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My husband just celebrated his 50th birthday.

He is a very lucky one because this birthday has been celebrated a bunch of times at this point. The first time was when we were home in Sweden a while ago, the second time was a big birthday party for a whole bunch of family & friends (this also took place in Sweden) and the third and last time was this week when he had his actual birthday.

My sister with family and one of my brothers and his family gave my husband an overnight stay at this most fantastic Japanese spa “Yasuragi” in Stockholm. I was also a lucky recipient of the present.

It was the most fantastic experience. A little bit like a cult when you first looked at all the people walking around in the same robes and slippers, but what a different experience. It was all about eating, relaxing and doing a whole bunch of nothing. Just the way I like it.

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yasuragi

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My family had chosen Teppanyaki as dinner for us.

Teppanyaki is food prepared on a huge griddle or iron plate in front of a small group of dinner guests. It is clearly a visual as much as a taste experience. “Teppan” means iron plate and “Yaki” means grilled. So, it was a huge griddle. The chef prepared different smaller dishes for us. A reindeer fillet, dumplings in a broth, grilled kale, lobster, sushi and so much more.

There was one thing that really stood out. They had a marinated garlic that was absolutely marvelous. It had been marinated for 2 years. They heated it up on the griddle and folded it into some rice. Wow! What a taste memory that was. I am about to make this myself. I asked them for the recipe and they gave it to me gladly. Really easy actually. The problem is only to wait for it to be done… It will be a long 2 years wait.

marinated garlic.

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Marinated aged Garlic;

Good garlic, if possible, organic.

Equal parts Mirin

& Soy sauce. Preferably organic as well but a good Soy & Mirin will also do.

Water for blanching the garlic cloves in.

Directions;

Bring water to a boil. Add the peeled garlic cloves to the boiling water and blanche them for about 3-4 minutes. Let the garlic cloves dry off & put them into a dark glass canning jar (or other jar) with a tight-fitting lid. Pour over equal parts Mirin & Soy. You reach the best result if you fill the container to the very brim. Make sure the lid is tightened well. Let the jar sit in a dark place for 2 years.

At the spa, the chef told me that they are making new batches of marinated aged garlic cloves every year. It is one of their staples in the kitchen.

 

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One of the vegetables they prepared for us was fresh kale, well cooked on the griddle with garlic slivers.

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raindeerlobster

 

 

 

 

 

 

full force

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The whole meal was a perfect display of cooking and showmanship. Perfectly pared with different kinds of drinks such as aged Sake.

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japaneese dining room

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A more traditional Japanese dining room.

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hot springs*

The outside hot springs were fantastic. Even though it was below freezing outside when we where there, we didn’t feel the cold since the different heated springs kept us nice and warm. We ended up staying there for hours. Some of my friends that has visited the spa told me they had spent time in the hot springs looking at the snow falling.

sauna

 

Scandinavians loves their saunas. At the spa, they had one called the “Panoramic Sauna”, overlooking the water. We sat there late at night in the dark, looking at the cruise ships going to Finland. I must say it was the first time I ever have liked these ships.

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viking line

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They were even nice to look at during breakfast in the morning….

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room

Part of our room.

robe

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And my little husband in his “yukata”, Japanese robe.

 

 

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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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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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Winter is a fantastic season.

Yes, it is cold, but it is also so beautiful. The best of course is when the sun is out, the ground is covered with glistening snow and you have a day off to enjoy it. As soon as there is a sunny day, we love to take advantage of every little sunny second. These would be the days we would go on a winter picnic. We would fill up a thermos of hot chocolate and/or one with hot blueberry soup, make some sandwiches and pack some other snacks. If we felt like dragging it along, we would also pack a lamb skin to sit on. When finding the right picnic spot, we would dig out a little “seat” in the snow and put the lambskin down. It has been a few years since I went on a winter picnic, but this winter we finally did it. It was just so nice to be out in the snow on a sunny winter day. It is highly recommended. If you have kids, this could be a great tradition, to go on “off-season” picnics. Try it…

The tradition of drinking hot blueberry soup is very Scandinavian. It is a great way to stay warm  and it also gives you energy.

