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Archive for the ‘Holidays & Special Occasions’ Category

This years Easter celebration was a smaller version of anything I usually would do.

We were taking it very easy and slow. It is actually not bad at all to just roll up to the table without any fuss.

The good thing with being “my mothers child” is that I had everything in my fridge, freezer and cabinets and didn’t really have to go to the store.

 

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The table is set ready to go. We are doing a cold-smoked salmon, salmon baked in the oven with just some pesto on top, colored eggs with white caviar, pickled herring, scalloped potatoes, salad and veggies.

 

 

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Delicious!

 

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And to finish it off, I improvised an orange cake. A simple cake served with heavy whipped cream and fresh berries.  There is not much that can top that.

Simple Orange cake

1 cup sugar

2 cups of flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 small eggs ( or one large egg)

1 organic orange (or 1 well scrubbed regular orange)

1 tbs good oil

3 tbs heavy cream

 

Cut the orange into wedges. Take off any seeds and add the orange pieces into a food processor. Grind/pulse the orange pieces into a smooth paste.

Add all the ingredients and mix until it becomes a smooth (relatively thick) batter.

Grease and flour a spring pan. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake in a 325F (175C) degree oven until golden brown and until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean without any sticky batter on it.

I love serving a simple cake like this with some whipped heavy cream and fresh berries.

 

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I love having fresh flowers in the house. And what screams Easter more than tulips?

Can’t wait for my tulips in the garden to bloom by the way.

 

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Thanks to my sister my house has a little bit more of an Easter feeling.

Enjoy your Easter and what little is left of the weekend.

 

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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!!

 

 

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We are coming to the end of the Midsummer weekend. What a wonderful weekend we have had. Lot’s of food, rest, friends and family. That is just the way I like it.

Midsummer is the second most important holiday for us Swedes (christmas being the most important one). We just love to celebrate the longest days of the year.

It is very common for families or groups of friends to go out to someones house in the country. If you have a garden at home, that would be a given place for a midsummers party as well. We don’t care if it’s cold out. We just bundle up and drink another “snaps”.

It is very important to have a traditional dinner (or lunch). Most of the time, a long table is set up in the middle of the garden with white table cloths, wild flowers picked earlier that day and lot’s of food.

We would not cook many intricate dishes as much as we would assemble food on plates. This is really a true “smörgåsbord” opportunity. It is a day of fish (typically salmon), shrimp, all kinds of pickled herring and many more things.

I must have warm smoked and cold smoked salmon, caviar & herring on my midsummer buffet. It really isn’t midsummer without it.

Of course we would traditionally have our “snaps” as well, but this year we took it a little easy. The summer is still young though… There are more chances for some “snaps”.

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“Gubbröra” (Matjes herring mixture).

Makes about 1 1/2 cup.

3 hardboiled eggs.

3-4 oz. Matjes herring. (or anjovis if you can’t find mates herring).

1/3 of a nice tasting apple, finely cubed/chopped.

2 tbsp. chopped chives.

1 tbsp. chopped dill.

Pepper to taste.

Cut all into very fine pieces. Mix well.

Spoon onto bread or into egg halves. You could also fill a wrap with the mixture. Roll it up (very tight) and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces.

Enjoy, and Happy Midsummer.

 

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Warm smoked salmon or warm smoked Whiting would be a regular on the midsummer table. Little "crusader" (pastry cups) with herring mixtures or cold smoked salmon mixture.

Warm smoked salmon or warm smoked Whiting would be a regular on the midsummer table.
Little “crusader” (pastry cups) with herring mixtures or cold smoked salmon mixture.

Pickled Herring, Canadian sweet shrimp.

Pickled Herring, Canadian sweet shrimp.

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My husband sets the tone in the garden. The swedish flag goes up.

 

Happy midsummer!!!!

 

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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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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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Another cold Thanksgiving has approached us in New York.

