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Archive for March, 2012

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Happy easter!!!!

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It is possible my design career started as a little girl, making easter cards & painting eggs.

For easter, kids are dressed up as little witches with a scarf on their heads, rosy cheeks and freckled noses. They would wear an old dress and an apron. The story goes, that on the Thursday night before Good Friday, all the witches flew on their broomsticks to an island called Blakulla. This tradition is thought to have started during the big witch hunt in the 16th century.

Easter is our version of “trick or treat”. Kids give out hand-made easter cards and they receive candy, money or other treats in return.

As a kid I always thought that good friday was the longest day of the year. Soo long.. Nothing to do. One had to be calm and stay indoors. Hard for all of us 4 kids. Thank god we had the easter eggs & treats to focus on.

There are so many little crafty projects one can do for easter. A perfect time to involve the kids in crafts and cooking.

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We always have a “Pask ris” all decorated with hand painted eggs, colored feathers and little chickens. My husband is getting used to me spiffing up our house for all sorts of Swedish holidays. It is to the point where he comes up with the boxes of decorations from the basement even before I have said “Let’s decorate!!”  But then again, he is now an honorary Swede, these are his new traditions.

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Little egg chicks.

Hard boil some eggs. Let them cool in some ice-cold water.

Cut a little jagged edge line all around the upper part of the eggs. Be careful so that you don’t cut off any parts of the egg yolk. Loosen the top egg white part. 

Cut little beaks off any red vegetable like red pepper or tomato. Cut out little eyes. Attach them to the egg yolk. Present them in a deviled egg platter or in egg cups. They are really cute to have on the easter table. 

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I have lot’s of different egg cups. My favorites are the clear glass ones that I inherited from my grandmother, they are just ordinary every day egg cups. The reason they are special is because they came from my grandmother, and I remember eating my breakfast eggs from those cups. This turquoise egg cup came from my mother so of course they are also favorites. The silver one is actually one of the awards I got in swimming (I used to compete in swimming. We don’t or at least didn’t get anything even close to the trophy’s kids are getting here in America, we had to make do with a little bucket. I shouldn’t complain though, they are all silver and I have a bunch of them. I love to be able to use things instead of them becoming dust collectors.) Another great cup is a miniature terracotta flower-pot. This one is usually the hit with our guests. If you don’t have any egg cups, you could use shot glasses.

My easter table usually ends up being green and yellow. I think it is appropriate to make it spring like. This would be the only time of the year I would have yellow in the house. It isn’t a favorite color of mine at all, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me for easter. I actually look forward to taking out all the yellow and green decorations. We would have daffodils in the house for as long as possible.

A great trick with them is, that you can buy a couple of bunches of daffodils and put them in the fridge. No water needed. Take them out the day or so before you plan to put them in a vase. They will last a long time in the fridge. They are cheap and really beautiful.

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A couple of great ways of coloring your eggs.

A few weeks or a month before easter, I start saving dry onion peels, from both red & yellow onions. Save the peels in separate bags.

Take as many white eggs as you think you will eat. (I watched the documentary “Food Inc” and have now a hard time buying anything else than organic eggs.)

Take little leaves either from plants or herbs. Put them on the sides of the un-boiled eggs. Cover the eggs with a cut up nylon stocking or cheese cloth. Tie the opening or close with rubber bands. Make sure the little leaves are spread out well and are laying in a great “position” on the egg. Hard boil the eggs with the onion peels. When done, take off the heat, but let them stay in the liquid. Let them soak up the color from the onion peels as long as possible. When cool, cut open the little packages. You will find these beautifully colored eggs. Natural and just so different.

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Another way of doing different eggs for the easter table is to make them marbled. You hard boil some white (organic) eggs. When done, crack the peel slightly but don’t take off any parts of the peel. Let soak in the liquid from pickled beets, or just the liquid from boiled beets. Let sit over night in the fridge. Be careful when you peel the eggs, so that no part of the egg white comes off. This is a super great way of making decorative eggs.

Happy easter decorating a crafting !!!

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I am all about making things easy and simple. During the weekends, I can cook complicated things, but for the weekdays, it has to be fast and furious!! However, it doesn’t hurt if it looks hard and complicated, that is just an added bonus.

There is nothing worse than you cooking for hours and having people not realizing that you spent most of your day in the kitchen… I learned that early on. One time, I must have been an early teenager, I cooked some chinese complicated dish. It took almost a whole day. When I finally was done, my brothers came home, and it just said “swoosh” and that was the end of that. All gone in a matter of a split second or two. I’m not even sure they knew what they ate. It was the last time I did a complicated family dinner. I was so disappointed. But, that is how my mother (and so many other cooking parents all over the world)  must have felt many times.

