All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Breakfast in Skurdalen, from the one who makes it.

Sarah emily posted a bit about breakfast in Norway. The breakfast that she and others have eaten that I make in the cabin in Skurdalen (pronounced, roughly, "skrewdallin,") is influenced by the smorgasbord-y breakfasts common in scandinavia, the bread, cheese and eggs that they consume constantly, and my dad's awesome cooking skills, straight outta southern california.

Basically, the key is, use everything in the little cabin refrigerator, including whatever is left of last night's fish dinner. It's important to have at least one hot "centerpiece" - this is to satisfy the American in me.

Usually, it's potatoes. To make the potatoes:

scrub a buncha little potatoes (you can peel if you want, but I never do) - either red or white
cube the potatoes
cube one small-medium sized onion
finely chop or crush 4 cloves of garlic
put a 1/4 stick of butter or (for vegans, lactards, and the rest of the butter-averse) a bunch of oil (vegetable or olive) in a frying pan
add onions on medium heat
add garlic
saute about 2 minutes
add in potatoes
stir pan with spatula every 1-2 minutes
dice 1 red, yellow or orange pepper (optional)
dice 1 zucchini (optional)
(you can add pretty much any vegetables you have, they will change it up a little, I have found peppers and zucchini particularly satisfying, but carrots, broccoli, etc can also be good - or you can skip the extra veggies altogether and just revel in starchy goodness)
after potatoes have been in pan for about 10-15 minutes, add zucchini and pepper
add salt & lots of pepper
add garlic powder if you feel like it
cook - stirring often to avoid burning, and adding more butter/oil (especially necessary when using butter) whenever it seems prudent.
you can now be done, if you wish. Vegans must finish here.

optionally, you can scramble/fry an egg into the potatoes.
to do this, whisk an a few eggs, and optionally, some milk in a bowl.
pour the mixture over the potatoes and stir it around.
it's done when the eggs are cooked to your liking.


add cheese!
you can grate it or just break off hunks. In Norway I almost always use gulost (yellow cheese - which is sort of like a mild cheddar) or jarlsberg (a mild swiss-like cheese) for this.
add chunks of cheese liberally with the heat on medium low and stir until it melts.

when the potatoes are done, put them in a brightly colored bowl with some kind of ikea utensil for serving.

Moving on from the potatoes,
another key element is the boiled egg.
you need an egg cup for everyone
boil the eggs to their liking (softer is better for this purpose).
put each egg in an egg cup.
when it's time to eat the egg, tap your knife on the side of the egg near the very top to crack it a little, and then slice off the top.
if you like, add a little salt and or pepper to exposed egg.
now using your little bitty spoon, scoop the egg out of it's shell to eat it. you can eat it off the spoon, or you can put it on bread as part of your smorbrod assembly.

which brings us to smorbrod, the real heart of the breakfast. "Smor" in Norwegian, means butter. "bord" means table, thus, smorgasbord, buttertable. smorbrod is what norwegians eat for breakfast and lunch - butterbread. basically, you take some bread - usually a pretty heavy one with lots of seeds and stuff in it, and you spread some butter on it, and then you spread more stuff on it. the "smor" (butter) has come to mean more than just bread, so the smor is the spread, whatever you spread on it, and that's what we but on the smorgasbord (spread table!)

Here are some typical things for the smorgasbord:

bread, sliced in a basket sitting next to the toastmaster (person sitting next to the toaster is the toastmaster. they toast bread on request for the rest of the table) you might have a graabrod, very rough bread, "loff" (pronounced "loof") which is yummy white bread, solskinnbrod, which is sunshine bread and has sunflower seeds, and whatever other bread you baked or picked up at the bakery. Also in the breadbasket there may be Wasa crackers or other breadlike objects that you can spread things on.

