December 14, 2010

God Jul - Happy Holidays!

The Holiday season is my favorite celebration of the year. Although, I am not religious I call my Winter Holiday festivity Christmas, or Jul as we call it in Sweden.  Jul to me is family and friends, baking Saffransbullar/ Lussekatter / Lussebullar (saffron buns), Pepparkakor (Gingerbreadcookies), knäck (fudge like thing?), Glögg (mulled wine) Julbord (Christmas smörgåsbord) that will include Ham, Rödkål, Revbensspjäll, Janssonsfrestelse, Köttbullar (meatballs) mini sausages, herring and so so so  many other really yummy looking and tasting things! I love Jul for the food and the gatherings and all the candles that I can light all over the apartment. Needless to say, Gifts do also bring Joy to the celebrations but lately they have had a less important meaning. I am still thinking about a gift for my husband, it´s been years since we bought each other anything as we always tend to go away for Christmas and the trip itself ends up being the gift to each one of us. 

I decided to host a little Swedish Christmas Gathering this year and had a couple of friends over for Mullet Wine and baked goods! It was a very successful evening and I think everyone had a fantastic time! 

I bought this lantern from Pottery Barn last Winter and I absolutely love it. I change the figurines depending on  the season, the space was occupied by mini pumpkins for Thanksgiving and Halloween. 

In Sweden we decorate our houses full of Jultomtar, they are not quite like mini Santa Clauses but do in a way look like Santa. Tomte or Nisse that we also call him comes from the Swedish folklore. He is a little man with beard that protects your house, is is intelligent and protective but very rarely seen. If you get a glimpse of him you are very lucky! You will find a couple of Tomtar figurines in every Swedish persons home. In my father's cousin's home you will actually find over 300 Tomtar in all shapes and sizes. She even has a greenhouse in the garden which she populates with Tomtar in Winter. 

Here are some felted Tomtar. Just in case you are interested in learning the word for Tomte, here is some grammar for you: Tomte is singular and Tomtar is plural. 

I think all my Tomtar are purchased in Sweden. The mushrooms you see in the picture are from a wonderful 100 Yen store (dollar store) in Japan. They are made from felt and although my guests thought I must be crazy for buying felted mushrooms I think they are quite cute! 

The silver candle holders are inherited from my Swedish grandmother, I love them but they tarnish too fast and for some reason I feel like they tarnish ten times faster in NYC than back home. Does anyone know why?

If I don´t find time to publish another post before the Holidays I would like to wish everyone out there a 
MERRY - HAPPY - GLAD HOLIDAY and only all the BEST for the New Year!

Love from us all, 

Herman, Hermina and Betsy Boo

December 5, 2010

Getting things done!

I am one of the worst bloggers in this universe. I must agree with my sister here, there is no use having a blog if you can't make sure your readers have something to come back for. Unfortunately there is not enough time in the day and it is hard to find time to spend another hour in front of the computer after 8 hours of doing so at work. Well, we will always have excuses for not doing things but when we look at what others are able to accomplish, without complaining and we, or I at least, find extra energy, motivation and purpose to get up on my feet and get things done. This is also one of the reasons why I like to compare myself to other, it wakes me up from my procrastinating life ! My sister runs her own company from home, she has three young children and is currently also involved in the yearly Christmas market and the seasonal craft fair. Did I forget to mention that she updates her blog every day, EVERY day!

Since getting my dog Betsy I have been quite unproductive. Well, that is not completely true as I have raised a puppy, learned  things about dogs I never knew, learned dog characteristics and behavioral training and spent hours walking and playing with my dog. As with having children, I have shorten my sleep and the time spent on myself because my new life now involves another creature which is my dog. Don't get me wrong, I am happy with my choice but I have forgotten my other interests in the cloud of new happiness. Life has become a routine which is something I always dreaded. My new years resolution is to get things done, prioritize and not waste my time. Quality will always come before quantity but sometimes I believe I need to find a balance between the two of them. Instead of aspiring to accomplish one big thing very well, I am the kind of person who likes to have many project going on at the same time, i will finish each project while working on another one. I like to have a long list of things to do and tick them off as I complete them. It's like my work desk, I work well when my desk is cluttered with various folders with different projects and work tasks. At the end of the day I file way the completed work, i tick of my To Do List and I pile the unfinished tasks in a neat pile that will meet me in the morning of the following day.