I try to come up with simple but fun ways of cooking things, in particular vegetables. It is a little “tricky” for some people to eat that in my house… I see these little isolated vegetable islands on my husbands plate… But, if I make things fancy looking or different from its original shape, it works. (Hm…isn’t that what one does with children, tricking them into eating vegetables??)

Anyway, A really smart way of skipping some carbs is to make zucchini spaghetti. It actually tastes great.

You can serve it to so many things. I choose salmon today…

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Sesame Salmon with Zucchini “spaghetti”.

Fresh salmon. As many pieces as per people you are serving.

Sesame seeds, white non toasted.

Zucchini, yellow and green. Be sure it is fresh and firm or it will taste very bitter.

1 Lemon or lime, squeezed. Or half a lemon, half a lime.

1/2 cup Mirin (next to the soy sauce in the grocery store.)

1/2 cup Soy sauce.

1/2 cup rice vinegar (or vinegar of your choice. You could also use balsamic vinegar.)

1/2 bunch of cilantro or Mexican cilantro. Finely chopped.

Pinch of salt.

Oil for frying.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Directions;

Use a zester  to carve out long spaghetti like strips from the zucchini. Disregard the center that has all the seeds. Collect all the spaghetti into a bowl.

Mix Mirin, soy sauce, lemon/lime, cilantro, vinegar & the pinch of salt together. Pour over the “spaghetti”. Let sit and have the tastes “marry” while you cook the fish.

Pour out the sesame seeds onto a plate. Salt and pepper to taste. Dry the salmon and push it firmly down into the seeds. Let it be very well coated. Don’t forget the sides. You could even do this a little ahead of time and let it rest in the fridge.

Heat up some oil on medium heat. Cook the salmon until seeds turn golden brown. Be sure to not have the heat on too high, or you would just burn the seeds and have the salmon still being raw.

Swirl the zucchini spaghetti onto a fork. Make it into a little “birds nest.” Plate it and place the salmon on top. Decorate with some slices of lemon or lime and sprinkle over some sesame seeds..

Enjoy.

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Today is the international waffle day, a very important day for all of us waffle lovers.

Fresh crispy, flakey waffles with some whipped cream, fresh berries and home-made (or bought for that matter) jam… Nothing can ever beat that!

They are the very best when just made, and I men JUST made. It is all about not being the designated waffle maker. Everybody will fight over the steaming hot waffles, and you can not make them fast enough. In a perfect world one would make a plate full of waffles and everybody would sit down and eat together, but in reality…. it’s like feeding hungry wolves. But is certainly is worth it. Let the indulgence begin.

Happy international waffle day!!!

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Flakey waffles.

Serves 3-4.

1 1/2 cup of flour.

1 1/2 cup of heavy cream, whipped.

1 cup of seltzer water, ice-cold. This is the trick to making the waffles super flakey and crispy. If you don’t have seltzer water, use regular water it must be ice-cold.

2 oz (half a stick) of butter.

1/4  teaspoon of salt (or 3 pinches.)

Directions;

Melt the butter and let cool.

Mix flour, salt & seltzer water together to a smooth (thick) batter. 

Whip the heavy cream, “Fold” into batter together with the cooled butter. 

Grease (butter or cooking spray) the waffle iron. Pour in some batter. Let the waffles turn golden brown.

Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream. You can of course also add any kind of syrup.

To make them a little fancy, you could sprinkle over some powdered sugar.

Enjoy.

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I can never make up my mind, regarding what season of the year I like the most.

And then spring comes along….  reminding me of it’s beauty. And of course that would be my favorite.

I love to see everything waking up again. My camera, and I tries to capture it all.

Spring is actually stressful if you think about it. I start seeing all that I didn’t do in the fall. My garden is not that pretty right now. I will work on it soon.

I have a small yard in the front of my house. This one is packed with bulbs. They have started to bloom but are only on the first daffodils & hyacinths. The bulb high season isn’t here yet. I love to just sit on my staircase and look at all the flowers. Talk about the essence of life.

We are having record temperatures here in New York, so my flowers are a little confused. They are up too early. I don’t complain, but it makes me worried. Warm winters can be nice but I prefer it to be cold, frozen and white. Crazy you might say, but I am worried that all pests like mosquitos and tics and other little animals are going to be horrible this year due to the warm winter…. Let’s keep our fingers crossed they stay away.

The trees are starting to bloom. The magnolias are fantastic!!