cheeses. set them out on a wooden board with a knife and a cheeseslicer (norwegian invention!). I usually but out all the kinds of cheese in the fridge, usually at least one yellow cheese, one brown cheese (usually geitost, a brown sort of sweet caramelly goat cheese - geit means goat), something kind of creamy and/or stinky, and then whatever else you picked up.

veggies. usually a tomato (tomat), a pepper (paprika), a cucumber (agurk), put on a board with a paring knife so people can slice their own. these are key.

meats/fishies. salami or other sliced meat, any leftovers. often I poach the fish (fisk) that we catch in the lake, and if you make it nice the night before it's very yummy the next day. sometimes I reheat it by sauteeing it in a little parsley butter (persillesmor) just before breakfast. (there is no microwave at the cabin, which is why the food always tastes better). also, jars of little fishes, brined and pickled - herring mostly. These are not my favorite, but sometimes I put them out so folks can try. Norwegians also like to eat little shrimps (reker) and breakfast. I can't usually afford it, but smoked salmon is also a biggy. and yummy. sometimes also there is bacon, but the norwegians have nothing to do with that :).

Boiled eggs. I know we already had them in our eggcups, but it's important to also have them hardboiled for peeling and putting in the eggslicer (another norwegian invention!), which then makes perfect smorbrod slices.

also key are butter, jams (syltetoy) (the norwegians are big on blueberry), nutella or other chocolate (sjokolade) spread.

then everyone sits down with their hot beverage, their cold beverage, and gets started on their eggcup, the bread gets toasted, people have some potatoes, and then the spreading begins. At this point it is also key to *make your lunch* - which you do by spreading your bread (all open face sandwiches in norway) and then putting a piece of wax paper between each piece of spread bread. then you wrap it in more wax paper - or if you're modern like me, a plastic bag.

then you go swimming in the lake and fall asleep with your book on your face.

breakfast in norway

in norway, breakfast is a big deal. sarah elisabeth is a master of creating the extravagant meal with which one begins the day. here you can see the wide array of foods - eggs, rice, two types of cheese, bread, vegetables, meats, and more. sarah and zeke (a friend of the happy diner) lovingly prepared breakfast for the rest of the cabin one morning this past august. norwegian breakfasts mark a turning point in my appreciation of the meal. two years ago I returned to the states with a new understanding of what a leisurely, filling breakfast can do for a person. I also returned pretty convinced that I needed a job where admiring public sculpture was required, but that's a meditation for a different blog.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

leisure is hard

shortly after my leisurely breakfast confession, I created a zen corner in my apartment. the theory behind it was to have an area that could serve as a space with no other purpose but for me to chill out, tucked away from the main rooms in my home. I made a low table out of a paned window and put some cushions on the floor. in my head, I imagined this as a place where I would go and drink tea and think about trees and life goals. in reality, I knew that it would likely involve me sitting there, muttering, "zen. zen!" under my breath.

but mostly, I envisioned eating breakfast in my zen corner, beginning my day slowly and calmly. I even switched my schedule around a bit so that I had more time for breakfast, more time to relax and reflect as I got ready for the rest of the day. I had a zen corner and it would allow me to have more than 7 minutes for cereal.

this hasn't happened. I'm going to be honest here. I'm still eating a 7 minute breakfast and now using the extra time to get to my job early and work, uh, 9 hour days. my zen corner looks very peaceful whenever I rush by it on my way from the shower to my room.

more cookie adventures with gina marie.

let's continue to follow gina marie in her adventures and misadventures in the world of chocolate chip cookies.

if you remember, last time we saw gina marie, she had made some chocolate chip cookies with egg whites from a carton and soy butter substitute type thing. these cookies were not good, although we can't stress enough that it was not the fault of the fake/soy/vegan butter stuff, and there have since been more successful attempts at vegan baking, although, as sarah emily mentioned, there was no fake butter involved.

so, this time, gina marie made the best cookies ever, and enjoyed by many a lantern maker. the goodness of these cookies was a result (we learned from later testing) of real butter, real eggs, an oven that heats 50 degrees hotter than you tell it to, and some serious undercooking. mmmmm raw cookies.

