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Archive for March, 2008

We had an amazing time in Costa del Sol…..

We were able to soak up some rays but now back in Sweden I feel my tan fading by the minute. Here are some pictures from the girls trip last week over the Easter break combined with a holiday in July ’07 where Fattie and I also wandered into Gibraltar, Ronda, and many of the quaint white washed pueblo villages.

In just 3 short months we’ll be there again with a bunch of our friends and family!

I can’t wait.

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goat cheese ravioli with walnuts

He loved to tinker and immerse himself into just about anything he hadn’t tried before. So it was no surprise when my dad trotted in one day with a pasta rolling machine under his arm. We were little munch-kins barely able to see above the kitchen counter and for that moment we thought this shiny silver thing with a crank on it was the coolest thing ever.

As kids we loved learning how to gently roll out those sheets of fabulous yellow tinted dough; linguine laying out on every single piece of flat surface we could find including draping it over the back of the kitchen chairs. He was always bringing fun and adventure into our lives including in the heart of the home – the kitchen. For me, these are treasured memories of my dad that I’ll always keep close.

As a treat during the post holiday sales, Fattie and I bought ourselves a pasta machine so we could roll out fresh Italian dishes whenever the urge presented itself. So, what to do on a Saturday night? Yup – you guessed it – pasta!

We decided on ravioli because we both adore it and it’s such a joy to sink your teeth into this handmade goodness…..I wanted to make a lobster and crab recipe but we settled for this over indulgent goat cheese & walnut number. It really is fantastically rich and yummy.

pasta machine

 

Ravioli Dough

Courtesy of Tyler Florence & The Food Network

You’ll need:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yolk, for egg wash

In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour and salt. Add eggs 1 at a time and continue to mix. Drizzle in oil and continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead the dough until elastic and smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Cut the ball of dough in half, cover and reserve the dough you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Dust the counter and dough with flour. Form the dough into a rectangle and roll it through the pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at its widest setting. Guide the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. *Reduce the setting and crank the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue until the machine is at its narrowest setting. The dough should be paper-thin, about 1/8-inch thick.

Dust the counter and dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta. Brush the top surface of dough with egg wash. Drop 1 tablespoon of cooled filling about 2-inches apart on half the sheet of pasta. Fold the unfilled half over the filling. With an espresso cup or fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling and form a seal. Use a crimper to cut each pillow into squares. Check to make sure the crimped edges are well sealed before cooking. If making ravioli in advance, dust with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

ravioli 2

 

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Walnut Sauce

Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse & The Food Network

You’ll need:

Filling:

1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced lemon peel
3 large pasta sheets

Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan

In a bowl combine the goat cheese, walnuts, basil, oil, garlic and lemon peel, and mix well. Set aside.

Put pasta sheet on work surface with long side facing you and put packed teaspoon of filling 2 inches apart lengthwise along half of the pasta sheet (you should have 10 to 12 mounds). Around each mound of filling brush dough very lightly with water. Fold dough lengthwise in half over mounds of filling, gently pressing around mounds to force out any air, and seal edges well. With a fluted pastry wheel trim edges and cut between mounds of filling to separate ravioli.

Line a large tray with a dry kitchen towel and arrange ravioli in 1 layer. Make more ravioli with remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling in same manner, transferring to kitchen-towel-lined tray and arranging in 1 layer. Ravioli may be made 8 hours ahead and chilled on towel-lined tray, covered loosely with plastic wrap.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove nuts from the pan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, shallots and garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and cream, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high until the liquid has thickened and reduced by nearly 50 percent in volume, about 4 minutes. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli until they are tender and rise to the surface, carefully stirring to keep them from sticking together, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander. Transfer the cooked ravioli to the pan with the sauce, and gently toss to coat and heat through.

Divide the ravioli among 6 serving plates or shallow bowls, and sprinkle each serving with walnuts and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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I know, normally it’s date night but for us it has been date week.