I am just waiting for the white “fluff” to appear on the corner tree outside my house. This tree stinks, but it sure is pretty.

The cherry blossoms started blooming yesterday down in Washington DC. That was more than 1 1/2 week earlier then all calculations.

I know, I’m a  “flower nerd!”

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If you don’t have a garden, go to a farmers market or a store where they sell flowers.

This is an easy way to get the same feeling as if you have them at home. Well, as close as you can get.

This year, I am not going to pre-plant as much as I usually do. Since it has been so warm, I will try to plant the seeds directly out into pots and flower beds.

I have also ordered some vegetable plants. They will get here in a few weeks. I have to get with the program now. I always feel as if I am behind the schedule, but I end up being the first one out.

I have already planted herbs. They are about 1 1/2″ at this point. I will keep them in the pot’s for a while until they get strong.

I get anxious in the beginning of the season. I just want to start harvesting right away, that is why I now always make sure I can pick all kinds of herbs, early on. This way I trick myself into thinking the garden is further along than it is.

I am trying some new seeds this year. Indigo for example. I can’t wait to see how that comes along. I have two kinds, regular and “false”.

If you are a cilantro lover, I can recommend for you to plant Mexican coriander. It looks very different. Long sharp leaves. In the hispanic cooking it is called Recao. I love this one. It has a much stronger taste. It is hard to go back to regular cilantro in the winter, when my farming is over for the year….

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The pizza I am used to, is a very “thin crusted huge one person pizza.”

My husband was shocked when he saw it in Sweden for the first time. “Are you sure??  Eat the whole thing??”

Let me put it this way, you have to practice, but yes, you have the whole pizza to yourself!!

The crust might be thin but we load it up with toppings.

I have my favorite pizza place “Birka Pizza “and I always order the same thing, a Tropicana with curry, banana, onions, ham and black olives. YUM! Others would say yuck.

I think you really can put anything on a pizza crust, make them any size and really have fun with it.

At home I either bake individual pizzas or make a hug one with sections of toppings. The “rule” though is for my bananas and curry NEVER to touch my husbands pepperoni.

Try my desert blueberry pizza. Great as a snack or desert. Even as a little bite if you get unexpected visitors.

Almost every grocery store sells pizza dough. Fresh or frozen. To save time, just buy that. I buy the frozen whole grain and let it de-frost over night in the fridge.

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Blueberry pizza.

1 package of frozen or fresh pizza dough.

1 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries.

1-3 tbsp. of brown sugar.

A few sprigs of fresh mint.

Directions:

Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface.

Move it over to a pizza baking sheet. Pour over the blueberries. Note, if you are using frozen ones you don’t have to de-frost them.

Sprinkle over the sugar.

Bake in a 450 degree oven. Bake until  the crust starts to turn slightly golden brown.

Either rip or cut pieces of mint and sprinkle over the pizza.

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Banana pizza.

1 Package of frozen or fresh pizza dough.

1 cup tomato sauce. I make it easy for myself and use spaghetti sauce.

1 cup of shredded cheese. Use your favorite or a mixture of a couple or 3 kinds of cheese. I tend to use a nutty cheese like Jarlsberg, some easy melting cheese like Edam and a sharp one like parmesan or Gruyère. You can also use mozzarella. You can use less or more cheese. Your choice.

1 ripe banana. 

1 tbsp. curry powder.

Pepper to taste.

Fresh basil, julienned (shredded).

Directions:

Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface.

Move it over to a pizza baking sheet. Add the tomato sauce. Spread it all the way out into edges. Cut the banana in thin slices. Add to pizza. Cover with the cheese. Sprinkle over the curry powder. Bake in a 450 degree oven until the melted cheese is getting nice & brown.

Shred or julienne the basil and add to the pizza.

Enjoy.

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It’s S:t Patrick’s day…

I don’t have much Irish in my repertoire. All I really know, is the beer and the burger I order when I go to an Irish pub.

So I did a little research on Irish food. It turns out, I am closer to the food then I thought.

I just read that Dublin was founded by Scandinavians about 1000 years ago. Really??? I had no idea!! It was a viking settlement.

If I was to mention any Irish dishes, it would be corned beef and cabbage, Shepherd’s pie or something with potatoes. Most likely heavy food.

But I am so wrong. It turns out the Irish do a mean marinated salmon with whiskey, just like the Swedish gravlax, except I marinate mine with cognac. So I think I need to read more about this. It is really interesting.

My mother in law is the Irish cook in my family. She invites the family over for corned beef and cabbage every S:t Patrick’s day. We always look forward to that. Or is it the “brought forwards” we are hoping for??

