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Archive for December, 2013

I can’t believe that another year has passed. When I was younger, “they” all said that when you get to a certain age, life is just spinning faster and faster. “You better pay attention and live to the fullest!”

I guess it is because all of a sudden you see the “goal line”. I never reflected on this until a few years ago, when I realized that I had lived over half of my life. I actually started to feel a little stressed. Am I on the right path? I better shape up and just “go for it”. I am not worried about my age. That is something I can’t change. I am turning 52 next year.  I am embracing it, grateful for another year. It really is just a number. I know lot’s of young people, at least half my age as well as people who are a generation or so older that I am, who really don’t define their age groups. I think that when you just let go of the fear of getting older, you will feel younger.

Ringing in the new year is always a time of expectations. I am not making any New Years resolutions. I rather look at it as expectations and deadlines. I don’t want to set myself up for failure. It is much easier to just set up a bunch of partial deadlines that you would work with through the year.

As you might know, my husband loves his lobsters. The challenge this year is what to make for new years eve? I was thinking of making lobster rolls… Or perhaps some lobster ravioli?

I finally settled on The same old same old… That means a steamed lobster with all the trimmings.

But for an appetizer, I made a cold lobster roll salsa with a little mashed potato & parmesan “nest”.

To that I served a spiced snaps (vodka with a few slices of fresh ginger).

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Lobster Roll inspired salsa.

Serves 4.

1 cup of coarsely chopped boiled lobster meat (about 1 large lobster or 2 small).

1 chopped medium ripe fresh mango.

1 stalk of celery, preferable one of the more inner stalks, finely chopped.

1/2 orange, squeezed.

1/2 lemon, squeezed.

1 tbsp. chopped cilantro or mexican cilantro (recao).

1/2 -1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger.

1/2 cup. steamed shelled edamame (optional).

1 tbsp. mayo.

1 tbsp. Mirin.

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.

1 cup of good white wine mixed with gelatin, for decoration.

Directions;

Prepare the white wine and gelatin. Let it stiffen up in the fridge.

Chop up the lobster meat in larger chunks. Mix all ingredients together. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes to “marinate”.

Divide the mixture into 4 small cups. Pack it all very well. Make sure not to spoon up the liquid, you can discard that.

Take the gelatin white wine and scrape it with a fork. This creates “crushed ice”.

Pour up the lobster mixture on a small plate. Decorate with some of the “crushed ice” gelatin around it.

You could serve it either just like that or add some greens or as I did, a little nest of baked potato mash, mixed with some grated parmesan & freshly grated ginger.

Enjoy!

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Some of us keeps these little bags of snacks in a drawer at work or in the house.

I am not much of a snack person, but I do admit, that I need to have a “mellanmål” (“in between meal”) once or twice a day. Or at least one around 9 or 10 in the morning. We get up just after 5am every day. On weekdays I eat breakfast at 5.30am. It is such a routine that I have a hard time during the weekends. Sleeping in means getting up around 7am or so.

My best solution is always to have a hardboiled egg in my bag, but if the “snack nerve” screams, one needs to be prepared. And being a new year and all, I made sure to make a new batch of my favorite trail mix. This time I dried berries and fruits for it as well. It is a little overkill but I like doing it. I know there will not be any sugar or salt added, no preservatives and chemicals. Besides what was on the berries when I bought them. I should say. It is in the middle of the winter and I am able to buy fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I know that is so fortunate. Not everybody has that luxury.

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Trail mix.

There really is no recipe for making a trail mix. You just mix a whole bunch of dry ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruits and dried berries. You can add anything in any amount. But this is what I usually do it.

Mix;

1 part Hazelnuts

1 part Almonds

1 part Pecan nuts

1 part Pistachio nuts

1 part Cashew nuts

1 part Sunflower seeds

1 part dried Mango

1 part dried Cranberries

1/2 part dried Strawberries

1/2 part dried Raspberries

1/2 part dried Blueberries

Either you buy the dried fruits and berries or you dry them your self.

