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Archive for April, 2008

Look who happily greeted me when I came home from work* yesterday.


Does anyone know what kind of climbing plant this is?

It is one of the most interesting flowers. The pictures show the double layered long spiky looking parts as blue but they are actually bright purple. I picked this guy up at a grocery store plant and flower section; however, I didn’t notice any of these plants blooming so I had no idea of how gorgeous this flower would be once it opened up. There was no tag (even in Swedish) indicating what species it is, but I liked it, so I plopped it into the cart. I like it even more now.

If you know what plant variety this is, please let me know!

*For those folks reading this from my former so called corporate American life: can you believe it’s officially been a whole stinking year since I left my briefcase at the door and suspended all 9-5 activities? But, even though I’m not shuffling into the office after a 20-mile-turned-into-hour-an-a-half-bumper-to-bumper-commute every effen day with my Starbucks cup glued to my paw, taking extra long lunches browsing in Bridgeport Village working diligently through lunch sleeves rolled up with my green visor on in the Lincoln conference room downstairs, organizing happy hour(s) drinking binges for every occasion imaginable, or bugging developing channel marketing strategies with Shiiki in his cube, I do actually work. *smile*

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Not something I would normally ever in a million years come in contact with back home in my Whole Foods Market, so you can imagine I was a bit jolted when I rounded the corner in the grocery store and laid my big brown eyes on this guy. He was marketing, Polar Bread or Polarbröd as it’s known in Swedish.

Polar Bread originates far north in Sweden – where reindeer are also born and raised. It is a soft flat bread with dimples, sometimes square but usually round, excellent for sandwiches. Extra tasty with a fresh slice of juicy reindeer….Oh, come on! Ease up. I would never consider munching on Santa’s helpers! At least not Rudolph anyway. But apparently, for fifteen pounds, you can get darn close to the red nose leader.

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Apparently, that’s all it takes to secure your spot in heaven. A quick visit to a website created by two Seattle boys and you can save your soul online. Take a peak at www.reserveaspotinheaven.com for a guaranteed spot in paradise or if you prefer going to the burning under-world try: www.reserveaspotinhell.com.

For a dozen or so little ones you’ll get:

  • “100% guaranteed spot” by way of a certificate of reservation, registered in the Book of Light
  • A first-class ticket to paradise (why climb stairs when you can fly?)
  • An official ID card
  • And the heaven 101 mini informational guide (your Fodor travel book to the place in the sky).

Without a reservation, the website warns heaven-hopefuls to expect long lines, thousands of steps on the stairway to heaven and haggling with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

But don’t forget to read the fine print. The site also states, “We have never been to nor are we affiliated with Heaven.”

Funny. That’s the part that made me giggle.

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You know it’s not going to be fat free if it’s got Paula Deen’s name on it. Just make sure you share this treat so it doesn’t all end up on your backside. Wonderfully dense and super moist, this cake’s richness is perfectly balanced when topped with fresh strawberries and a teeny dollop of vanilla cream. I still have a couple slices left, but you’ll need to hurry.

Southwest Georgia Pound Cake

Courtesy of Paula Deen

You’ll need:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (you may use lemon or almond flavoring instead)

Preparation:

Generously grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Do not preheat the oven.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternately add flour mixture and heavy cream to butter-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in flavoring.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Put into a cold oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes without opening the oven door. Bake for an additional 15 minutes if necessary. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto cake plate. For a real treat, serve yourself a slice while it’s still warm.

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One of the benefits of having an address in the sticks is the sticks.

After spending the evening hitting a round of golf (or in this case Fattie playing well and me gouging ginormous divots out of the earth while he patiently and ever so kindly waited for my three – four strokes to his every one) I walked over and cut two gigantic armfuls of budding branches to use as arrangements.

Living in the city you’ll need to get off your wallet for fresh cut twigs like this – over 3-4 feet in length with gorgeous green buds starting to poke their heads out. It feels so much better when you can pick as many as you want, whenever you like and they’re free.

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I’m up to my eyeballs in conversions. Every day, all day long, I am converting something, someway in my teeny tiny head. Miles to kilometers, gallons to liters, inches to centimeters, USD to SEK, cups to deciliters, Fahrenheit to Celsius, acres to hectares, tablespoons to grams, pounds to kilos, feet to meters – when will it end? Luckily, I paid attention in algebra class.

Right now, I can truly see the geeky benefits of a wristwatch that doubles as a calculator.

To help make my journey acclimating to a new country a little smoother in the kitchen, Fattie bought me a cute widget that has some of the conversions I need for whipping up dishes at home but it leaves me wanting more. What I didn’t tell him – but he’s a smart cookie and I’m sure it was no secret – is I usually stick to US recipes, my American cookbooks, favorite cooking sites originating in the states, and that I made damn certain to pack up my measuring cups and spoons in the moving container so I wouldn’t feel so lost and God forbid lose my adoration for cooking when it becomes too mentally challenging just whacking the ingredients into the bowl.

He also surprised me with a shiny scale. Which I must say has come in very handy. I test myself daily. When a recipe calls for say – 125 grams of butter, I’ll eyeball it and slash off a yellow slab that appears to me to be around the intended amount and then weigh it to see how close or off base I am. It has both the metric and the U.S. customary units so I can visually take in how many ounces 125 grams of butter is to my eye. It’s a little game I play in the kitchen. Yes – D is for dork. I know.