Like at christmas, there are always leftovers. So instead of me cooking something new, I decided to take care of the leftovers.

Instead of a shepherd’s pie, what about a corned beef pot pie? Super easy and delicious.

Corned beef  pot pie.

Serves 2-4 (depending on bowl size)

2 cups of milk.

1 tbsp. of butter.

1 tbsp. fLour.

1-2 boiled potatoes.

2-4 slices of leftover corned beef.

2-3 tbsp. sliced leftover boiled cabbage.

2-4 tbsp. green peas.

Puff pastry. Enough to cover the oven safe bowls.

1 egg.

Nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste.

Directions:

Make a white/ béchamel sauce. Add flower & butter to a pot. Melt the butter and let the flour mix with the melted butter. Add milk a little at a time. Keep whisking well. Add the peas, nutmeg, salt & pepper (to taste. ) I added hot sauce, but it is up to you how you would like to season your dish. Cut up the potatoes, cabbage and the meat and add to the sauce to just warm through and then put all into oven safe bowls. Pour over the sauce. Take the puff pastry and put on to bowls as “lids” . Nip the edges on to sides of bowls to make sure that the sauce doesn’t bubble out.

Brush with the egg on top of the puff pastry lid for a pretty glossy look.

Bake in the oven on 450 degrees until golden brown.

Well served with a cold beer.

Enjoy.

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There is one problem with baking, if you bake it you eat it.

Baking is a very precise science. You have to really stick to weights and amounts. I want to be more wild and free when I cook, and that doesn’t translate well into baking. The restrictions are killing me.

When I was little my mom always baked. A few different kinds of breads, lot’s of cookies, cinnamon buns and other things. She packed them up and put them into the freezer. She was so organized. I wish I could be more like her. I know that many things that I do come from her. I would tell you though, both my brothers are the better bakers. My older brother makes different kinds of cakes. They are delicious. My younger brother makes breads and cinnamon buns. It is funny when his idea of baby sitting involves baking and then going for sushi.

Here are the regular cinnamon buns my mother always used to make.

Cinnamon buns and cinnamon bun loaf. The loaf is just cut into slices.

1 package of dried yeast (or 1 package of fresh yeast.)

1/2 – 1 stick of unsalted butter.

2 cups of milk.

1/2 tsp. of salt.

1/4 – 1/2 cup of sugar ( I prefer to use brown sugar.)

2 tsp. cardamom, crushed. (optional).

6 cups of flour.

Fill:

Softened butter.

2-3 tbsp. of sugar.

 1 – 2 tbsp. of ground cinnamon or cardamom.

1/4 cup of finely chopped candied orange rind (optional).

1/4 cup raisins (optional).

Toppings:

1/4 cup of pearl sugar or 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds/ hazelnuts (optional).

1 egg.

Directions:

Melt the butter. Add the water and make the liquid luke warm.

Prepare the yeast as per directions on the package. Add to the liquid.

Mix liquid, yeast, salt, sugar & cardamom with 3/4 of the flour.

If possible, use a kitchen aid, but if you are working the dough by hand, be sure to work it very well. Add flour in portions.

When it feels a little “tacky” sprinkle some flour on top  and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let it rise to double the size.

Work the dough in the bowl. Put onto a floured surface.

Knead the dough well. Add the rest of the flour little by little, until it becomes light, smooth and somewhat “loose”.

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Roll out the dough into a rectangle.

Mix soften butter, cinnamon (or cardamom) and sugar.

Spread the mixture on to the rectangle of dough, as if you are buttering bread. Make sure all edges are buttered.

 If you would like to add a little grated almond paste & candied orange rind, add that in an evenly distributed line at the lower edge.

Start rolling/ folding over the dough from the same edge where you added the almond paste & orange rind.

Make sure it is rolled tightly. Fold over the dough evenly from one side to the other until finally rolled together. Cut into half.

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Take the first half and start cutting about 1/2″ slices. Almost all the way down to the table. Place the first “slice” at center. Fold over the next “slice” to the left and the following to the right.

If you are making buns, cut off after 3 slices and place on lined baking sheet. If you are making the cinnamon bun loaf, keep alternating the slices, left and right.

When all are done, let rice again, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

After rising, brush with the whisked egg all over.

Sprinkle over the pearl sugar (and or the chopped almonds/ hazel nuts.)

Bake in the oven until golden brown.

Enjoy.

Baking times for ;

Buns- 450 degrees for about 5-10 minutes.

Loaf- 400-450 degrees for about 12-20 minutes.

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