I am lucky enough to have a food dehydrator. It takes about 1 1/2 day to dry the berries in this. It is really an easy and non messy way but it takes very long. Sometimes I don’t have patience to wait that long. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can just dry the berries in the oven. It works equally good.

You need 1 parchment paper lined cookie sheet for the  sliced berries or fruit.

If you dry raspberries and strawberries, it takes about 3 hours on 150F (70-75C). Half way through, turn them over so that they dry equally on each side.

This isn’t something you do in a hurry. You need to plan ahead. The thicker the slices the longer it takes.

You concentrate the taste if you dry things. I think that it gets a little bit more sour or tart. I like that. Some people sprinkle some powdered sugar over the fruit, but that kind of defeats the purpose. You can just as well buy it in the store then, since most dried fruit has added sugar on them.

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My food dehydrator is great. It is a little slow, but the fruit and berries comes out very good.

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I usually use all 5 layers and dry a bunch of different fruits and berries in “one shot”

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Drying the fruit and berries in the oven is so much faster. It still takes many hours. You can’t have too high heat. You just want to extract the moisture, not cook them.

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I am bringing my bag of new trail mix to work tomorrow.

The only problem now, will be to not finish it up too fast.

Enjoy!!!

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Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

I love the smells of the (real) Christmas tree, the “Glögg” (mulled wine), the candles burning, all the food and all other smells that lingers in the house all through early December until the first week of January.

Some people say to me that Christmas is just here for one day. What a crime to only celebrate it for just one simple day. I start with first of advent and go strong until end of the Swedish Christmas season which is at the beginning of January when we throw out the tree.

I start making my snaps early. The same with “Glögg”. We tend to drink a whole bunch of it during the month of December. It is so nice to just crawl up on the couch with a cup of steaming hot “Glögg” after getting home from work.

We always have little Christmas dinner parties all through the season. It is my way of stretching it out as much as possible. I make sure that totally through it all, I have made all the traditional food that the Swedes would serve at the Christmas table. I try to not totally kill it with a giant spread on Christmas Eve which is the day we have a mayor dinner. After all, how much can one person eat in one sitting. It is so much better to spread it out. This way one can really enjoy all the different dishes.

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I always change my Christmas tables around.

It is so much fun to decorate. I make sure that my guests gets feel right at home and that they love all the Christmas spirit at our house as well as the food that we serve.

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The most prominent dish on our Christmas table would of course be the ham. I always bake it in the oven. You could boil it as well, but I think  it becomes a little “pale” in the taste.

The Swedish Christmas ham is a ham that has been resting in a brine (salt solution) for some time. You can ask your butcher if you can get a ham in a brine.

When you prepare it, you first have to rinse the ham off in regular water.

Pad it dry with a paper towel. Place in an oven proof dish and cover with foil. Use a food thermometer and push the very tip into the middle and thickest part of the ham (through the foil).

Bake in a 350 F (175 C) degree oven. About 40 minutes per pound. Make sure to place the ham with the pork rind facing up. The ham is done when the inner temperature reaches 140F (70 C). Take it out just before it reaches 140F degrees since it will keep cooking. Let it rest and cool down.

Take off the pork rind. Cut off as much of the fat as you want. Mix one egg yolk, 2-3 tbsp. of your favorite mustard. You can add a little brown sugar or honey if you want to (about 1 tsp.) Brush it on to the very top of the ham. Sprinkle over about 1-2 tbsp of bread crumbs. You could also cut a diagonal pattern through the mustard mixture and place a clove in the meeting corners. It is not needed but it is pretty.

Bake in a 450 F (225C) degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t burn though.

The first slice right out of the oven is the best you could ever imagine.

A lot of people actually buy a ham on sale after Christmas. They will cook it and have it as sandwich meat. I still do this. It is the best.

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The Swedish meatballs also has a place on the Christmas table. It is served with lingon berries. We eat cocktail sausages and ribs as well.

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There are lot’s of cabbage and kale dishes on the Scandinavian Christmas tables. One thing that I used to hate when I was a kid is Brussel sprouts but now I love them.