We wanted to spend time together while doing something good for ourselves and our bodies. We quickly agreed on the answer. Regular trips to the gym followed by evenings of cooking for each other. With the upcoming nuptials and my latest attempt to squeeze into my Amsale wedding dress, I thought this sounded like a excellent idea.

So, we grabbed our duffel bags and trotted off to the club.

But not your pedestrian treadmill, recumbent bike, or boring circuit training routines. No.

We went swimming.

date

At first, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. Swimming? Really? I mean, I love most bodies of water – lakes, pools (laying beside them in posh hotels), and always look forward to playing in the surf at the beach. But, uh, swimming laps? What are we? All of sudden 75? Since I’m usually up for new adventures and love Fattie to death – I grinned and agreed to give it a go.

But not without some apprehension. Here’s my top 5 concerns:

1) Germs. I don’t like them.

I certainly don’t like my bare feet coming in contact with any gym/locker room floor – and would NEVER consider taking a shower in a public place without flip flops on (even on our trip to Italy last month I showered in the hotel with thongs on). I know, I know – it’s borderline OCD.

2) Chlorine. Not my BFF.

My locks are professionally straightened and highlighted every 8-10 weeks, so chlorine, it’s drying agents, and all those other pool chemicals and I – just don’t get along.

3) Swimsuit. I don’t own one.

I mean, I don’t own a proper suit for swimming. I have about 60 suits to catch rays in – they’re called b-i-k-i-n-i-s and not really what you see folks draped in while they’re dog paddling around the pool to work up a sweat.

4) Casper. As in, Casper the ghost.

My first winter in Sweden and I’m paler than I’ve ever been, so you can understand I was horrified of the thought of showing my bleached out body to the general public.

5) Dork Incorporated. Probably not on the top 10 list of ‘cool’ things to do.

To be honest, I felt like a the biggest nerd answering my sister in law when she asked curiously the other day, “What are you guys going to do tonight?”…..me muttering under my breath, “Uh, we’re going swimming”.

Now, here’s a little interesting, or depending on how you look at it depressing, nugget of information about Sweden. The Swedes remove their shoes upon entering a place of residence. Not only do I think it’s terrible to be greeted by a pile of shoes at your front entry way, I’m just not used to it. And frankly – don’t like it.

See, I adore shoes. I’ve been known to build entire outfits around my shoes, so chucking them off at the door is somewhat alarming to me. All my pants, and I mean ALL my pants besides my Juicy sweat-suits, have been tailored for high-heels. The removal of any footwear means I not only become shorter but if I’m not in a dress or skirt then I also have 4 inches of pant leg dragging around behind me. Not attractive. And certainly not the ‘look’ I was going for. With the exception of boots, I’m used to walking around in strappy sandal type shoes – you know, the kind you don’t wear socks with – so, you can bet your bootie I’m not entirely thrilled about being in someone’s home for a dinner or cocktail party barefoot with pants in tow.

But really. I am leading up to something here.

We checked into the gym and rounded the corner to proceed to the locker rooms only to be embraced by the largest mud room I’ve ever laid my big brown eyes upon. What? Those stinking Swedes remove their shoes here too? At the gym? Uh-huh. Apparently, it’s common (and highly encouraged) to drop off your shoes BEFORE entering the locker room.

Nope. Not having it. None of it.

I glanced over at Fattie and squeaked apologetically, “I’m not doing it. I don’t care if I am being disrespectful…..I’m N-O-T doing it.” At this point, not only the potential cooties came into play but you can imagine I was mortified at the thought of leaving my hundred and fifty dollar UGGs out in the open for anyone to snag or worse yet the possibility of someone sticking their foot into my boot – eeewww. Ok, ok. I know. Take it easy. No, I don’t think the local Swedes are thieves; and no, I don’t think I’m so important that someone would really want to steal my shoes – but I can’t take that chance and I certainly can’t walk barefoot into the locker room!

Of course, being who he is and loving me for who I am, Fattie just smiled at me while he was finding a nice home on the shelf for his Converse.

