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Archive for December, 2012

I used to have an apartment on the 10th floor high up on a hill at the center of Stockholm (capital of Sweden).

Every year, I was hosting the New Years dinner. It was just so convenient since from the back of my house, one could see all the fireworks over the city. Absolutely fantastic (if you like fireworks that is).

It would always be “how can I top last years dinner”.

We would eat until we dropped and then when the clock turned 12 am/ midnight we would be out up on the hill with our little “tomtebloss” (sparklers) and champagne, cheering the new year with each other and admiring the spectacular theatricals playing all around the city.

These days I prefer to be home alone with my hubby!

He loves lobster so that is a no brainer. I am ok with eating it at least once a year. I prefer shrimp or crawfish but am ok eating lobster for new years.

This year we will have steamed lobster & grilled colossal shrimp in a crawfish and champagne sauce. Not too bad at all.

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Steamed Lobster & grilled Colossal shrimp in a Lobster or Crawfish & Champagne sauce.

I steamed lobster per person. ( I ask my fisherman to steam the lobsters for me. It saves time and it doesn’t mess up my kitchen).

3 colossal shrimp per person.

Arugula salad.

A splash of Mirin.

1/2 squeezed lemon or lime.

Lobster or Crawfish & Champagne sauce;

1 c. champagne or good white wine.

1 c. heavy cream.

1/4 c. Crawfish or Lobster stock. As concentrated as possible.

1 bay leaf.

1 tbsp. butter.

1 tbsp. potato flour (or arrow-root or other thickening agent).

1/2 finely chopped white or yellow onion ( or 2-3 shallots).

Sprouts or mescaline salad.

Directions;

Start with the sauce. Fry the onions until translucent in the butter. Add the stock & bay leaf. Boil down for a few minutes. Whisk in the potato or thickening agent with the cold heavy ream. Add to the stock and broth. Boil another few minutes. Add the champagne. Reduce until you have about 1 cup  (or a little less) of nice & great tasting sauce. Pepper to taste. No salt is need since the stock is salty.

Clean the Lobsters. Cut into nice big pieces. Try to keep the “shape” of the tail together. Just for esthetic reasons.

Place arugula on the bottom of bowls. Place the chopped Lobster meat on top.

Grill the colossal shrimp. A few minutes on each side. When turning pink, pour over the Mirin and lemon (or lime). Let bubble a minute in the grill pan. Place 3 of the shrimp on each plate.

Spoon over the sauce. Top with some sprouts.

Enjoy!!!

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This Lobster dish is so simple. It really is all about the sauce. Keep it fresh and simple…

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The same goes for the dessert.

I like to marinate berries in a great liquor. I took some strawberries, diced them up and let them sit in some pear cognac liquor for a couple of hours.

To that, I whipped some heavy cream.

If you have any other fruit or berries that you would like to add, do so. I had some pomegranate at home so that is what ended up in the glass. I finished it off with a little pice of chocolate on the side and a little sprinkle of shredded chocolate.

Another year ended well.

Happy New Year!!!

Thank you for supporting me and my blog. I really enjoy to cook for you and tell you little stories.

So, hope to see you again next year.

All my best. Gisela

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And so it is finally here. Christmas!!!!

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At this point everybody in Sweden has hustled to get the last presents wrapped, the food cooked and plated, the snow shuffled, the candles lit, the fireplaces lit, the “Donald Duck’s Christmas on TV has been watched. The food has after that been eaten, the christmas presents has been opened and then….. finally, as my sister-in-law so nicely put it, “A great christmas tradition” has taken place. People pass out on the couch or are taking little naps….
I am telling you, Christmas is very hectic. And we will do it all over again tomorrow since it is the American day of celebration. But it is just done in a different order…

We start with opening the presents. Still dressed in our p-j’s. Eating rice porridge drinking egg-nog. Then, cooking the last food, setting the table, wrapping the last presents for our guests, making sure the “glögg” is prepared, the saffron buns and the christmas candies greats our friends…..

Eat and be merry.

I just love Christmas. It is the epiphany of the family gatherings of the year.