so my suggestions to cookie makers: use lots of butter, crank up the oven, take the cookies out when they still look like melty dough in the middle, and always always always *always* use the nestle toll house cookie recipe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

white bean and roasted garlic soup

I'm sick right now and cannot taste a damn thing. this makes eating difficult because I have to rely entirely on texture - a dicey issue for me in the first place. soup, however, is a perfect antidote to the problem since it has a nice, neutral texture. last sunday night I made one of my favorite soups, one particularly suited to being sick because it is loaded with garlic. I've been eating all week, tasting it a little bit more each day. I love this not only because it's delicious, but it also requires very little prep.

Roasted garlic and white bean soup:
*2 tbsp olive oil
*1 medium onion, chopped
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp fennel seeds crushed
*4 cups vegetable broth, or 2 tbsp veggie bouillon sauce and 2 cups of water
*3 cans of cooked white beans, drained
*3 fresh sage leaves, chopped or a couple of large pinches dried sage
*1-2 bay leaves
*juice of 1/2 lemon
*2 heads of garlic roasted or 4 heads of garlic, chopped in large pieces

saute the onions in a stockpot in olive oil for about 5 to 7 minutes. add the salt, some black pepper, and the fennel seeds and saute for about another minute. (I like to use a mortar and pestle to crush the fennel seeds because then my house smells like fennel and I can think about severus snape, greasy git that he is.)

add the broth (or broth elements), beans, sage, and the bay leaves. bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for about five minutes. turn the heat off and remove the bay leaves.

if you have a hand mixer, you can do the next part directly in the stockpot. otherwise, you'll need to put the soup into a blender: add the garlic and puree yourself some soup so that it's thick and somewhere between lumpy and smooth. add lemon juice to taste and then serve. I like to eat it over brown rice.

this makes a lot of servings which is good because, if you are sick like I've been sick, you won't be able to taste anything the first time you eat it. but, as you get better, you'll be able to revel in the garlicky goodness.

Friday, October 19, 2007

meat sauce for spaghetti. like bolognese. but different

So I made my spaghetti sauce for the first time in two years last night - it came out pretty good I thought! Could have used some more kick, but overall, it worked out. I make a lot so that I can freeze more than half of what I make and then thaw it out of nice little meal appropriate containers when I'm ready. It tastes better after it sits around for awhile anyways.

Here's my recipe. I'll try and take some pictures next time I thaw...

Go to Super Stop & Shop and buy all the cans of tomato products you need for cheap
Go to Whole Foods and buy 1 to 1.5 lbs organic grass fed not-too-lean ground beef. the 90% lean stuff is not juicy enough. And I'm afraid of beef that's not all yuppie and expensive.

This is totally my dad's recipe. He taught me to cook it, and mine will never be as good as his.

Brown the beef all by itself (no oil or anything) in the bottom of the big pot you're going to make the sauce in.
When the beef is half way to brown, add 1/2 a big or 1 small chopped yellow sweet onion. stir it up.

Add some salt and cracked pepper. be liberal.

When the meat is all cooked through (all brown, no pink) add about 1 teaspoon of finely chopped or crushed garlic (usually about 3 cloves in the garlic press) and keep sauteing.

Stir and then immediately add 2 tablespoons of dry basil, 1 teaspoon dry thyme and 1 teaspoon oregano. Don't brown the garlic! turn down the heat a little to avoid this.

after about 4 minutes with the garlic and spices in there, return the burner to high heat and add 2/3 cup of red wine and cook it on high for 2-3 minutes to burn off the alcohol.

Reduce the heat and add a regular-sized can of chopped tomatoes and stir,

add 2 regular-sized cans or one of the mega cans of tomato sauce (plain tomato sauce made by Heinz or whatever that comes in a can, no fancy jars or ragu necessary.) Add one little can (a little more than 2 tablespoons usually) of tomato paste and 2 large bay leaves and stir.