We are battling really cold weather here this year. It makes me worried for the winter…

I am so happy that we are only going around the corner (almost) to my mother-in-law’s house. Since this is “her Holiday” I am not allowed to cook. I can do decorations and centerpieces for her house but she want’s to do all the cooking. That is ok with me since I have the Christmas. We take turns.

But I do cook alternative thanksgiving meals, leading up to the holiday. There will be a lot of “brought forwards” as she (my mother-in-law) calls left overs. I will be doing a lot of turkey meals “re-invented” after the holiday. That is actually one of my favorite things to do.

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Baked Portobello Mushrooms with Pumpkin Mash.

Serves 4.

4 big  Portobello Mushrooms (or 8 small).

1 medium yellow or red onion.

1/4 c. chopped nuts. Pecans or walnuts.

2-3 tbsp. port wine or regular wine. Since I can’t drink red, I use white wine.

2-3 tbsp. of chopped fresh herbs. I used thyme, sage & rosemary. (if using dried herbs, take 1-2 tbsp.).

Olive oil or just a good oil.

Salt & pepper to taste.

1 c. marinated garlic (you could also mix in some marinated pearl onions).

1 of your favorite kind of pumpkin. I often use Acorn pumpkins.

3 mandarins, zest and juice.

1 lime, zest and juice.

Directions;

Start by heating up the oven to 425 degrees F.(200 C.).

Finely chop the onion. In a medium hot skillet, start to caramelize the onions in some olive oil. Cook them medium on slow so that they don’t burn.

Cut up the marinated garlic (and pearl onions). Add to the skillet and cook together for a few minutes. Add the nuts and 1 tbsp. of the fresh and finely chopped herbs and 1/3 of the mandarin juice.

While the onions are frying, prepare the mushrooms.

Take off the stems. Scrape off the bottom of the “hat”/the gills of the mushroom. Place in a lightly greased oven proof dish or on a cookie sheet. Drizzle a little oil over the mushrooms. Sprinkle over salt and pepper.

When the onion mixture is done (golden brown) fill up the mushrooms.. Make sure that the filling is evenly distributed. Sprinkle over salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until starting to bubble.

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To bake the pumpkin, first cut them into halves.

Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Brush olive oil or another good oil to the cut part of the pumpkin.

Place the halves onto a baking sheet with the cut side down.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until the skin has started to blacken or until you see that the pumpkin has started to loose its shape.

Let cool down slightly until you can handle them.

Scrape out all the pumpkin “meat”. Add a splash of oil, the rest of the herbs, another 1/3 of the mandarin juice, salt & pepper. Mix until fluffy.

Plate the pumpkin mash. Add the baked mushrooms and serve with a little cranberry jam & some greens.

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Baked pumpkins can be used to so many things. I often bake a couple at the same time (since the oven is going) and keep it in the fridge. It is great to have on hand. You could also freeze the already baked pumpkin.

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I have started to scrape off the gills of the  mushrooms underneath the “hat”. The “meat” becomes less “dark” in the taste and color.

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Cranberry Sauce.

Use fresh cranberries. Pour into a pan with just a couple of tbsp. of water at the bottom of the pan.

Add brown sugar (or regular granulated sugar. I just prefer the brown sugar). About 1/2 c. per 3 c. of berries. I like it tart. You might want to add more sugar. Taste along the way so that you get it as sweet as you prefer.

Add the rest of the juice from the mandarins and lime. Almost all the zest as well. Save some to decorate the plates.

Boil down under a lid until nice and soft on a medium low heat. Stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn.

Cranberry sauce is great to use as a side to many dishes. I also add it to my yoghurt in the morning.

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Marinated garlic is really a great staple to have in your fridge. Usually I make it myself, but this time I bought it all done. You can find it in most grocery stores by the olives and things.

Marinated garlic is also great to use in sauces or just as it is as a side.

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Traditionally it is collard greens but you could use any green such as spinach or kale. I just steam the greens with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg until very tender. Then I just add some olive oil. It is very tasty.