Merry Christmas to all of my family, old and new friends.

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There is a great fish tradition in Scandinavia. We eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One very famous dish is the “Gravlax”. You can find it in every corner of the world. Here in the States they call it “Lox”.

We make it for almost every big holiday all through the year. Originally for the Swedish Christmas table they served more fish, sausages, something we call “Pot dipping” (This is bread dipped in the left over liquid after boiling ham, sausages and other meat products. The broth is very tasty). It still can be found at a Christmas buffet but it’s not too popular with the younger generations that grew up with meatballs, ribs and oven baked hams.

To make “Gravad Lax” you would usually or by tradition use salt, sugar and dill. It was in the old days a way of preserving the food. That is how all our pickled herrings also came about. We eat a lot of pickled herring. There are so many variations of it. For the marinating of the salmon, my favorite is to also add a little good cognac. It gives the salmon a little deeper taste. It is not needed at all, but I love it.

There is a “new” kind of salmon that we enjoy. It is called “Najad smoked salmon”. I first found it at the fisherman at my country house in Grisslehamn/ Väddö,north of Stockholm, Sweden. “Najad smoked salmon” is a salmon that has both been marinated and cold smoked. It is has the deeper taste from the smoking and the more tangy flavor from the marinating. Absolutely to be recommended.

I would go to the fisherman as often as I could. I would order things ahead if I really “needed” (read “was craving..”) something in particular.

This is my regular “Gravlax” recipe. Just skip the alcohol if you rather do it the ordinary way.

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Caution; You have to freeze the salmon for at least 3 days but preferably 1 week before marinating it. This just so that you kill off any potential bacteria in the fish. (note that if you marinate or pickle with vinegar, the vinegar kills any bacteria and you don’t need to freeze the fish. If you only use salt and sugar it must be frozen.)

Gravad Lax/ Lox/ Marinated Salmon;

About 2 lb fresh salmon, preferably the middle piece (If possible, use 2 pieces of fish since it is easier to marinate it “flesh sides together”.

1/2 c. granulated sugar or brown sugar.

1/4 c. salt.

1/4-1/2 c. coarsely chopped salmon.

1 tbsp. crushed pepper.

2-4 tbsp. good cognac or any other of your favorite alcohol (optional).

Directions;

Take the fish and remove any bones that you can find, with a small knife.

Package it and put it in the freezer for about 3 days to kill off any potential bacteria.

After at least 3 days in the freezer, let defrost in the fridge over night. Mix salt, sugar and pepper together. Rub the fish well with the mixture. Cut up the dill in a little larger pieces (you need to be able to remove the dill later and it is easier if the pieces are slightly bigger). Add the dill on top of the salmon pieces. Pour over a little cognac on both sides (do this with a plate or bowl underneath to catch the cognac so that you can pour all of it into the plastic bag or over it in a bowl). Put the salmon pieces flesh sides together with the dill in the center. Let sit in the fridge for about 3 days. Turn one or two times per day. When done, scrape off all the dill and pepper. Save a little of the marinade.

Put "flesh sides" together with the dill and sugar/salt rub on the inside.

Put “flesh sides” together with the dill and sugar/salt rub on the inside.

Cut up nice and thin slices on an angle. The first few slices might not be too cute, but they can always go to the chef…

Brush the pieces very slightly with the marinade when cut. You can also brush them with any other liquid of your choice. For example a splash of new fresh cognac or a great liquor. Throw away the rest of the marinade.

Enjoy!!!!

 

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I know it sounds crazy but a few hours after haven eaten all that Christmas food, it is time for the Christmas Rice Porridge. I don’t understand how we were able to eat anything… But we did. Every year. I can’t do that anymore. It is too crazy. Instead, we eat it in the morning of Christmas day. Since my family comes from different parts of the world we have adopted different traditions. Mine is to celebrate on Christmas Eve and my husbands is the morning of Christmas day. We eat all the traditional Swedish food on the eve but save the rice porridge for the morning after. Since my husband loves eggnog, we drink that at the same time, all while opening Christmas presents.

