliced onion. White or yellow.

Butter & oil for frying.

Salt and pepper.

Directions;

Grate the potatoes. Add into a bowl, potatoes, onions, salt & pepper. Mix well with your hands.

Take a small handful of the potato mixture and squeeze out the liquid. Add to the cookie cutter in the frying pan. Pack it well into the edges. Fry on a very low heat so that they are cooked all the way through.

Serve with a dab of sour cream and caviar. I love white caviar, but you can use any kind you like. If you don’t like caviar, just use finely chopped onions. In that case, don’t add any onion in the potato mixture. Let the heart-shaped potato pancake rest on a bed of micro greens. Sprinkle your favorite vinaigrette around it. My favorite is a light walnut/raspberry vinaigrette. Decorate with a couple of pieces of chives.

Baked Lobster tails.

I lobster tail for 2 people. Cooked. (If you buy it raw, steam the tail for about 6-7 minutes in water, a sprig of dill and some salt. Let the tail cool in the liquid.)

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheese.

1 tbsp bread crumbs.

1/2 onion. (Or 2-3 shallots.) Finely chopped.

1/4 cup of white wine (or sherry.)

1 tbsp butter.

1/4  bell pepper (or zucchini). Very finely chopped.

2-3 tbsp finely chopped herbs. Use your favorite. Basil, thyme, dill or parsley….

1 tbsp mango chutney.

Splash of hot sauce (optional.)

Salt & Pepper.

Directions;

Melt butter. Fry the onions and peppers (zucchini).  Add the wine & chutney. Let simmer down for about 5-10 minutes. Let the sauce cool down slightly.

Take out the meat from the shells. Cut into bite size pieces. Clean the shells. 

Mix all ingredients together. Pour mixture into the shells. Sprinkle some of the breadcrumbs over the tails. Put the tails into an oven safe dish.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brow (cheese has melted.)

Serve with a salad or rice. I used  some passionfruit & physalis as decoration since it is Valentines.

It is so much easier than one thinks to do fancy stuff.

To make a chocolate heart, take good dark chocolate. Melt it either in a double boiler on the stove or in the microwave (if using the microwave, look at the chocolate every 10-15 seconds, stirring ever so often.) Make a paper cone out of parchment paper. Pour in the chocolate. Note it is hot. Draw hearts on a piece of parchment paper. Turn the paper upside down on a flat surface. Cut of the tip on the chocolate cone. Start “tracing” the heart shape with the chocolate. Make sure the hearts are not totally solid. you would like for there to be some holes. It looks prettier that way.

Let them cool. If you are in a hurry, put them in the freezer to harden. Stick them in to the mousse. It is really beautiful.


Strawberry mousse.

Makes 4-6 servings.

1 package of fresh strawberries.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin.
1 cup heavy cream.
1/4 cup powdered sugar (can be eliminated if the strawberries are very sweet. I don’t use sugar in my mousse )
1 tbsp of any kind of fruit or berry liquor. I used a wild strawberry liquor. (Optional)
Directions;
Clean the strawberries. Puree them well in a blender.

Prepare the gelatin as per directions on the box. 

Add the strawberry puree into the gelatin. Cool the mixture for about 30 minutes to thicken slightly.

Whip the cream separately. Make sure not to whip it too stiff. If using powdered sugar, add it into the cream gradually, beating constantly, until the cream is thick.

Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry and gelatin mixture. Pour into some nice looking glasses or dishes. Let the mousse chill in the fridge for an hour or until firm. Add the chocolate hearts and a sliced up strawberries for decoration. You can skip the hearts and just use strawberries for decoration, if you rather do that.

If you don’t feel like making a mousse, just serve a nice ice-cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet decorated with the chocolate hearts.

Enjoy.

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For me, a meatball should not be served with or in a tomato sauce it has to be a “brown” sauce. Cream or Creme fraiche based. The meatballs should be “clean” and served with potatoes or mashed potatoes or even with some kind of pasta or rice. Originally people would serve them with green peas and lingonberries. Lingonberries are similar to cranberries, just smaller and a little sweeter. You can find them in many stores. You could also serve the meatballs with pickled cucumbers.

Swedish meatballs.

Makes 45-50 meatballs

1 lb ground beef.

1/2 lb ground pork. (For a real Swedish meatball, you use 1/3rd pork and 2/3rd regular ground beef. If yo rather use 100 % Beef , that is fine)

1/4 onion. very finely chopped.

1 egg.

3 tbsp. bread crumbs.

3-4 tbsp. of milk.

1 tsp of mustard. Course if possible.

1 tbsp. of dried herbs- optional.

Butter & oil for frying.

Salt & pepper.

A few drops of hot sauce-optional.

Directions;

Add milk to breadcrumbs. Let soak until breadcrumbs are soggy.

Chop the onion very fine.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. You can add any other favorite spice. Meatballs has a tendency to soak up the spices, so rather add a little more than less.

Form little balls about 1″ in size. You can prepare this a day ahead and just cover them and put them in the fridge. When frying add both a dab of butter and some oil. The oil prevents the butter from burning. Do not crowd the pan with meatballs. They need space to “roll around” a little. Shake the pan rather than turning them with a fork or any other tool. Fry on a medium low heat.

When done, transfer to a serving container. Dont pour in the fat, just the meatballs. Fry the rest of the meatballs in the same fat.

You can prepare the meatballs ahead. Even the day before. Roll them into small balls about 1″ in size.

Dont pack the meatballs to full in the skillet. They need room to roll around. Rather shake the pan then turning them with a fork or something else. You do not want to break them.