Going forwards I will try new recipes more often, made a moussaka tonight (3 hours), I will bake, I will go hiking more frequently and I will work on my 10,000 craft projects that bring fun, creature, inspiring and exciting moments to my life. On top of that I want to pick up my interest in reading again and I want to continue spending great times with my dog and husband!!!! That's it, I can do it!


While I am on it, I thought I'd update the blog with some pictures from my most recent trip. there is no better time than the present! My husband and I just returned from Japan. I was partially sent there for work but we decided to make the trip into a vacation in order to re-experience our time in Japan and see my family. My mom is Japanese and I was lucky enough to visit Japan a few times growing up. In 2003 I also had the opportunity to spend one year at Kyoto University, during this time my husband, than boyfriend came with me to teach English. We have not been back to Japan since so we left for trip with empty stomachs and eating as the number one objective for this trip.

This is a the food at one of the hundred Izakaya's we went to in Tokyo.Casual environment and very reasonable prices! 

I had an amazing experience at this restaurant by the Tsukiji market. This is fresh tuna on the bone! We scraped the tuna off with a seashell. I am really crossing my fingers that this tuna was caught humanly to all creatures around. 

This is the jaw of the tuna. I personally don't like cooked tuna very much as it has a tendency to come out dry even when just lightly seared. I was pleasantly surprised how juicy the meat in the jaw area was. They also served cooked tuna neck which also was amazing. 

The vending machines in Japan are everywhere! In summer you find cold drinks for sale, in winter there are warm drinks for sale and in spring and autumn you will find both options. Wherever you go there will be a vending machine. Usually we are environmentally aware citizens and carry around water bottles but this time we were on vacation and wanted to try the drinks on offer. Those of you who have been to Japan know that drinks are not the only things offered in the vending machines. You will find cigarettes, eggs, rice and even naughty things that I will not mention right here. 
After a few hectic days of work we decided to spend one night at a Japanese Ryokan and Onsen (Hot spring) in Hakkone. We were awfully exhausted after all the running around in Tokyo, staying out late singing Karaoke, shopping and eating that we were in bed by 9pm. I am sure that the cold air in Hakkone, the Onsen and the extremely huge traditional Japanese dinner contributed to the exhaustion. We had a wonderful stay and my uncle picked us up at 10am the following day. 

My uncle took us on the winding roads to Hakkone where they cook eggs in the smelly sulfur water. We frequently visited this place as children and call it "The Egg Land".  This time, we passed on the eggs and enjoyed the view instead. 

This is one of the very busy shopping roads in the young area Harajuku. In the middle of this road we found a colorful dog store that sold some really fun dog clothing and beds. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to buy anything for Betsy but enjoyed seeing the crazy costumes. 

I'd love to share more pictures but I think this is enough for now. We spent  a couple of wonderful nights on the country side with my uncle and wife. They cooked fantastic foods for us and we relaxed among the rice fields and the view of mount Fuji. During my trips to Japan as a child that house also had my grandmother and grand father living there. Unfortunately both of them have passed away but many memories are still left in the house and the gardens. 

September 29, 2010

Finally Autumn

My favorite season of the year has finally arrived, Autumn! After a long, humid and frustrating summer in NYC I can´t in words express how I feel. Autumn is for outdoors, for walks with my dog Betsy, for a nice cup of tea and for many other fun and enjoyable moments!

With autumn comes my sister´s new designs. Her recent addition is a beautiful girl´s jacket in corduroy. As I am currently working on translating her site with regards to not language but also, sizes and prices, you will notice that there is limited information on the website. If you are interested in seeing other views of the jacket please visit KINOKO. Please pay attention to the beautiful lining. If you are interested in buying the jacket this can be done through paypal or credit card, just let me know.

September 26, 2010

Tonight´s Fika is Drömmar

Fika is a Swedish term for coffe break/afternoon tea. It is both a verb and a noun. Swedes love to Fika and we do it at work, at home, in the bakery, coffee shop with co workers and with friends and family. My husband has a sweet tooth and very quickly memorized this term. When the clock turns 9pm in our home our dog Betsy starts wining and walks towards the cabinet where we keep her treats and my husband yells out in excitement "it´s Fika time!!!!". The other day I finally decided to make Drömmar for our Fika.