Swim

Wow. Not exactly the burn from lifting weights or the high from running but swimming is hard work. I was envisioning these straight roped off lanes, head down, goggles on, proceeding ahead with the crawl stroke….But to my surprise the dudes in the water were swimming the breast stroke in a long rectangular loop. After a few laughs and comments about being the youngest people there by at least 30 years, I cautiously merged into the circle of elders….The first 2 laps were silly but alright. The next 48 were some kind of modern water torture. I made it through, only after stopping to rest and giggle with Fattie every 10 laps or so.

Now here’s something I had never seen before. Self cleaning hot-tubs. Ok, I guess that is cool and all. But what this really means is everyone and their grandmother scrambles to the jacuzzi at the same time sandwiching in next to each other and then right on queue, exactly 10 minutes later, everyone jumps out to allow the tub to ‘cleanse itself’. 10 minutes in – 10 minutes out. Weird.

Then came the locker room.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in the near vicinity with so many naked 75 year old ladies in my entire life. My eyes must have been as big as saucers! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a prude or shy of nudity – I worked in a health club for several years in my early 20’s so I am very accustomed to the gym and locker room culture. But holy smokes. I’ve seen children smaller than some of those bushes! The gardener must be on a permanent holiday. And don’t get me started on the sauna – it looked like a box of raisins.

Then it hit me. Someday I will be just like these little old ladies – hopefully with a little less hair. Spooky.

If on day/date 1 of our swimming adventure we were the youngest peeps by 30 years, then day 2 we were certainly the oldest by 30 years. Mental note: Mondays = senior night, Wednesday = kiddie night. Oh, the joy.

By our 2nd week hitting the drink, swimming was becoming an amusing routine. We both feel amazingly refreshed afterwards and savor the time we are spending together participating in an engaging, healthy, and, well – goofy activity. We also have had a brilliant time coming up with creative plates of grub to dish up for each other. Last week Fattie made these fabulous Greek meatballs of freshly ground lamb aside homemade tzatziki – reminded me of the yearly Greek festival back home – YUMO.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get so into this swimming thing I might even invest in a proper swimsuit – maybe even a swimming cap. Daaaaang – did I really just write that? So, it is very possible we are I am a giant dork. But at least I won’t be a barefoot dork.

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Where the eff is the sun?

The winter has been mild in Sweden this season but even so it’s been ridiculously boring weather. Being from the Pacific Northwest I have to confess – I am used it. Even so, each year about February or March I just can’t take it anymore. I’m dying to see the sun, be wrapped up in it’s warmth and feel my cheeks turn rosy pink from those heat rays. We used to have a sales meeting every February and it was superb to sneak away – even if it was for work – to a tropical location. Just the trip that was needed to break up the winter blues.

In just a handful of days I’ll be in Costa del Sol – cocktail in hand lounging by the pool and basking in that elusive sunshine.

I’m jacked.

Last summer Fattie and I drove down to Spain – from Sweden. Yup. Now that’s a road trip. I had just moved to Scandinavia and it was our celebratory trip. We had a phenomenal time.

Beach

On this excursion I’ll be heading to Spain with my sister-in-law. She’ll be an amazing travel partner and I’m totally thrilled for some girl time but I’ll desperately miss Fattie.

It will be the first time we have been apart for any significant length of time since summer ’07. How time changes life. 2 years ago we spent more time on separate continents than in the same room and now I can’t even imagine being away from him overnight – little alone 10 days.

 

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As a kid, I flipped when my parents received food as gifts.

close up

You know, jars of unbelievably scrumptious homemade jams made with love by your great-grandmother, those baskets of specialty foods presented so beautifully, the warm baked bread, sweet mouthwatering fudge, freshly harvested homegrown produce from my grandfathers garden, and oh, the heavenly assortment of cookies at Christmas time!

Not only is it a fantastic present for someone that truly enjoys tasty treats (and my parents certainly did) it’s also such a gracious and thoughtful gift. Giving a little piece of yourself to the recipient.

shredded

Of course, it’s almost impossible for a kid to really appreciate these homegrown and homemade goodies. So, now as an adult I understand my parents hesitation in sharing these eats with the 3 greedy vultures in their home who were completely oblivious and ignorant of the muscle and devotion that has been poured into picking the fruit, growing the tomatoes, or kneading the bread.