Once a year, there is a huge cross-country skiing competition taking place in Sweden. It is called “Vasaloppet”. There are blueberry soup stations along the way. The skiers gets a cup of hot blueberry soup to heat them up and to give them continued energy. The race is 90 km long, so it is well needed.

“Vasaloppet” is taking place this weekend.

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Chicken salad in a Pita pocket.

1 baked/boiled or grilled chicken.

2-4 small pita breads.

Lettuce.

1 c. seedless grapes, cut into halves.

1/2 c. lightly crushed walnuts.

1/2 c. mayo.

3-4 tbsp. ranch dressing powder (or 1/2 c. of ranch dressing, store-bought).

Splash of hot sauce.

Black pepper to taste.

Directions;

Cook the chicken (or you can even buy a rotisserie chicken in the store if you are short of time). Let cool down slightly. Take off all the meat from the bones. Add the mayo, ranch powder (or the just the ranch dressing), crushed walnuts, hot sauce and pepper into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Taste it. If you would like more ranch dressing or mayo, add some but be careful not to add too much. Pour in the chicken pieces & grapes. Mix again. Take a last taste and make sure it is to your satisfaction. Let sit in the fridge covered for a few hours or even over night if you make this ahead of time.

This chicken salad gets better and better after a few days when all the tastes has “married”.

Place a little lettuce in half a pita bread. Add some chicken salad. You can add any vegetable of your choice or just skip that.

Enjoy!!

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Blueberry soup.

2 c. blueberries.

 A few tbsp. of sugar (I use brown sugar. It is up to you how sweet you want the soup. I recommend it not to be too sweet though. It should be nice and fresh with a “true” blueberry taste).

3 c. water.

1- 1 1/2 tbsp. potato starch.

Directions;

Let  blueberries, sugar and water come to a boil and cook on medium heat for a 5-10 minutes. Make sure  the right amount of sugar is added by tasting the soup. Mix the blueberry soup with a hand mixer or in a blender until nice and silky. Whisk in  the potato starch into some cold water. Add little by little into the blueberry soup. Let it come to a boil and then take it off the heat. The blueberry soup is ready.

You can drink it hot as it is or eat it totally cold with a splash of milk. I drink hot soup in the winter and cold soup in the summer. It is perfect as a night “snack”.

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A thermos  full of hot chocolate is a staple for a winter picnic.

A thermos full of hot chocolate is a staple for a winter picnic.

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Steamed Edamame with sea salt and some Chipotle & honey roasted cashews are perfect picnic snacks.

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We would carry with us a lamb skin to sit on. You just dig out a perfect “seat” and add the skin on top. This is perfect and you stay nice and warm.
If you would have a winter picnic outside but close to the house, you could use a larger skin or even a reindeer hide.

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I always keep a look out for great coolers and food storage solutions. This is the little cooler bag my husband and I got as a present from Caesars Palace Las Vegas when we got married. It contained two bottles of champagne and some champagne flutes at the time. We keep using this for all kinds of occasions.

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Vasaloppet (literally, The Vasa race) is an annual long distance (90 km) cross-country ski race (ski marathon) held on the first Sunday of March in northwestern DalarnaSweden between the village of Sälen and town of Mora. It is the oldest, the longest, and the biggest (in terms of participants) cross-country ski race in the world.In the 80th race, held on 7 March 2004, some 15,500 skiers competed in the main event. More than 40,000 participated in one of the seven different races held during the first week of March. The race was first run in 1922, inspired by a run by King Gustav Vasa in 1520. The winner of the first race was Ernst Alm from Norsjö, 22 years old, who is also the youngest ever winner of the race. Vasaloppet is one of the races in the long distance cup Ski Classics.

ref- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasaloppet

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S:t Lucia is just now celebrating its 34th Independence day.