Drömmar (dreams) is one of my favorite Swedish cookies. I want to believe that they are named after big fluffy clouds that exists on pretty days and in wonderful dreams. These cookies have a rare ingredient which we in Swedish call Hjorthornssalt. In English it is called Hartshorn according to wikipedia. In the USA I have had a very hard time finding the English translation and the item itself.  Hjorthornssalt is a raising agent and is often used in Scandinavian cookie recipes. I obtained a small bag of Hjorthonssalt from my last trip to Sweden in order to bake various Swedish cookies. I have not yet attempted to bake these cookies with the substitute which might be called Bakers Ammonia- Ammonium Carbonate.

Following is the recipe for 90 Drömmar:

165 g Salted butter
335 g (4dl) granulated sugar
135 g (1 1/2 dl) oil ( i used canola oil, don't use olive oil)
365 g (6 dl) flour
5 g ( 1tsp) Hjorthornssalt
5 g (1 tsp) vanilla extract

1) Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius/ 302 degrees Fahrenheit
2) Mix butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the color is white
3) In a separate bowl mix flour, Hjorthornssalt and the vanilla extract
4) Add oil together with the flour mix to the butter and sugar mixture
mix. Use the electronic mix for for a few seconds and than use your hands to form a smooth dough. 
5) Shape 90 equal round marbles and place on a baking sheet. Dont place them to close as they will expand during baking
6) Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes

Fun facts: one of my favorite memories from childhood is when we would have Fika at home at night. My mum would steep a pot of earl grey tea and serve with Swedish Kanelbullar (Cinnamon buns). 

Baking Tip: Be careful with the oven temperature. If it is too hot the cookies will flatten. You can decorate the cookies by dipping them in chocolate or add almonds to the marbles before baking. 

September 18, 2010

A few days in Montreal

My husband and i spent two days, three nights in Montreal together with some friends and here is some of the adventures we experienced.... 

Poutin @ Frites Alores

A while back I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Montreal. I remember feeling sick to the bone when seeing the humongous plates stacked with fries, gravy and any desired topping! However, one must when visiting Canada was the Poutin, according to Wiki this dish originated in Quebec but is now a staple dish in many diners. I also read somewhere that this dish is a the national dish of Canada but I am not sure so don't take it as true until confirmed by a Canadian.

I received a recommendation to try the Poutin at Frites Alores. The four of us did the mistake of ordering two Large Poutin on top of the burgers, one would have been enough to feed the four of us. I am not sure how to review this dish other then I tried it, it tasted good but I think I had enough of it for the year or maybe lifetime! My husband might not agree, he would eat a bowl of this every day if his health allowed it.

Au Pied de Cochon
Steak frites
Plogue de champlain

I am not a foie gras fan because of the way foie gras comes about. Up to our Montreal trip I have had one mouth full, or maybe half a mouth full of foie gras in my life. Also, from Anthony Bourdan´s episode in Montreal, Bourdane goes to the restaurant A Pied de Cochon and the chef said said he would serve him every dish the restaurant had on their menu that contained foie gras until he would pretty much drop dead. Prior to leaving for Montreal we researched restaurants online and asked friends for recommendations and this specific restaurant was recurring with positive reviews. However, It was clear to us that it was hard to get a reservation and we were not big fans of foie gras and we thought no more about it. The plan for our final dinner in Montreal was a recommended fondue restaurant but after all the weekend eatings we all though we should go for a lighter meal. In the late afternoon we were having a drink at the M´ckibbin´s Irish Pub and thought of Au Pied de Cochon, gave them a call and got a reservation for 8pm. We were all very excited and the guys were looking up which dishes that were recommended highly in the reviews.

I was the least adventures person and had the Steak Frites (Frites in duck fat), delicious! The menu was quite expensive but not overwhelming and my table quickly found something of their choice. Pork, duck and foie gras were main ingredients. The waiter was sure to let us know during the placement of our order that we would not be needing anything else because the dishes we chose were heavy!!!!!! He was right!!! There was not even room for dessert. Apart from the food, we loved the ambiance, the music and the people.