Sometimes at this point I add a little water by running the same half can of water through all the cans of tomato sauce of used and stirring that in. reduces waste, helps cleaning, and adds a little liquid.

Reduce heat so that the sauce is simmering but not boiling - no big bubbles. Leave it for 1/2 an hour to to 2 hours. I think at least an hour is ideal. Then you can eat it on pasta! Freeze the rest unless you're eating it tomorrow, in which case put it in the fridge. the more days on, the better it will be.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yes and No

three foods that I will almost always say yes to, no matter what form they're in:
1) red cabbage
2) bok choy
3) kale

three foods that I will almost always say no to, no matter what form they're in:
1) maple syrup
2) honey
3) eggplant

I'm lactose intolerant and will drink a pint of milk sooner than I'll have anything that is remotely maple flavored. I would prefer to have crippling gas than even smell the stuff.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

toast, hash browns, and big plans

So last night at just before 11pm gina marie and I rolled up to Super Stop & Shop to buy cans of things. I managed to buy only *1* item requiring refrigeration because I am classy. And that item was crescent rolls that come in that little metal & cardboard cylinder, again, because I'm classy.

The reason I bought crescent rolls, and a whole bunch of cans of tomato products, is because I am gearing up to make meat sauce for spaghetti and to make beef stew. I've decided that if I go to Whole Foods and buy organic, grass-fed, insanely expensive beef, that I will not get mad cow disease, and I will be able to make yummy food that lasts awhile. I love making food that tastes *better* the next day.

It's really not so in line with the macrobiotic plans, although it is all dairy free... but I don't know how to make any really good vegan soups, and I miss this stuff now that it is getting cold. Any recipes for vegetable soups (including stock and stock recommendations) especially soups with beans and lentil soup, are much appreciated.

In the meantime stay tuned for the beef stew experience and results (the secret ingredient is tomato paste) and for the meat sauce (the secret ingredient dad's recipe?).

The other exciting thing about Super Stop & Shop was that they had my whole grain raisin bread! I had been looking for it for ages since they stopped carrying it at Whole Foods, and I had despaired and all but given up. But now, glory be, I had yummy whole grain raisin toast with earth balance this morning.

And then I got to work and had hash browns from burger king. gross, but satisfying in that oily potato way, but still gross.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

csa adventures

this is where most of the cooking begins. we find out what our vegetables for the week are, we pick them out and take them home, and then begins the wondering: "what does one make with two heads of cabbage, an acorn squash, and five hot peppers?..."

we promised you pictures

sarah elisabeth and I - and now gina marie as well - have a share in a CSA - community supported agriculture. this means that every week, from june through october, we get veggies fresh off a local farm in granby, ma. the food is incredible because it's very much alive and in its purest form, not like the things that we get at the grocery store that are frequently grown for longevity, not flavor. example: I fell in love with carrots this summer after remembering (discovering?) what they're supposed to taste like.

this week we got lots and lots of peppers. red ones, green ones, greeny-yellow ones, and amazingly bright orange ones. I took my half home and set about making dinner. after remembering sarah elisabeth's post about successful sauces, I opened my fridge to see what I had that could be turned into a sauce of dazzling proportion. huh, I thought to myself, I haven't used mustard for a really long time - and I have three different kinds. so mustard it was, and several big squirts of stoneground mustard went into the pan with my onions, peppers, and spinach. it smelled amazing. the sautéing vegetables sizzled in the mustard and I had to keep reminding myself that the smell of a dish while it cooks frequently means nothing about what it's going to taste like. still, I was excited.

except, when I poured the vegetables over brown rice and served a bowl for myself and for gina marie, the mustard flavor had mysteriously vanished. I had warned gina prior to her first bite that I had no idea how it would taste, but that it was likely to be very mustard-y. this was, apparently, a big fat lie. where did the mustard go? did I cook it off? did the water from the spinach dilute it? the dish didn't even smell like mustard anymore. I'm stumped.

the time i set the kitchen on fire...

