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Valentine’s day…

When I think back on our wedding, it feels as if it was just a few years ago. But it has been so many years that we get amazed every time we count. I don’t care what people say, it does make a difference to be married. I love it.

We have had so many big celebrations lately that we are a little low-key this Valentine’s. A little partied out, you could say. It could also be because we are expecting the worst and coldest weather in history, here in New York. Well, at least that is what they say.

So we cancelled our plans and are staying local. But, since we actually eloped and got married in Vegas, our revised plan is to go to the casino in New York/Queens, and have dinner there. Same same but different.

We already had our first Valentine’s dinner since we celebrate this for a few days since it actually is both our anniversary and Valentine’s.

This dinner was what we love to eat the most. Salmon. And lot’s of berries with some quinoa. Sweet dinner for my sweet & I.

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Sweet Salmon cubes with Berry & Fruit Quinoa.

Serves 2.

A mid-piece salmon, enough for two people. Cut into aprx. 1 1/2″ cubes.

1/2 cup. mixed fresh fruit & berries.

2 pineapple rings. Preferable fresh (canned is ok as well).

A couple of strawberries, cut in small pieces.

1 lime. Use the zest and the juice.

1 cup boiled quinoa.

2-4 tbsp. Thai chili (Hot & sweet)

1-2 spring onions, the semi green part cut in thin strips on a diagonal.

Salt pepper to taste.

Directions;

Let the pineapple rings dry of slightly. Cut into little cubes. Fry in a “dry” frying pan for a few minutes letting the pineapple get a little color. Add the boiled quinoa into a bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice &  1-2 of the Thai chili sauce. Mix & let sit and “marry”.

Fry the salmon cubes in a medium hot pan in a little good oil. Just a few minutes on each side. Don’t over cook them.

If you are using larger fruits or berries, cut them into smaller pieces.

Just before serving, mix most but not all, of the berries, the lime zest & spring onions with the quinoa. Plate with the salmon cubes. sprinkle over more of the berries and the spring onions. Place little drops of the Thai chili sauce over the salmon and on the plate.

I used blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, dragon fruit and a little of a kiwi. I took a piece of the dragon fruit and cut out a heart and placed it on the plate.

You could of course use a cookie cutter if you want a perfectly cut heart.

You can squeeze over a little bit more lime juice if you want. Before you plate, taste and make sure it is balanced and to your liking. If you want it more hot and spicy add a dab of hot sauce (optional).

I also added a passion fruit on top of it all. I just love that fruit. A little expensive but so delicious.

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valentines salad

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What can be better than waking up to flowers and cards from your hubby?

Followed by a typical and favorite Swedish breakfast. Pancakes with whipped heavy cream and fresh berries, smoothie and some Swedish tea. I am really fortunate…

Happy Valentine’s!!!

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Happy continued holidays or “God fortsättning” as we would say.

Breakfast after the celebrations all through the holidays, consists of the best sandwiches.

Breakfast after the celebrations all through the holidays, consists of the best sandwiches.

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Christmas is celebrated for many days in Sweden. People take as many days of vacation as they can. We usually call all the days in between the holidays “squeeze days”. These are mostly given off to the staff as bonus days but at some workplaces they have to use vacation-days. Some years one can really get lucky and have 2- 2 1/2 weeks off. Other times it can be only a week. This year, many of my friends and family has been able to take a whole lot of extra days. How lucky. Here in the US we are only off on Christmas day. The rest has to come out of that oh so important vacation day pot. So since I just had a late year vacation, I am not having any days off in between.

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I always change the Christmas table up from year to year. The decorations are important but can really be anything & everything.

I always change the Christmas table up from year to year. The decorations are important but can really be anything & everything.

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Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. The food, the lights, the family & friends. It all comes together in a blend of “wonderfulness”.
We decorate the house with all the old Swedish little “tomtar” (gnomes), fruits, candles, straw ornaments, flowers and much more.

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The highlight of course, is the food. The Christmas buffet is a very typical and non-changing event. In my family, we keep having the Christmas ham, salmon mousse, warm smoked salmon or any other smoked fish, cold smoked salmon, Jansson temptation (potato & anchovy gratin), meatballs, cocktail sausages and much more on the table. No Christmas is complete without these dishes.

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Warmsmoked salmon or in this case, Whiting and cold smoked salmon.

Warm-smoked salmon or in this case, Whiting and cold smoked salmon.