Apart from eating poutin and all the rich foods above we also had crepes, Canadian bagels, risotto and steaks and sweet buns. Very full and content food wise by the time we left Montreal. However, eating was not the only thing we did, there was some sightseeing squeezed i nbetween the meals as well. We climbed up Mount Royal which provided us with a stunning view of Montreal, we strolled the hip streets of St Denis, St Laurent street, Crescent street, the cobble stone streets of the Plateau and old Montreal and took a windy and chilly cruise on St Lawrence river.  Something that I loved about Montreal was that many of the old buildings had been restored  and there was color on the buildings which added funness without creating a mess or tastelessness. Here are some buildings that intrigued me...

One of the things I wish I had done was to visit a cozy cafe. However,  prior to leaving the city I made a quick stop at the local boulangerie to buy some croissants and bread to bring back to NY. The croissants were so fresh and warm that I had to eat them right away (saved one chocolate croassant for the car trip). With me back to NY I bought a raisin and hazelnut loaf which in hindsight I regret, I should have bought at least 5 of them. The bread had loads of raisins and nuts and was still fresh and soft and moist the following day. I pay more for a freshly baked loaf of bread in NY and get bread that is dryer than dry the following morning!

Oh, by the way, our hotel was a cute little boutiquie hotel that I can highly recommend, Chateau Versailles!

September 14, 2010

Butter & butternut squash, Mozzarella, Ricotta & Heavy Cream....Who said Fat Free is the way to go?

Last Christmas my husband and I visited family in South Africa. One evening we were invited over for a braai, South African BBQ. One of my favorite side dishes was a butternut squash gratin which I tried to replicate the other night. I found a recipe that I used for inspiration but because I am not sure what  measurements I used for my gratin I will not make an attempt to try to put a recipe together for you. For those of you who eye ball the ingredients when cooking should not have a problem making this one at home. The ingredients were finely sliced butternut squash and potato, half and half, heavy cream, thyme, grated garlic, salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese for the top.

I made a baked salmon to serve on the side of the butternut squash gratin because it is quick and easy and creates no mess. Just rub each salmon fillet with olive oil and any choice of spice, bake for 20 minutes and ta-da! If you prefer a slight crust you can place the salmon under the broiler for a few seconds, tip from from my mother in law. 

Tip: My suggestion if you determine to make a butternut squash gratis is to substitute partially or completely the regular potato for sweet potato. Using a mandolin when slicing the butternut squash and potato saves you heaps of time! I bought my Martha Stewart Mandolin at kmart a few years ago, I think i paid less than $15 and it came with four different blades, a very useful tool! 

Butternut squash gratin & baked salmon

Lingon berry - Ricotta Mousse

For Dessert I wanted to make something that I didn't have to use the oven for as I had enough oven required dishes for the evening.  I had ricotta cheese in the refrigerator as well as raspberries so I browsed the web for a ricotta based recipe and found this appetizing one by Giada De Laurentiis. As I was preparing the dessert I realized I didn't have raspberry jam so I substituted this for Lingon berry jam and the result was quite delicious. I often compare the lingon berry with the cranberry as it is a rather bland berry and needs sugar added to it. If you go to the wiki link of the lingon berry you will see a picture of lingon berry jam on a toast,  I don't think I have ever eaten nor heard of anyone having lingon berry on a toast....

1 (15oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of any desired jam
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries or any desired berry that goes with your chosen jam

1) In a food processor, blend the ricotta cheese until light and fluffy, about 20 seconds. 
2) Add the jam and pulse until combined. Transfer to a large bowl. 
3)In a separate bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the cream until thick. 
4) Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. 
5) Working in batches, carefully fold the cream mixture into the ricotta mixture. 
6) Spoon the mousse into serving bowls and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
7) Garnish with your choice of berry and serve.

Fun information: The texture of the mouse was a bit unexpected to me as I am not accustomed to cooking with ricotta cheese. The textureof the cheese reminded me of the Swedish cheese cake Ostkaka. Funnily enough, ostkaka is often eaten with lingon berry jam and heavy cream. 

August 31, 2010

Gluten free, wheat free, crust free or just a giant omelet?

When I opened the refrigerator today I had a hard time planning dinner. Without exaggerating I was not able to find much more than eggs, milk, yogurt, cucumber, cheeses and a whole lot of condiments. Eggs and Milk means pancakes or Quiche to me. I checked the freezer and found spinach and ham and I was ready to start cooking!