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Christmas Rice Porridge.

serves 4-6.

1 c. water.

1 tbsp. butter.

1/2 tsp. salt.

1 c. unboiled rice. The round and short kind. Regular rice is not good for this.

4 c. whole milk. (add a little more as needed).

2-3 cinnamon sticks.

1 blanched almond.

Directions;

Use a large pot. Put on a low medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the rice & cinnamon sticks. Let it become a little translucent in the butter. Add the water & salt. Let all the water get soaked up by the rice. Add the milk, little by little. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn down the heat so that it is on very low. It will take about 40-60 minutes for the rice porridge to get done. It depends on the size of the pot and how much rice you have added. Make sure that the rice is cooked all the way through. It should not have a hard center but be soft a silky all the way through.

Take off the heat and let sit for a while. Serve it lukewarm with sprinkled ground cinnamon, sugar and some milk.

We blanch an almond (put almonds in boiling water for about 1 minute and snap off the skin). Add to the risgryns gröt. In my family, the person who got the almond had to make a “rhyme”. Other traditions are that the person who would find the almond would receive a small “almond present”.

 

 

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Ris a’ la Malta / Orange Rice.

This dessert is made of the leftover Rice porridge.

Rice porridge.

1 tbsp. powdered sugar.

1 tbp. vanilla sugar  or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. (How to make vanilla sugar- Take some powdered sugar and add a vanilla bean. Let sit for a week or so).

1 c. whipped heavy cream.

zest from an orange.

Cut pieces from 1-2 oranges (optional).

Candied nuts (optional).

Directions;

Take the rice porridge (the leftover from before or if you make it from scratch).

Mix in the orange pieces, orange zest, powdered sugar & vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract). Fold in the  whipped heavy cream. Decorate with slices of orange (and candied nuts) and a little orange zest.

Enjoy!!

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I start decorating my house for the holidays somewhat early. I do it little by little and change it up every year.

One of the first things I do, is to decorate oranges. We put cloves into them in different patterns. They smell divine and they are so decorative in the fruit bowls or bowls of nuts. You could also tie a red ribbon around them and hang them up.

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I also start making little craft projects such as christmas tree “crackers”, flower arrangements and anything else that I feel like doing at the time. I usually would give them all away but try to hang on to a few of them for us.

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Make your own "christmas arrangements".

Make your own “christmas arrangements”.

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The house always has a bowl of nuts. The only thing bad about that, is that you might step on lost nutshells.

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*These are my favorite little “choir angels”…

It always feels as a big even to go and get the christmas tree.

It always feels like a big event to go and get the christmas tree.

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I used to be a control freak (some of my friends might at this time smile and say “used to be…?”) and had to decorate the tree myself. Thank god I am over that. It really takes lot’s of time to hang all those little ornaments. I stick to somewhat very traditional Swedish ornaments or styles. The colors would be white/red/silver and clear (glass). The types would be regular glass ornaments, wooden ones, straw ornaments, Swedish crafty ones and then all those mishmash ones that you love but they don’t really go with anything.

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Our tree differ in size and shape every year, but it always looks very Nordic.

Our tree differ in size and shape every year, but it always looks very Nordic.

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The neighborhood where I live has lot’s of “crazy Christmas decorators”.

Here are some that would burn through any power line in a second.

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Lucia is celebrated on the 13th of December.

Lucia is the maiden of light. She carries candles in her hair and she brings her Lucia maidens, star boys, little santa’s, ginger bread boys and girls with her. They sing traditional christmas songs.

In schools and at work places everybody has a little Lucia celebration. If you are lucky, a Lucia cortege would appear, but if not, people would just gather and drink glögg and eat saffron buns and ginger snaps.

Lucia is mostly celebrated in the morning. It has also become a tradition to scare the living daylight out of the Nobel price winners who would still be in Sweden (after the Nobel Price celebration on the 10th of december). A Lucia cortege would appear at their hotel rooms around 7 in the morning.

A while before December 13th, there are competitions all throughout the country, to find “this years” Lucia. For some people, this is a dead serious competition.