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We celebrate Christmas eve. The following days of Christmas we make all sorts of leftover dishes. For breakfast, you could almost guarantee that people would eat meatball and beet salad, ham & cheese- & other versions of Christmas sandwiches. They are the best sandwiches ever.

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Sides & Red beat salad, olives, pickled cucumbers, sour cream, sweet-mustard sauce, lingonberries, mustard and much more.

Sides. Beet salad, olives, pickled cucumbers, sour cream, sweet-mustard sauce, lingonberries, mustard and much more.

God Jul!! Or Merry Christmas!!

God Jul!! Or Merry Christmas!!

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I keep telling my husband when he says that Christmas is only one day, that Christmas lasts until the beginning of January. So, keep on celebrating and keep eating versions of that fantastic Christmas buffet!

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A record cold Arctic blizzard blasting winter has been playing with us in the US. Here in NY we have had a really cold and long winter. Down to -14-15C/8F almost every time a cold spell hit us. And it has been snowing off and on all through the winter. We still have snow in the garden and now they warned for yet one more little snowfall. But this time I think it will be very minor and it will not stick to the ground.

The really strange thing is that back in Sweden, it has been a more warm winter, not too much snow & not too cold. Actually no winter at all for the longest time. Some people said they missed the winter others didn’t.

I just reminded a friend, that the good thing with a super deep freeze is that all mosquitos, tics and other horrible little creeps all dies. They have to start from scratch with their colonies.

So all is well with the deep freeze during the winter for me. But one does not have to overdo it. All over the US temperature records are broken. They said that we in NY have had the 7 coldest winter since they started keeping track of temperatures. Now that is crazy.

And all this really has made us “drink soup” as they call it in the West Indies. And lot’s of it, all through the winter.

I make sure to always have a few different kinds in the fridge & freezer, because it really is one of the best ways to defrost after being outside.

I usually make some pumpkin soup, potato & leek soup, some clear broth for noodles, my favorite simple and classic vegetable soup, corn chowder or some other soups.

But come the weekend, we do a little bit of a fancy soup or chowder.
Here is an easy seafood chowder. Super good, tasting and fragrant.

 

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Seafood chowder.

Serves 4.

About 1/2 lb. of fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined.

6oz. of fresh salmon cut into 1″ cubes.

1/2 c. of finely cut leek or 4 medium shallots, chopped.

4 c. of fish stock or vegetable stock.

1- 1 1/2 c. of heavy cream (if you do not want cream use more stock).

A handful of corn kernels & shelled edamame..

1/4c. white port or good white wine.

1.8 oz-2 oz. saffron.

Fresh herbs like thyme, basil or chives as decoration.

1/2 tbs. butter for frying (you could use olive oil if you only have that).

Salt & pepper to taste.

Directions;

Start with melting the butter in a soup pot on medium heat. Fry the shallots to a translucent color. Add the saffron, corn & edamamde. Fry for a few minutes.

If the shrimp is really big, you can split them lengthwise.

Add the white port or white wine. Let boil for one more minute before you add the peeled and deveined shrimp & the salmon. Let come to a boil and add the cream and let come to a boil again and simmer for a few minutes. The seafood chowder is done when the shrimp is turning pink. You can add either salt & pepper to taste or just stick to the fresh herb that you chop up and sprinkle over the chowder. You can of course also add hot sauce if you like just as well as any other of your favorite ingredient that you feel is missing in your version of the seafood chowder.

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Stay warm and enjoy!

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Simple, fast and with a fantastic taste!

You know how some people like to wrap everything in bacon? I like that too, but I never do it. Or rather do it very rarely. It is the bad wrap of bacon that sits in my mind (no pun intended) . Instead of bacon, I sometimes use smoked ham or air-dried ham (prosciutto). The food doesn’t get as greasy if you do that.

You need to just be careful with what it is that you cook, so that it doesn’t dry out and become really boring to eat.

One of my favorite “wraps” is fresh salmon wrapped in prosciutto,fresh basil and mozzarella. It is so easy. It is one of those dishes where you almost don’t have to add any spices. It is so very tasty itself with the freshness of the basil, the saltines of the ham and the absolute delight of the fresh salmon.

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You can serve it any way you would like.

I love couscous, so this time, that is what I did.  A vegetable couscous.

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Serves 4.

4 pieces of fresh salmon (About 3 oz or 1 1/2″ wide piece. No skin.)

20 slices of prosciutto or smoked ham. (Unless they are very big. Then you can use 16 slices.)

8 thinly slices mozzarella slices.

1/2 bunch of basil leaves.

2-3 tomatoes.

Salt & pepper to taste.