If you don’t want to do a vegetarian version, just add some butter instead of oil.

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A couple of friends of ours has to spend Thanksgiving apart. I told them, that you can celebrate thanksgiving any time any day! It doesn’t have to be the day of. It is all about being together when you can.

Besides, aren’t we supposed to be grateful and give thanks for what we have, where we are and for our family all the time? Luckily, I can stop in the middle of everything and realize how fortunate I am. Life is good.

Thanksgiving is one of the only non-religious holidays in the US. I love that it celebrates across all nationalities and people. It is all about celebrating the bounty’s of the harvest and the settlers.

And since we all are settler or descendents off settlers, one way or another,we should take some time out and reflect on this.

Happy Thanksgiving.

And as I always say;

“Eat a Turkey, don’t be one!!!”

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Happy 4th of July!!!

Time do bring out all the red/white/blue, stars and stripes you can find in the house. No need to be modest. Go big for this holiday!

This is of course an American celebration, but I know that Americans abroad celebrate it just as much as a Swede living here in the States ( I wonder who I am thinking of…) would celebrate Swedish events and holidays.

We are making it simple for this holiday. Too much to do, too little time. Don’t I say that all the time?? Perhaps I am a very stressed individual since I always want to cook simple food. Who knows.

My priority this weekend is to relax, spend time with family and friends. Just enjoy myself. We will go to the beach, go to my mother-in-law’s for Curry Goat, BBQ in the garden, so many different things are going on for these 4 days… If I am really lucky, there will also be some time left over for me to have a date with a good book. I haven’t read a book in a very long time. What a shame.

So, we are doing easy stuff for the 4th. Basic BBQ food like , marinated chicken & pork tenderloin, burgers & hotdogs. Corn & salsa.

I will make my Mini Pies filled with strawberries, blueberries and apples. Basic desserts. A little bit of “comfort” food desserts. Well known and familiar but perhaps with a little twist at times.

It is very nice to make a whole bunch of small mini pies instead of making just one big one. This way you can pick and choose what you want.

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Mini Fruit & Berry Pies.

The rule is to use any fruit or berries of your choice. Besides that, there are no rules.

There are no real recipes for this. Since I like to be able to taste the actual produce, I keep it as fresh as possible.

So just make a pie crust or even buy ready made pie crust. For these ones, I use a basic pie crust.

I choose little nice looking ramekins. Since it is 4th of July, I used my star shaped ones.

Add the rolled out pie crust to the ramekins. Well pressed down into the bottom edges.

Add the fruit or berries. Keep them separate or mix them together.

Different combinations;

Blueberries– Use a splash of your favorite liquor.

Strawberries– Add finely chopped candied ginger.

Apples– Add your favorite liquor and some ground cinnamon. (And perhaps a little granulated sugar if you need for it to be a little sweeter).

Peaches– Toasted nuts and a pinch of brown sugar.

These are just some suggestions, you can really combine anything you like.

If you use hard fruits like apples, cut them finer and fry them in a skillet for about 15 minutes or so until soft. Add a little water so that they get some help from the water to soften up. Keep a lid on so that they really cook down faster.

Directions;

When you have added the pie crust to the ramekins pack down the filling well. Cut little stripes of the crust and add about 3 stripes per pie.

Brush some egg wash onto the crust and sprinkle some granulate sugar on top of it.

Bake in a 350 F degree (175 C) for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust has turned golden brown.

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Cut out stars with a mini cookie cutter. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on the stars. They taste like little cookies.

Cut out stars with a mini cookie cutter. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on the stars. They taste like little cookies.

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You can serve some fresh berries on the side and also whip up some heavy cream spiked with some of your favorite liquor.

Add about 2-3 tbsp. per cup of heavy cream. Fold in some candied ginger.

Enjoy!!!

And again, have a great and happy 4th of July!!!

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