For many of us living abroad, this is a fun day. We try to have little “get togethers” with the traditional goodies. Here in New York, there is a big celebration on the saturday closest to Lucia. My family and I have it as a tradition to always attend. It kick starts the christmas feeling.

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The Lucia celebration in New York…

Since the candles are real, there are buckets of water prepared just in case of a needed “quick dip” in some cold water.

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There are always a bunch of little kids in the audience who also wants to be the Lucia. Boys and girls actually. That is ok, they just sit in their benches and sing a long. Really cute.

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I always make big gingersnaps with holes for some pretty ribbons. Either I hang them on the wall or if they are smaller, they go on the christmas tree. I sometimes also make individual gingersnaps and put my guest’s name on them. They would then serve as “placement cards” for the dinner table.

It is a great thing to involve your kids in the gingersnap making & baking.

It is a great thing to involve your kids in the gingersnap making & baking.

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Ginger snaps;

Makes about 150 regular sized gingersnaps.

4 1/4 c. flour.

1 1/3 c. granulated sugar.

1/2 c. water.

1/4 c. light syrup (or molasses).

1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon.

1/2 tbsp. ground dried ginger.

1/2 tbsp.  ground cloves.

1/2 tbsp. ground cardamom (optional).

7 oz. of butter, cut into smaller cubes (a little less than 2 sticks, or 200 gr.)

2 tbsp. good cognac (optional).

2 tsp. baking soda.

1 egg (optional – not all traditional recipes includes an egg, but it is easier for the dough to “hold up” with an egg. I don’t use it though).

Directions;

Let sugar, water and the spices come to a boil. Let cool down a little bit. Add the butter (and cognac).Mix the dough firmly. Add the flour mixed with the baking soda (add the egg) (save a little bit of the flour for rolling out the dough). Work the dough well. Let the dough sit in the fridge over night.

Take out the dough an hour before baking. Roll it out, little at a time. Be careful with adding too much flour while rolling the dough out. Too much flour makes the gingersnaps break/crack. Use cookie cutters for any shape you prefer. Roll the dough very thin. This way the cookies gets very light and crisp. Add cut out cookies to parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake in a 350F (about 175-180) oven. It would take about 7 minutes or until lightly starting to brown. Keep an eye on the cookies while baking. They burn very easily.

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For Christmas we have these fantastic candles called “branch candles”. They are made by hand and really beautiful. My mom used to save every (and I mean EVERY) little last stump of candle just so that she could make candles at home, once a year.

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The Lucia History;

In the old days (when we used the “old calendar”) it was thought that the darkest & longest day of the year was on the 13th of december. It is actually the 21st or the 22nd of december, but we still celebrate it on the 13th.

Lucia is believed to come from a saint from Siracusa in Sicily (Italy), the saint of light. It turns out to have very little to do with her even tough it fits the description with our Lucia bringing light into our houses. Instead it has old pageant traditions. It was believed, that during this longest and darkest day of the year, there were bad spirits and creatures out and about, luring in the woods and if you were not careful, they would also come into your house. To scare them away, one would have a “vaka” a wake all night before the 13th.

People would have parties that would include lot’s of drinking and eating. Alcohol was served. They stayed up all night until the morning of the 13th. This tradition has some connection to todays Lucia celebration. Young people would have parties the night before and stay up all night. In the morning they would head out to either participate with or enjoy a Lucia and her maidens.

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As you might know by now, I usually say, “If you make it you will eat it….”

That would be my biggest reason for not having my food pantry and fridge full of sweets for the holidays (besides the obvious space restrictions in the fridge of course). I try to just make a little bit of my favorites. Ones it is gone it is gone. I will not make more. It’s a good rule.

My sister has always been the one making the candy for Christmas. She is very good at it. We have specific  candies that we will only make for this time a year. It would be “Knäck” (a kind of toffee), Fudge, Truffles, Marzipan pigs dipped in chocolate, Marmalade & Mint kisses. There are many more but these are the most common ones. This year I am cutting down I only made five kinds of candy (I know, that doesn’t sound like cutting down…)

Here are my very favorites. I hope you will enjoy them. Keep them in the fridge since they have chocolate, cream or butter in most of them.