Now what I could really use is a KitchenCalc Pro. I’m planning on picking this guy up on my trip to the states next month. I think there’s even a pocket version. Carrying around this puppy in my purse would positively solidify my dorkiness.

Here are a couple conversion sites in case you need an ounce or two of help yourself: Gourmet Sleuth and Online Conversion.

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Seriously. How could anyone think this looks attractive enough to stick in your mouth?

I snapped this prized winning pic the other day while out running errands. The country is littered with these hot dog stands. They are in supermarkets, malls, gas stations, street corners, and pedestrian shopping streets. I just can’t believe someone in their marketing/advertising department had these photos taken, laid out this ad and then with certainty said, “Yup. It’s perfect Sven!! Let’s print up some posters straight away – they’ll be drooling over these puppies!”

In Sweden, they serve hot dogs as you see them here – shoved into this hollowed out tube shaped bun – but they also have this crazy concoction called the “Half-Special’“. (I haven’t actually slipped this masterpiece into my grill – but have seen it on the menus while walking by these joints).

The “Half-Special” is a grilled sausage way-too-long-for-the-bread slapped on an American style bun, with a scoop of mashed potatoes plunked on top. (Yup, you heard me right – mashed potatoes). For the “Full-Special”, you’ll receive two franks, a generous spoonful of spuds, a handful of shrimp salad, and occasionally it’ll be topped off with a just a wee bit of some cucumber mix. (I’m sorry for not having a picture of this heinous dish loveliness – you’ll just have to use your imagination).

I’m all for trying different types of food, have a very diverse palate, and usually jump in with both feet, ready to nibble on new dishes – so I guess I can’t say I’ll never try it……but I can’t say I really want to either.

My apologies to Sweden here – but am I the only one who thinks this sounds totally nasty?

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This gooey rich slice of heaven has to be one of my all time favorite treats. Chocolate goodness oozing out the moment your fork hits it….

Just across the water from downtown Portland, there is a pint-sized cozy restaurant serving fresh, local and organic dishes known as The Farm Cafe. Countless nights I’ve made my way over there squeezing in at the teeny weeny bar (they don’t take reservations) just to order this yummy chocolaty treat. Their version is a cross between molten cake and a traditional soufflé – more like a fallen chocolate lava soufflé (and I mean that in the best possible way). They make each pot of deliciousness to order so be prepared to kick it for twenty minutes over a glass of wine. It’s SO worth it. Check this review.

This last weekend I prepared dinner for just under thirty guests at the golf and country club and wanted to serve a deliciously memorable meal. I started with baked halibut in saffron broth over mashed potatoes with a tomato and black olive ragoût followed by this to-die-for chocolate molten cake – recipe by Dave Lieberman.

My apologies; in my haste to keep the hot – hot and the cold – cold (remember – I was plating for over a couple dozen peeps!) I totally spaced taking a snapshot of the final product and only took a few pics of the prep. The good news is I will probably be making some more of this loveliness tomorrow and may be able to grab a decent photo.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Courtesy of Dave Lieberman

You’ll need:

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 6 (6-ounce) ramekins. (I dusted them with sugar instead of flour).

Place 5 1/2 ounces of the chocolate and the butter in the top of a double boiler, and melt them over simmering water.

Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thick, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed and add flour. Add the chocolate mixture and continue beating until glossy, about another 5 minutes.

Divide half the mixture into the ramekins. Divide the remaining chopped chocolate among the ramekins, making a little pile in the middle of each one. Top with the rest of the batter.

Bake until just set around the edges, but the center still jiggles. About 10-12 minutes. DO NOT overcook. (I found they didn’t need the full time – so keep your eye on them carefully).

Cool just a few minutes and un-mold each cake onto a plate.

Raspberry Coulis

You’ll need:

1 (10-ounces) package frozen raspberries (if available with syrup)
2 tablespoons sugar – to taste (sometimes I use vanilla sugar)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice – to taste

Preparation:

Puree raspberries with syrup, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids.

Alternatively, you can throw the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice into a sauce pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 8 -10 minutes, puree with a hand held mixer, and pour mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids.

Either option should be chilled before serving.

You can also use fresh raspberries if available and in season – just increase the amount of sugar.

This dessert really does plate up so pretty and of course, you can take your own creative liberties, but this is how I prepared it: I placed the cakes upside down on the plate (the sugar coating/dusting works better than flour if this is how you intend to serve them) then lightly dusted them with icing sugar, added a bit of the home-made raspberry coulis – so the upside down dome appears to be wading in the sauce, and finished with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

It turned out freakishly good…One of the ladies commented, “That was the best thing I have ever eaten. Would it be possible to have another?”

I promise – your guests will love you.

Bon Appétit!

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Even though it was a busy Sunday (Fattie’s grandmother turned 98 and we had a very yummy family dinner at my in-laws in her honor) I managed to sneak in a quick jaunt this evening.

Luckily for me, one of the grocery stores I frequent is located directly on the lake, so a shopping trip to stock the fridge accompanying a walk along the drink with the sun setting in the background, was undeniable and quite effortless. The promenade that runs aside the water is not that long, can’t be much more than a few kilometers – if that, but this coupled with walking the course today makes me feel like I got in just a little bit of needed movement…..



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I want need to go to here. Immediately. Wanna go with? Among other fabulousness, they have the best body butter eh-vah.


**photos from blissworld.com**

*photos: blissworld*

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