For those on the Atkins, gluten intolerant, wheat sensitive or for those who just don't like crust, this quiche is a perfect dish. It is quick to make and you will be sure to get a big portion of your daily vegetable intake (something for my unhealthy husband J). Another great thing with this recipe is that you can add anything you want to the quiche and you can go on a scavenger hunt for cheese left-overs in the refrigerator and include it in the quiche. I had some smoked Gouda and Parmesan cheese and young Manchego. I made the mistake and bought the young Manchego the other day and it is something I will never do again. One of my favorite cheeses is Aged Manchego and tastes better the longer I keep in the refrigerator. The young Manchego does not measure up to the Aged Manchego and I am not shy to say that I would not waste the Aged Manchego in a Quiche........

Crustless Spinach Quiche

16oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 Cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese (can be substituted for any cheese)
1/2 Cup of Shredded young Manchego
1/2lb ham, cubed
3 Large Eggs
1 1/2 cups Milk
Salt & black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2) Lightly grease a 9-inch round or 8-inch square baking dish with olive oil
3) Shred the Gouda and Manchego cheese, alternatively use a food processor.
4) Whisk the eggs and add the milk, cheese, salt and pepper and lastly the spinach and Ham
5) Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
6) Bake until the center is set, around 30 min

Serve with a Side Salad or a why not a Salmon fillet.

If you are one of those who thinks nutmeg and spinach go hand in had, feel free to mix that in as well!

Tip: I always eyeball the amount of Milk in a quiche because I am not one to use a recipe when I make the dish. Depending on how well I squeezed the water out of the spinach or the overall consistency of the mix I might need to add more Milk. It is better that you always start with less Milk then what the recipe calls for. 

Fun information: It is interesting how spinach hanges taste and shape when it is cooked. My husband is not a big fan of cooked spinach as a side dish but would never say No to this Quiche. 

August 27, 2010

What's the story Morning Glory?

Needless to say, this muffin has nothing to do with the band Oasis but definitely lives up to it's name, the Morning Glory! If this muffin doesn't make you ready for another day at work I am not sure what will. .

Don't assume this muffin is for health freaks only and that it contains only whole wheat flour, bran flakes and banana. This muffin is something extraordinary, it is sacred and loved by everyone, it is juicy, fragrant and very nutritious! In addition, bran flake is not in the ingredient list!!!! This muffin has some resemblance to the carrot cake which probably explains why I absolutely adore it, I am a carrot cake lover as long as it comes with a nice cream cheese icing spread :).

Below is the recipe from Earthbound Farm Organics that I have altered slightly to fit my own taste! My first batch was came out very oily so I reduced the oil to 3/4 cup. I think it would be possible to reduce it a tad bit more without making it too dry. 

The muffins taste better a day after they are baked and they have a 3 day life in room temperature and 2 month life in the freezer! 

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
3/4 cup Earthbound Farm Organic Raisins and or Cranberries
1 large organic apple, peeled and grated
1 cup (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (optional but I would think it is required)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

White sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds to sprinkle. If you are a cup cake fan just mix together some cream cheese with vanilla extract and powdered sugar to top the muffin with. 

1) Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
2) Sift or whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. 
3) Add the coconut, raisins, apple, pineapple, carrots, and nuts, and stir to combine.
4) In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil and vanilla. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and blend well.
5) Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with muffin cups, filling each to the brim. 
6) Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds. Cool muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.


Tip: If you're not a heavy oil user be sure to buy a small bottle of oil because oil gets spoiled and you don't want it to go to waste, there is enough oil spill to last a lifetime!

Fun information: My dog Betsy loves carrots and she recognizes the sound of a carrot being peeled. She waited patiently for me to finish all the peeling and she waited through the grating and was rather surprised to see all that orange food go to waste into the batter. I could not be so cruel as to not save her some carrots so in the end her tail was wagging!

August 21, 2010

A have to try recipe!

This is an wonderful recipe for anyone who loves Parmesan cheese and is looking for new ideas to eat an old boring potato. When i buy russet potatoes for gratin or curries or salads I always buy a whole bag of it. Needless to say I always end up with a few extra potatoes and I don´t know what to do with them. Plain old boiled potato is a staple in my home country Sweden but my husband is not the biggest fan so eating meat/chicken or fish with boiled potato is not a hit in my home. One of my favorite foodnetwork chefs is Anne Burell, her funky blond hairstyle makes her cooking a lot more interesting and fun. Although I don't have the HD foodnetwork channel anymore I frequently brows their website and look for interesting recipes.