A great sauce would be just to fry up some chopped onions in the meatball pan. Add cream to the pan. Let boil down some. Salt and pepper to taste.

My favorite sauce is a mushroom sauce. I got some dried chanterelle from my sister last time I was home. This is the “gold” in my pantry. I love using dried mushrooms in everything.

Soak the dried mushrooms in a little hot water. Let sit for a while.

Fry up some finely chopped onions or shallots. Add the mushrooms. Let the onion become golden brown. Add the soaking liquid from the mushrooms. Let boil down slightly. Add a few table spoons of creme fresh or heavy cream. Add as much as you feel is needed to make a thicker sauce. I would use about half a container of creme fraiche and about 1/4 cup of the soaking water.

Spice with salt and pepper. Some beef broth or soy sauce. Add some dried or fresh herbs. Well chopped. This is optional. You can really do anything you want. Don’t be afraid of improvising with your cooking. Just be careful not to over power with salt or heat.

                                                                                                   I hope you will like your Swedish meatballs. Remember that you can variate them in a million different ways.

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Spanish version- Add some sofrito (spanish spice mix) or just add chopped coriander or recao (also called mexican coriander).

Arabic version-  Add a little cinnamon, cumin, ground cloves, chopped parsley or chopped mint.

Sweet version- Add chopped or shredded apples or chopped mangoes into meat mixture. (This can be used in a chicken or turkey meatball too).

Indian version- Add some curry & garam masala, or ground cardamom.

West Indian version- Add some jerk seasoning. You can buy that ready done in the stores.

Greek version- Add a  little crumbled feta cheese and oregano into the meatballs.

See, you can make infinite variations. It is now up to you …

Enjoy.

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So I am not going to lie. I really have no clue about football. To me, football is played with your foot, so there you go. I am lost already at the “gate”… I have never been to a football game.  I would love to go though. I just haven’t gotten around to it.

My husband and I only watch the super bowl. We don’t watch any other games during the year. I guess you can say it is like not reading the whole book, just skipping to the end. We are usually more interested in what to eat then who is playing. It has happened more than once, that we missed the start of the game, because we were in the kitchen. But this year, we will make it. We will watch the whole thing!

It took many years before I caved in to the junk’ish food that has to be served for this event. In the beginning, I tried to cook fancy stuff. Things you needed to really sit down and eat. I know better now. It has to be things that you can eat with your fingers.  But I still try to make it a little “better” for you if possible. It is not what I usually cook, but then again, super bowl only comes around once a year.

Here are some things you could serve for your super bowl party.

Try my version of the “famous” “Thin bread roll”. The Hot dog wrap.

Hot dog wrap.

1 hot dog per wrap.

Lettuce, any kind.

2 small scoops of mashed potatoes per wrap. (If you want less, use less.) About 1 potato per person.

1 tbsp. pickled cucumber relish per wrap (optional).

Ketchup & mustard.

Pepper & BBQ spice.

(Optional- More vegetables for a more healthy wrap.)

Directions;

Make the mashed potatoes.  Fry the hot dogs in a frying pan.

Take the wrap. Put it on the counter. Cut up the lettuce into thin stripes. Add the mashed potatoes to the wrap. About 2 small scoops per wrap.  Add the lettuce. Sprinkle on pepper & BBQ spice or any spice you like. Put the fried hot dog vertically on top. Add ketchup and mustard as per your own taste. Add the cucumber relish in a thin stripe next to the hot dog. Make sure all are lined well since you are going to roll it all up. If you would like to add something more, do so. For example some dressing (like blue cheese or hamburger dressing.) You can also mix the cucumber relish with a little sour cream and mayo to make a mayo cucumber sauce. Wrap it up as you would do a regular wrap.  Cut in half. Enjoy.

For the more “real” food, here are my finger licking, super yummy, moist and delicious ribs.

Ribs.

Ribs. Count about 3-5 ribs per person.

Dry rub. Dried spice mix. Equal amount pepper, dried herbs, dried ginger, garlic powder, paprika. 1 tsp. salt. Optional;  1tsp. cinnamon, 1tsp. Garam Masala, 1tsp. grind coffee beans. Mix all well together. Rub the ribs with the dry rub. Place in an owen safe dish or a foil container. Add the ribs. Cover tight with foil. Make sure it is well secured so no air will zip out. Add to a 250 degree oven. Cook for about 3 hours. When ribs are done, they will look pale, lot’s of liquid will be a t the bottom of the dish. Brush on some BBQ sauce. Let rest a few minutes. Move to a cutting board. Cut the ribs up and place on a platter. Add a bowl of more BBQ sauce on the side. In the summer, I make the ribs like this. I just cut off the cooking time about 1/2 hour and slap them on the grill to brown them and get that BBQ taste. Enjoy.

A good variation for regular or nacho chips, are these home-made chips. Really tasty. And you can spice them up any which way you want.

Home made sweet potato & beet chips.

5 sweet potatoes.

5 red beats.

5 yellow beets (if available).

Salt & pepper.

Optional;

Any favorite spice. Perhaps dried herbs or garlic salt. Your choice.

Directions;

Slice the beets and the sweet potatoes very thinly. Preferably on a mandolin.

Spread the slices out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Note that they should be in a single layer.

Bake in the oven on 250 degrees for about 30  or until they are totally “dry”. Turn a few times while baking. If you are making the ribs, the chips can bake side by side with the ribs, in the oven.)

Take out, Sprinkle over some salt, pepper and any other spice of your choice.

Enjoy.

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