1 c. couscous & 1 c. boiling water. Salt & Pepper.

4 cups of chopped vegetables. Anything you have at home.

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Place the slices of ham or prosciutto on a cutting board. Make them overlap slightly. Use 6 pieces or 4 if they are big, per salmon.

Place the skinless salmon piece on top of the meat. Sprinkle with some pepper and very little salt (since the ham is salty).

Add 2 slices of mozzarella onto. Finish off with finely sliced tomatoes and basil.

While you start working with the wraps, let some water come to a boil.

Add the couscous and the boiling water together with salt & pepper into a bowl. Stir a little. Cover with a plastic wrap. Let it steam until done. This will happen while you keep working with the salmon.

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Fold over the ham/prosciutto so that the salmon and mozzarella is totally covered on the length.

Heat up a skillet on medium heat.

Fry the salmon in a little dash of olive oil or other prefered oil. Make sure to turn it all around. When the ham/prosciutto is nice and crispy, the  salmon is done.

But to be sure, feel a little in the middle of the salmon. If it feels a little firm to the touch, it is done. Please note, If it is too firm, the salmon is over cooked.

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While the salmon is frying, start with the vegetables.

Use any vegetables of your choice.

I just grab anything I have in the fridge.

About 1cup per person.

Use a medium hot pan. Fry the vegetables for a few minutes. Add the couscous.

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Just fold over the couscous and the vegetables. Make sure all is well mixed.

Plate the couscous mixture with the wrapped salmon on top. Decorate with som herbs or mini tomatoes if you have any.

Enjoy!!!

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Pasta sheets used for lasagna has not been thought of as anything so pretty that it should be “naked” on top of a dish. They are just the layers between the sauce and filling.

Until now, that is. I saw one of the old French chefs do this, and he called it a “handkerchief “.   It was put in a deep bowl over the filling. It is such a great idea, but I choose to make an open face or rather de-constructed lasagna to show the pasta sheets off. They are so nice and fragrant and give the dish that little extra.

I just stacked the fish and shrimp on top of each other with the sauce drizzled around the dish.

You could just as well pour the sauce on top but then you could not see the beauty of the herbs nestled inside the pasta sheets. But, it is just as good to use them as regular lasagna sheets.

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De-constructed Fish & Shrimp Lasagna with Herbal Pasta sheets.

1 package of either wonton wrappers or egg roll sheets/skins. (I used the “skins” for egg rolls.)

As much shrimp or fish you need for the amount of people you are serving. Ask in the fish store for the portions.

Pretty herbs and/or edible flowers.

Sprinkle of flour.

1 egg.

1/2 c. of cream or creme fraiche.

1/4 c. grated parmesan or other sharp cheese.

A little chopped parsley.

Pinch of ground nutmeg.

Hot sauce (optional)

Salt & pepper.

Zest from 1/2 a lemon.

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Brush the sheet with a beaten egg or egg wash (beaten egg with a splash of water.)

Randomly place the herbs and if you have, edible flowers.

Put another sheet on top and sprinkle a little flour on the table and use the rolling-pin to make the sheets a little bit bigger. Make sure all sides are well sealed.

Boil in very lightly salted water for a couple of minutes. Note that the pasta sheets will “grow” a little bit in size. When ready take them out carefully and place on a plate. You can “cut to size” for what you need or just use the sheets as they are in a regular lasagna. Note that they will stick together if you put them on top of each other and let sit for a little bit.

Stack the fish and shrimp on top of each other with the pasta sheets in between. Make a quick sauce of the cream or creme fraiche with a little parmesan or other strong/ sharp cheese, salt pepper & ground nutmeg. I also add a splash of hot sauce (of course!)

Pour out a little of the sauce around the pasta and seafood. Decorate with some extra shrimp, a little lemon zest and parsley.

Enjoy!!!!

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I have always felt that Easter is the “kick-off” for summer.

This is the time when we, if we are lucky, could sit outside on the deck, having breakfast in the nice and warm spring sun. Not this year though. Even though we had a very mild winter it isn’t warm enough. I was hoping for some garden furniture to come out from the shed but I guess I will have to wait a little longer. It’s actually good, since I am about to re-arrange my whole back yard. I am building new and better flower beds, a little higher than before.  It is a huge project but I can’t wait.

This is also the time when I pick the first flowers to decorate the house with. So far, I have tulips, pearl hyacinths, daffodils, violets and some  apple blossom branches placed in champagne glasses.