This 5 star recipe is called Pommes Chef Anne and is a side dish i am sure to prepare again!

3 Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
Extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano
kosher Sale
Mandoline to facilitate the slicing of the potato!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Slice one potato at a time on the mandoline. Work quickly as potatoes discolor. Do not put the potatoes in water because this will wash the starch off the potatoes. Coat an 8-inch nonstick saute pan with olive oil. Place the sliced potatoes from the middle and in circles to the edge of the pan. Brush each layer with olive oil sprinkle generously with grated Parmigiano and salt between the layers. After every layer of potatoes press the potatoes so they are very compact. 
Place the pan of potatoes over medium heat and cook until the olive oil begins to sizzle and the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place a tight fitting lid on the pan. Drain the excess oil out the side of the pan. THIS STEP IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!!! After the excess oil has been drained, completely flip the pan so the cake is turned out onto the bottom of the lid, then slide the cake off the lid back into the pan so the brown side of the cake is now up and the top becomes the bottom. We see now why draining the excess oil is important- if you attempt this without draining the oil it will drain out on your wrist and burn you.
Return the cake to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the cake is fork tender. Cut into wedges and serve. The recipe serves 4 but as usual, in our family it was only enough for two.....

Tip: Be careful not to grab the pan handle right after you take it out of the oven! I rarely, actually, I never cook with a pan in my oven and naturally forgot that it had been in there and grabbed the handle!!!! My hand is ok but red and sore and smothered in aloe vera! 

August 18, 2010

Giant White Berries!!!!

The blue berries that I find in the stores, fresh or frozen, or at green markets are not blueberries. I think I would like to call them whiteberries with blue skin. The only thing they are good for is smoothies and sometimes muffins and fruit salads. My biggest surprise about the american blueberries was that there are low bush blueberries and high bush blueberries. When i went hiking in Harriman state park a few years back i discovered both variates. The high bush blueberry was more like a tree, almost 2 meters high....WOW.

Real blueberries are blue on the inside and on the outside and they make your teeth and your tongue blue when you eat them. The blueberries will stain your clothes and they will leave marks on your fingers when you pick them. Real blueberries are are sweet and make the best blueberry pies!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr. Whiteberry Muffin

This recipe is from
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup fat-free(skim)milk (I recommend Whole Milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flower
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries (cascadianfarms recommmend their blueberries, I would recommend European blueberries)

1) Heat oven to 440F. Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray, or place paper baking cup in each muffin cup.
2) Mix brown sugar and cinnamon, set aside
3) In a large bowl, beat milk, oil, honey and egg with a spoon. Stir in flours, baking powder and salt just until flours are moistened (batter will be lumpy). Gently fold in blueberries.
4) Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (cups will be full). Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake about 20 minutes until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan.
5) ENJOY while still warm or at room temperature at a later occasion!

Lastly, i would like to add that I LOVE American raspberries!!!! They are huge, bright red and they grow in clusters, like grapes. When I first saw these little fury berries in the forest I was absolutely amazed! They were so pretty and way too beautiful to eat. Needless to say, the hike had drained all my energy and I indulged the treasure!

Summer vegetables!

Living in NY doesn't quite provide me with fresh vegetables all year around. I could probably find almost any vegetable and fruit in NY all year around but they would most probably not be locally grown or taste anything like freshly harvested. Although NY summer is the most dreaded season of the year I also love it. There is a huge variety of green markets on Manhattan and the supply of fresh local vegetables and fruits are almost limitless. The taste of a red ripen tomato or freshly picked basil is divine. I was invited to my co-workers house the other day and she send me home with pretty, mouth watering tomatoes, cucumber and figs. 

Mr Gurken, Mrs yellow grape tomato and Miss Red ripen tomato

Before moving to NY I don't think I ever tried fresh figs. Growing up in Sweden i remember only eating dried figs. As far as I remember my first fresh fig was eating two summers ago and it was fantastic. The fig tree is a must in my future garden, side by side with my apricot tree :). When my husband and I visited South Africa at the end of last year I tried green fig preserve, Groenvyekonfyt,    Which was served with Brie cheese, it was absolutely amazing. Important to point out is that this fig preserve tasted nothing, and I mean it, nothing like any fig preserve I have tried so far.