I start with steaming them half way through.

I finely cut up about 5 slices of bacon to 3 cups of Brussel sprouts.

Ultimately I use dry dried cranberries but I take what I have. This time I used some dried mango slices that I cut up finely.

You just fry off the bacon halfway. Add the berries/fruit and the Brussel sprouts. Fry until slightly browned.

Salt and pepper to taste. I add some hot sauce of course, but it is optional.

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Christmas would be the ultimate time to bring out all the traditional Swedish old things & crafty stuff.

I always have “branch candles” in the house. I used to make them with my mother when I was a child. I love to make candles.

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The lights in the house makes me happy…

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I try to not over decorate but I can’t help myself sometimes.

My mother-in-law said when she saw the bows in the kitchen ceiling lamp that they where exactly like the bows her mom used to put in her hair before going to school. Well, a bow is a bow I guess.

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This years tree…

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For the different dinners that we would host through the holidays, I try to keep it somewhat simple. The theme and decorations would be the same but I try to change it up a little.

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With all this said about Christmas dinners, It really doesn’t matter what you serve. The best and most important thing is being together with friends and family.

All my best to all of you.

Merry Christmas!!

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I have said it before and I say it again…

Frozen puff pastry is a life saver.

I am amazed how fast one can just make Danishes, looking and tasting as if they came from the best bakery.

You know by now how I just love to cook and bake easy and simple things. This is one of those things up on the list of favorite fast baked goods.

We had an unannounced visit of friends this past weekend. Since I don’t keep cookies in the house at all, there is nothing to give our guests unless I bake it. Well, during the holidays I do, but that is about it. I bake “for each occasion”.

So, once again, I was saved by my good friend, the frozen puff pastry.

In Sweden we call a cup of tea or coffee at a break during mid morning or mid afternoon, for FIKA (Sorry all you Italians..). It always contains a sweet roll or/and cakes/cookies. Sometimes a small sandwich. We love it. I actually laugh at my friends that comes over for a visit from Sweden, how they start to look around the house at 3pm on the dot. Trying to locate the goodies hidden somewhere in the kitchen. Looking at this from the “outside” it is a little funny, how Swedes stay so slim. Because there really is a break of the day, twice if allowed, to eat baked goods like this.

And at most workplaces there is a “fika room”. Meaning a break room where you go and drink your coffee and eat your baked goods. Of course it also serves as a lunchroom, but it actually is more often just plain and simple called the fika room. By law you are allowed a fika break for 15 minutes twice a day. Perhaps I should tell my boss here in the states? It really is a good idea.

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Superfast Danishes.

Makes 6-8 (depending on how big you decide to make them).

6-8 tbsp. of jam, your favorite kind. I use raspberry jam.

6-8 tbsp. of thick vanilla sauce or vanilla pudding (optional).

1 egg, whisked.

Powdered sugar for decoration.

Directions:

If you have time, defrost the puff pastry in the fridge over nigh, if not, just defrost on the kitchen counter or if you really are in a hurry, carefully defrost in the microwave.

Unfold the dough and cut it into 6-8 squares (or into preferred size).

Put a tbsp. of jam in the center of the square and spread it out slightly.

Grab and lift each corner and punch it down in the center of the danish. It becomes a little pouch.

Place it on a lined baking sheet. Brush them with the egg.

Bake in a 450F (225C) degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool down slightly. Dust with powdered sugar.

Ready to serve.

 

You could experiment with different fillings. Another really delicious filling is almond paste. Very traditional as well. You can “loosen it up” a little bit by mixing it with a dab of butter.

You can also make them into different shapes. They don’t have to be “closed”. You could lift and push down two opposite corners and leave two flat. If you do that version, please the filling on the flat part of the dough, close to the center. One kind on each side. This is a very good and probably the most traditional Danish.

 

I hope you will bake some danishes now. Unfortunately they are a hot commodity and will not last long.

Enjoy!!!

 

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