...ok, so i didn't actually set the kitchen on fire, but almost. so sarah elisabeth gave me an eggplant, because she and sarah emily don't like them. and it was getting old, so i decided to make eggplant parmesan, because what else do you do with an eggplant? this involved buying tomato sauce and cheese, then salting, pressing, and drying the eggplant (and being amazed by how much water came out of them!), making breadcrumbs (they were too expensive to justify buying, so instead i filled the kitchen with smoke by burning bread in the toaster, then chopping the bread into little crumbs), covering the eggplant in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs, and fryng the eggplant in olive oil.

so this is when i got in trouble. i turned on the oven to preheat while i was frying the eggplant, and i was so focused that i failed to notice that the kitchen filled with smoke, until the smoke detectors went off. apparently, cooking a whole bunch of ethiopian food the past weekend sometimes leaves your oven a bit dirty. so i knocked on michael's door, since he is the landlord, but he didn't know how to turn off the alarms, and went back to eating his dinner. sarah elisabeth didn't answer her phone, so i looked up how to turn off smoke alarms on the internet, then fanned them with a book for ten minutes. then michael came back, and as soon as he rang the doorbell, the alarms went off. thanks michael!

i'm not quite sure that eggplant parmesan was worth an almost fire and losing my hearing.

salsa salsa salsa...

Sometimes you don't just want to eat plain salsa.

There are two things that you can do. one is kind of gross. both taste really good.

This first one I learned as an exchange student at Mt. Holyoke. The girls there get all crazy at about 3am because there are no boys there. They get a wild look in their eyes and start screaming "Queso!! Queso!!"

Then they take a block of velveeta and a jar of salsa
put them in a bowl
and put it in the microwave.

Now dip things in it. yummy. mmmm cholesterol.

The much classier salsa I like to make is:

1 can of black beans, drained
1 ripe avocado, chopped
2-4 tablespoons of that salsa in the back of your fridge that you need to use

dip away. This keeps ok for the next day too. You can also add other things... chopped carrots, cilantro, canned corn, whatever you need to.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

let's talk about vegan cheese

I have only ever had one vegan cheese product that I liked. I like the "Grated Vegan Topping" in the purple salt-shaker sized container. the other few I have tried are all real gross or weird or just not worth it.

I stopped eating most dairy products because they made me congested and I think my body has to work too hard to process them. Cutting down on cheese has been good for my congestion, weight fluctuation, amount of energy, and avoiding processed foods (lots of dairy products, weirdly). I really miss cheese though.

Ironically, parm is probably one of the more innocuous cheese products - hard cheese are usually minimally problematic for the lactose intolerant, you don't eat as much of it as, oh, cream cheese on a bagel, or giant blocks of cheddar in the woods, and it has a lot of bacterial breakdown goodness. It's weird then that it is the only thing that I have found an acceptable (I wouldn't make risotto with it) substitute for.

Does anyone have any recommendations for cheese substitutes? or suggestions for what I should eat when I'm splurging? (I've been eating a lot of mint chocolate chip ice cream. oops.)

hypocritically speaking

confession: I do not regularly practice the leisurely breakfast. in fact, there are between 7-10 minutes allotted for breakfast in my morning routine on work days.

breakfast consists of soy milk and the Kashi whole grain cereal that resembles cat food. I inhale my cereal, make sure I don't have any left in my teeth, and then rush out the door by 6:35 am to catch the bus.

I hate it. I miss reading over breakfast, not getting hungry again by 8:30 am, and mostly feeling in control of my morning - something that sets the tone for the day. eating on the run feels gross and far too modern for my liking, but when I have to choose between a leisurely breakfast and waking up even earlier than I already do, I'm afraid there's not much contest. it's unsatisfying and counter to much of what I believe about both food and life.