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“Knäck” (Toffee).

1 c. heavy cream.

1 c. granulated sugar.

1 c. light syrup.

1/4 – 1/2 c. chopped almonds. (either peeled almonds or almond slivers).

Zest from one orange.

Directions;

Boil the heavy cream, sugar and syrup until it reaches 250 F degrees (126 C). It will take about 40-60 minutes. While this is boiling, blanch the almonds by putting them in a bowl with water into the microwave for about 1 minute. This is the easiest way to blanch them. Just “pop” them out of their skin. Chop them into semi small pieces. Put out little paper cups onto a cookie sheet.

To see if the knäck is ready, make a “marble test” by dripping a little of the mixture into an ice cold glass of water. If it after a minute or two can be shaped into a marble, it is ready. Take it off the heat. Add the almonds and the orange zest. Pour into a pitcher for easier distribution into the paper cups or pour into a paper cone made out of parchment paper. Cut off the tip and pour into the cups. Let cool.

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Ice Chocolate.

This is so easy it is a crime… (almost).

7 oz (200 gr.) 70% Dark Chocolate.

3.5 oz (100 gr.) Coconut oil (Coco fat).

Zest from one orange.

Melt the coconut oil and chocolate  in a pan on medium heat. Mix in the orange zest. Pour into little aluminum (or paper) cups. Let cool down. Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.

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Gingersnap Truffles.

Note that you need two days for this recipe.

8 oz. dark chocolate (225 gr.).

1/2 c. heavy cream.

1 tbsp. light syrup.

1 tbsp. good honey.

1 tbsp. unsalted butter.

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon.

1/2 tsp. ground cloves.

1/2 tsp. ground dried ginger.

A few ginger snaps. Well crushed.

Directions;

Boil honey & syrup until slightly darkened. In a separate pot let heavy cream & spices come to a boil. Pour over the honey & syrup. Move away from the heat. Add the chopped chocolate and let melt in the mixture. Add the butter And mix until it becomes a nice and smooth  “batter”. 

Add to a parchment paper cone and make sure it is well sealed at the top (fold over with little “pinches”). Let sit in over night in room temperature. The day after, cut off the tip of the bag. Squeeze out little “balls” about 2 1/2″ or so onto some parchment paper. Roll into nice and even balls (put them back into the fridge if they are too soft to roll). Roll them in crushed ginger snaps. Keep cool in the fridge.

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White chocolate truffle with lime.

1/2 c. of heavy cream.

10 1/2 oz. white chocolate ( 300 gr.). Broken up into pieces.

1 tbsp. unsalted butter.

Zest from a lime.

1 tbsp. of a great liquor like Cointreau or cognac. I used Xante’, a Swedish pear cognac liquor.

Powdered sugar.

Directions;

Let butter and heavy cream come to a boil. Take off the heat. Add the chocolate. Stir until totally melted. Add the alcohol and lime zest. Pour into a parchment paper lined shallow square container. Let cool in the fridge for about 3-4 hours. When cooled down, cut into small squares. Either keep them as squares or roll some (or all). Sprinkle some powdered sugar over the chocolate. Keep in the fridge.

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“Kitchen sink” Chocolate.

10 1/2 oz. (300 gr.) dark chocolate.

3/4 c. corn flakes.

3/4 c. chopped pecan nuts (or mixed nuts).

3/4 c. mini marshmallows.

3/4 puffed rice.

1/4 c. minced candied ginger (optional).

Zest from 1 orange.

Directions;

Add all ingredients together in a bowl except the chocolate. Mix well.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or in a bowl over a pot with boiling water). When melted pour it over the nuts and things. Mix well with a spatula (so the corn flakes doesn’t break).

Take two spoons and pour out the mixture onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Create little clusters. Keep in the fridge.

Pack your candy in beautiful containers.

Pack your candy in beautiful containers.

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I hope you will enjoy one or all of my Christmas candies!!

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