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I always try to take good Friday off, it gives me that extra day to work outside and prepare for summer. It is very soothing to just do physical work and “lift things up and put them down..” as they say in a popular commercial here.

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A tradition for me, is to eat poached salmon on good Friday. It is good, healthy and fresh. As one of the side dishes, my mom used to make these little “poison mushrooms” made of eggs, tomatoes and spinach. As a sauce to the fish, we would always have a sour cream. mayo, dill & frozen vegetables mixture. It is just soo delicious (a great summer dish too.) On saturday, we would eat anything but on Easter sunday, we would have lamb.

I don’t like my meat to be pink so I cook my lamb long and slow to make it super tender and infused with flavours. I marinate the lamb in the fridge for a few hours or over night. For anyone who thinks they don’t like lamb this is really a great way of cooking it. I use a steak/ roast, but you could always use any other part of the lamb. Serve with a mint sauce or a delicious rosemary garlic sauce.

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Poached Salmon.

Fresh Salmon. Preferable wild caught. Either one whole salmon or a piece of salmon. As much as you would need for the amount of people you are serving. (Just remember that you can do so many things of the left overs, so don’t be scared of poaching too much.)

Water to almost just cover the fish in the pot.

Black pepper corns, about 10-12.

2 lemons.

1/2 onion.

1 carrot. Cut into medium size pieces.

1/2 orange.

2 bay leaves.

Directions;

It would be great if you have a fish pot but if you don’t, use a large pot. You can also use a cast iron pot /dutch oven.  If you are using portion pieces of salmon, you could just use a frying pan to poach them in. Add the pepper corns, carrot pieces, cut up onion & the bay leaves. Let cook for about 10 minutes to create a broth. Add the fish & the dill. Make sure the water covers about half the fish. Squeeze one lemon and the 1/2 orange into the pot. Let the peel boil with the fish. Some people likes to add some vinegar. I don’t, it makes the meat a little lighter, I use the lemon for that. 

Let come to a boil, then let simmer for about 30 minutes depending on the size of the fish. If you are using portion pieces of fish it will ready much faster. Keep checking it. You know that it is done, when it is starting to loosen from the bones.

Let the fish cool down in the broth. Lift up and plate. You can easily take off the skin if it is cool. If you are experiencing any problems, use a little piece of paper towel as a help.

Cut the last lemon into very fine slices. Add them onto the top of the fish. It is supposed to look like fish scales. Some people use finely cut cucumber slices to decorate the salmon with.

You can serve it hot or cold. Boiled potatoes are great to this poached salmon. As a sauce, I prefer a cold sauce made of sour cream, mayo, dill & some frozen vegetables. Pepper to taste. I of course use hot sauce in mine.

Poison mushrooms.

Hardboiled eggs.

Spinach.

Tomatoes, too big.

Boil down the spinach. I just put them in a pan and let them “melt” with a dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper. You could also use frozen defrosted spinach.

Hard boil the eggs and let cool. Cut the tomatoes. Use 1/3 of the upper part. Cut the very ends of the egg on top and bottom. Stand the egg up with the more narrow part facing up. Add the “hat” meaning the tomato. Cut up the egg white you just cut off the egg. Decorate the “hat” with a few pieces. Stand them around the salmon with the spinach being the “ground”.

Enjoy.

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Lamb roast.

I roast of Lamb.

10 cloves of garlic.

1 sprig of rosemary.

3 tbsp. of olive oil.

1-2 tbsp. of hot sauce (optional.)

Mint, fresh or dried. About 3 tbsp.

Herbs, Dried or fresh. About 1/4 cup.

A pinch of salt & pepper.

Directions.

Add all herbs and the garlic to a food processor. Mix well. Add the olive oil. It will become a pale version of pesto.

Add the mixture to the roast. Massage it into the meat. Make sure it covers any place you can reach. If possible, let marinate in the fridge over night, if not just for a few hours. Turn on the oven on 250 degrees. Put the roast into an oven safe dish. Cover with foil. Let cook for about 3 hours depending on how big it is. You need to look at it after a few hours. It will shrink a bit. When done, just take of the foil and raise the temperature to 450 and make a little colored crust on the roast.

Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before starting to cut into it.

I prefer to cut very thin slices of the lamb. Serve with any kind of potato side or perhaps just vegetables.

Enjoy!

Happy easter!

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

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

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

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

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

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Sesame Salmon with Zucchini “spaghetti”.

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

Sesame seeds, white non toasted.

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

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

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

1/2 cup Soy sauce.

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

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

Pinch of salt.

Oil for frying.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Directions;

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.

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