But I secretly did appreciate the effort and love that went into making each treasured snack and someday wanted to grow up to be the giver of these yummy gifts.

baked bread

Feeling nostalgic for those days and remembering the taste of my Great Aunt Freida’s famous freshly baked bread (well it’s more like sweet cake), the bread that as teen-agers my brothers and I would devour in one sitting, I knew I just MUST get the recipe from her and bake some straight away.

Baking this deliciously moist bread warms your kitchen with such a marvelous aroma and sends me right back to begging my mom if we could crack into yet another cherished loaf.

Great Aunt Freida’s Fabulous Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, shift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together.

In a separate bowl whip eggs until foamy, add in oil and follow with zucchini and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry until well combined. Fold in nuts if using.

Divide batter equally in 2 standard greased loaf pans. Bake for 45 min – 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. Alternatively, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes or 24 muffin tins for 20-25 minutes.

This bread stores and freezes well.

sliced

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Colbie Caillat - Coco

Colbie Calliat is the super cute 22 year old blondie singer-songwriter from California who broke records with her song, Bubbly – it’s been viewed more than 17 million times on youtube and upwards of 20 million on myspace.

Her CD, Coco, has been making the rounds in my iPod since last year and it continues to grow on me a little more every time I hear it.

It’s feel good music. Here’s her song, Magic.

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Sitting on our bums the other day taking in a little BBC Food we witnessed the super tall Canadian chef Michael Smith create an interesting and cleverly wrapped bacon potato dish.

bacon whole

Since Fattie loves bacon, potatoes, and cheese (uh, who in their right mind doesn’t?) he just had to give it a go. The first effort was full of flavor but the second attempt – as a side dish to filet mignon for a dinner party of twelve – was simply scrumptious. This is NOT a low fat dish but it is fabulous and a cool way to serve bacon and potatoes.

Potato Bacon Cheddar Tart

Courtesy of Michael Smith – serves 8

You’ll need:

  • 2 pounds or so of room temperature bacon
  • A minced onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 cups of grated aged cheddar
  • 5 or 6 large unpeeled baking potatoes
  • A sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Carefully arrange the bacon in a radial pattern from the center of the bottom of a ten-inch, non-stick pan to the lower edge of the rim and continuing up and over it. Let the ends hang over. The slices should overlap slightly around the sides of the pan.

To reduce the thickness of the bacon in the center stagger every other piece starting it two inches from the center and extending it further than the adjacent slices. With the palm of your hand, flatten the center area, leaving no gaps in the bacon. Season the bacon with pepper then sprinkle on several tablespoons of the grated cheddar.

 

Slice the potatoes as thinly and uniformly as you can, about a quarter inch thick. Arrange a circular pattern of overlapping slices around the inside bottom edge of the pan. Continue arranging overlapping layers of the potatoes until the bottom is evenly covered.

bacon pan

 

Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Mix the onions and garlic together and sprinkle some of the mixture onto the potatoes. Continue with a layer of the grated cheese. Cover with another layer of the potato pressing it down firmly before continuing with alternate layers of the potatoes, onion mixture and cheese until the pan is full. Continue with several more layers insetting each a bit from the edge of the pan until the top is an inch or so higher than the pan’s rim.

Fold the overhanging bacon neatly up and over the top of the potatoes. Trim a small piece of parchment paper and place it in between an ovenproof lid and the bacon. This will prevent the bacon’s ends from pulling back and shrinking during cooking.

bacon slice

 

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for at least two and a half to three hours. You’ll know it’s done when a small thin bladed knife insert easily. Pour off as much of the fat around the edges as possible. Let the tart stand for fifteen minutes then invert it onto a cutting surface.

Slice into wedges and serve immediately. You may refrigerate any leftovers and reheat them later it in a microwave.

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