I'm considering skipping breakfast at home entirely and just having it at work. this would be multitasking and awfully yuppie, but maybe would give me more time to pull myself together in the morning? I'm not sure. suggestions are welcome.

Monday, October 8, 2007

benedictine tastes like apples cider

After dinner today we decided to try the Benedictine that my dad cryptically gave me last year after learning that my plan for boozing up the apple cider was Wild Turkey. We hadn't opened it but finally decided to try it.

It smells like spicy rubbing alcohol and cough syrup. It tastes like very sweet cinnamonny alcohol syrup, but when you put it in cider it tastes like... sweet cinnamony cider that will get you drunk. I don't know if that's a good thing, but it is certainly interesting.

We strongly discourage doing shots of Benedictine, drinking it straight, or smelling it - ever.

The wikipedia article reads, in part, :Every bottle of Bénédictine has the initials D.O.M. written on the label. Mistakenly thought by some to refer to "Dominican Order of Monks," it actually stands for "Deo Optimo Maximo"; "Deus" is Latin for God, "Optimus" is Latin for "best" and "Maximo" is Latin for "greatest" - you could in English interpret this as "To God, most good, most great".

And, my favorite part:

Burnley Miners' Club in Burnley, United Kingdom is the world's biggest single consumer of Benedictine liqueur thanks to the Lancashire regiments that acquired a taste for it during the First World War. --

pasta sauce with red wine

Today I made some rotini and I made some sauce with whatever was left in the fridge. It came out pretty good!

some olive oil in a saute pan
1 very pungent yellow onion (they were crying in the dining room), coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
I put that on low heat, onions first, then garlic.

EDIT: Then I added a big handful of pine nuts. This is key!!!

Then I chopped a little red pepper that I had from the farmshare (the garlic is from the farmshare too) and dropped that in.

Next I chopped up some farmshare kale that had been sitting in the fridge for awhile and put that in. Then I put the water in.

Then I realized that spices are good, and I added salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder.

Then I went into Susan's cupbard and got a can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes and put that in too. At this point we are on medium heat.

once the pasta was in the boiling water, I took the $4.99 bottle of chianti from Trader Joe's that we were drinking and added a whole bunch to the sauce. Then I turned the heat up to medium high so that it would bubble and burn off the alcohol, drank some more wine, and drained the pasta (which was not quite al dente, but turned out fine).

once the sauce had bubbled viciously for a few minutes I turned it down to a simmer and added just a little more oil and let it thicken for a few minutes. Then I put the rotini in a white bowl and poured the sauce on top and stirred. It was good!

We followed it with mint chocolate chip ice cream (excellent) and Benedictine Liqueur (weird).

fake butter makes yummy cookies, or the secret of successful vegan eating

oh, gina marie. I have to disagree with your quick dismissal of fake butter. I mean, I had the cookies and yes, they resembled Hagrid's rockcakes more than chocolate chip cookies - which is perhaps the one time in my life that I've been disappointed by a Harry Potter moment. however, I must argue that fake butter can make amazing cookies, but only if you go in with this essential piece of knowledge:

vegan food products are totally not substitutable for their non-vegan counterparts.

you see this error a bunch with tofu. just like chicken! the package will declare. tastes better than bacon! the ads will claim. well...not exactly. tofu is not the substitute teacher for the class of twenty-first century vegetarians. tofu is best when it's taken for exactly what it is.

take this lesson into dairy-free cookies. fake butter does not work the same as real butter and will really only leave you disappointed and grumpy if you treat it as such. however, fake butter falls under the vegan but if you set out to make dairy-free cookies and use a smart vegan recipe, you'll have crazy awesome cookies.

interestingly enough, most of my vegan cookie adventures have not required fake butter at all. I'll post a recipe later for the practical part of the class.

fake butter makes yucky cookies.

ok, so one time, i made chocolate chip cookies with fake soy margerine stuff, and egg whites in a carton. they were not good. the end.