Walnut Pesto:
One of my favorite picnic dishes is pesto pasta salad. It is so easy to prepare and I can add all my favorite summer ingredients and some grilled chicken or spicy salami for protein. My typical pesto ingredients have always been olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and of course basil. I am sure you all know that pine nuts is not the cheapest nut out there but  very important for the pesto. The other day I had bought a huge bunch of fresh basil and wanted to make pesto. I took my pine nuts out of the cupboard and opened the jar. I sniffed and discovered that my precious nuts had gone rancid, I had to throw them out. i revisited the cupboard for alternative ingredient and found a pound of walnuts. I went online and actually found a Walnut Pesto recipe. I am glad (in a way) that my pine nuts had hone bad otherwise I would never have discovered my new favorite pesto recipe. I didn't save the recipe but basically, you would just substitute the pine nuts for the walnuts.

August 11, 2010

A creative family!

When it comes to sewing and being creative with fabric and furniture I am not certainly not the one in my family with the biggest ideas. I wouldn't even say that I have the skill or patience for creative work. However, my mother is a great painter and a great tailor. My sister is a great designer of children's clothing, a talented tailor and an extraordinary inventive person. You can see all my sisters work and her creative ideas at her blog at KINOKO. The blog is in Swedish but you if you use the Google Translator at the bottom of the blog it will translate it to your desired language.

Occasionally ideas pop into my mind and occasionally I get an urge to use my hands to creative something, when this happens I decide to go for it. I wish I was better at following things through but it is difficult when there are so many different and exciting crafts to discover. I started calligraphy, then I discovered card making, then knitting and then I got my beautiful dog, Betsy. Today I spend a lot of time with Betsy and I spend a lot of time "nesting" at home. If there is one thing that I enjoy the most it is definitely cooking!

I have quite a few cookbooks but I rarely cook according to recipes. I don't buy cookbooks without pictures as I want cookbooks to be inspirational and exciting. I tear out recipes of magazines and I sort them neatly in a binder or if they are short recipes I fit them into my recipe book. I watch food network and collect recipes from family, friends and colleagues. You will see a few recipes on this blog, most probably more posts on cooking then anything else!

One of my favorite cooking blogs is 101cookbooks. A few weeks back I found a recipe on Grilled Salt & Vinegar Potatoes on this website which I knew my husband would love. If my husband could be a bottle of vinegar he certainly would. He pours vinegar on everything he eats, even Salt and Vinegar potato chips. He adds vinegar on rice, on pizza, on stir fry or casseroles, pretty much on everything which is why I knew that this recipe would be a hit!

I made a small modification to force the recipe possible for an apartment without a grill (suitable for broiling in the oven in other words). I also exchanged the white wine vinegar  to Japanese rice wine vinegar as it is the only vinegar we use in our home.Finally, I wasn't sure what waxy potato was so I used the potatoes I had in the refrigerator, Russets ......

2 cups  Japanese rice wine vinegar
1 pound  Russet Potato, sliced 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

fennel salt to taste (grind fennel seeds and sea salt) 

Place the sliced potatoes in a saucepan, cover with the vinegar. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 min. Turn the heat off and leave the potatoes in the vinegar for 30 minutes. Drain and gently toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Heat the broiler and broil until golden on one side, around 5 minutes, flip each potato slice and broil other side. Serve immediately with sprinkled salt or fennel salt to taste.

Although the recipe is for 4 people we finished it all in one sitting..... 

A chair with new memories!

We have a chair that I am very fond of, however the memories are not the most pleasant as they relate to roommates that we once had. I have wanted to upholster the chair for a long time and did a short cut a few months back. However, I was not quite happy with it so I did a complete makeover. I sanded the legs to reduce the bite marks caused during Betsy's teething period. I also sanded the legs to make the paint stick better. I removed the fabric and the cushioning  and replaced both. 