So, in honor of that, I would like to show you what a breadfruit is. Before I met my husband, I had no idea myself. Now it is one of my favorite carbs. Breadfruit is very common in the Caribbean but even more so in Asia. It is eaten as a “potato” to any meal. My mother-in-law has taught me how to buy it and cook it. You have to smell it in the store. It has the most fragrant smell ever. Just like a sweet perfume. To cook it, you can steam it, boil it, fry it, bake it & also roast it over fire. This is a  common way to prepare it in Jamaica. My Jamaican neighbor almost fell over the fence the first time she saw me roasting breadfruit on my BBQ grill in the back yard. She said, “I must call my friends and tell them that this Swedish girl next door is roasting breadfruit just like a Jamaican!” Ha, Yes and I also eat them like a true Caribbean girl!!! A treat for me is roasted breadfruit. If I can choose only one thing to eat for the rest of my life, this is a great contender. A Puerto Rican friend also taught me how to make tostones out of breadfruit. So there you go, try breadfruit if you are given the chance. It truly is so good. I never thought I would say this, but it almost beats potatoes (and I love potatoes).

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A beautiful Breadfruit.

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The breadfruit tree is usually a very large tree (unless you keep trimming it). The fruits themselves are very heavy and you better be careful walking underneath a tree.

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You need to cut out the steam and make a little hole so that the heat from the fire can penetrate into the center of the breadfruit. Keep turning it while roasting.

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Don’t be afraid of it charing. It is supposed to. When it is totally back, it is done.

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When cut in half, it is very beautiful. When you cook it, you must cut off the peel and also quite a bit of the center.

It is easier to do this if you cook it in “quarters/cut into 4 pieces”.

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Enjoy!!!

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Like everybody else, I feel like eating a little lighter. It is the beginning of the year and the start of all our healthy promises.

But right now, I have to eat “soft” food since I just had a tooth removed. Yikes… But It is what it is. It had to be done…

Tofu hasn’t really been my thing but my friend Lisa has been introducing me to different kinds of Tofu and I must say, it can actually be really good. Lisa get’s sticky rice from a Korean place we go to sometimes, and to that she eats super soft Tofu. In the beginning, it looked really bad to me and a little plain, but she is right, it does taste pretty good. I tasted it the first time when she had dunked a big chunk of it into my Udon noodle soup. She is faster that the eye sometimes… I survived and now I actually buy tofu on my own. That is a big step for me. But I feel good about being good, if you understand what I mean. While being out with my husband the other day, I actually ordered crispy Tofu at my favorite noodle place. NO NOODLES!! Wow, what a victory that was.

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Tofu & Eggplant in a Miso broth.

serves 2-3.

One eggplant, cubed into aprx. 1″ pieces. (If you use Japanese eggplant, take a bout 3-4 since they are so small).

2-3 scallions. Cut on the diagonal, into small pieces.

1 fresh hot pepper. Any kind (Optional. You could also use a little dried red pepper flakes).

1/2 -1 box of soft Tofu (or the Tofu of your choice). Cut into 3/4″-1″ pieces.

2 c. water.

2-4 tbsp. Miso paste. Any color.

A splash of oil for frying the eggplant.

You can add any herbs or spices of your choice. It happens that I add a splash of soy sauce or tempura sauce.

Directions;

Heat up the oil in a medium low heat pan. Fry the eggplant until it is starting to get a little soft. Add the miso paste and water. Taste as you go, and add as much of the Miso as your taste buds require. I usually would take about 3 tbsp. for a pot of Tofu & eggplant. Add the Tofu. Let heat through slightly, don’t let it cook. Sprinkle over the chopped scallions and hot pepper.

This is perfect with any kind of meat as well. 

Soft, fast and easy… Not forgetting that it is also healthy.

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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