A while back I bought a memory foam mattress topper for our bed. This was a mistake as our bed was already memory foam and when we added the memory foam topper we sank right down. The initial purpose of the topper was to make it easier to make the bed. The memory foam base is heavy and thick and every time we stripped the bed and had to put a new sheet on we had to life the mattress and this was troublesome and very bad for our backs. 
Long story short, we decided to store the topper in the closet and I have since then spent hours thinking of new uses for it. I made a bed for Betsy with some of the foam and I took a piece for the chair. I think I am quite happy with the result....

My husband always says that I am the most stingy person he knows because I don't want to waste anything 



August 8, 2010

Decorative pillows for a plain sofa

I am a bit of an indecisive person and my husband complains about that at times. The fact that the two of us have different taste when it comes to colors and furniture is not making the decision process easier. What I have learned is that I should go with my choice because I am the one who will blame him for his choice if I don´t like something. However, sometimes we need to compromise. When we bought a new sofa late last year he insisted we buy a corner sofa while I wanted a three seater with a chaise. Those of you who have shopped for Sofas have probably noticed that the price is pretty much the same but you get more seats with a corner sofa. I didn’t think our living room was big enough to accommodate a corner sofa but gave in as I got to choose the color. Needless to say I am happy with decision as my seat is the corner of the sofa which functions as a chase and I got my plain vanilla choice of fabric, beige.

To spice up the room I decided to buy some fun fabric and make some decorative pillows. I found this charming print online and bought a simple shiny grey trim from my favorite store Tinsel Tading. I already had the pillow inserts which made the project simple and cheap.

I also found this pretty fabric online, it has a cute baby blue parrot blended into the beige pattern which makes the fabric somewhat fun but also discrete.  The  pillow insert I used was from a pillow that I bought two years ago from IKEA. I copied the pillow cover and this was the outcome:


Finally, my new blog! To start with,  the first picture you see on my blog is not my home but it would have been great if this cape dutch house at Blaauklippen winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa was my residence. I live in New York city, a 1br apartment in Manhattan with my husband and my miniature schnauzer Betsy. I add and subtract numbers while dreaming of creative projects and travel during the day,  and I spend most of my spare time with my little family, nesting around at home, making long trips and short trips to various places and dreaming big of my future house, a house on the country side with chickens that provide me with fresh eggs in the morning, a herb garden, lemon tree, avocado tree, bird bath, a back yard for my dog…and so on…. For now, I try to find pleasure and enjoyment in life by doing what I feel like doing!

My name is Hermina, at least that is what my husband calls me, I was born in Sweden by my Japanese mother, I live in New York city and I am married to a global man who doesn't know where he is from. The intentions with this blog is to make me more active and productive in my life and to share it with others!!!!! This blog is going to be a great mix of home decor, cooking, baking, travel and maybe some things about fashion and other fun projects. What ever floats my boat will posted right here! 

Before i start, I'd like to share some of my cooking influences:
My father has a culunary background and cooked pretty much every single dinner at our house when I was growing up. He refused to buy baby food or any processed or ready to eat food. He made his sauces froms cratch, the pancake batter from scratch and all his marinates from scratch. Although he is not practicing anything close to cooking these days my heart still remembers his ribs, port cutlets with creamy mushroom sauce, oxtail casserole, meatballs and pancakes! If I asked my dad about any of his recipes I am sure he would throw out some key words on how to make thecook but I doubt he actually remembers the small details that were just the extra touch to perfect he flavor.  I hope to incorporate some of his recipes in this blog.

My mother however, hated anything that had to do with cooking but also learned almost everything she knows about cooking from my father. Eventually their cooking styles were the same but the focus was different. My dad always planned for the day while my mum planned long term. She would cook big pots of curries or meat sauce and freeze them in portions together with their starch so that my sister and I would always have homecooked meals easily accessible. My mum would always make sure there was a big salad or some other yummy vegetable side dishes with the meal. She was always about nutrients and thought we should gain all the vitamins and minerals from the food we eat and not from supplements. Although not always practices in our house but often desired by my monther, she strongly believed that each meal should consist of 7 different dishes. This is one of japanese golden rules when it comes to food!

My mom used to love spending time with her friends in the forest picking blueberries, lingonberries and various mushrooms. She would make jam, juice and pies from the berries, and creamed mushroom on toast. She would dry some of the mushrooms and use them in sauces in winter. 
My mom is pretty much a vegatrian and is an experit in making exciting salads. I personnally think the cherry on the ice cream is the like the dressing on the salad. My mom has never bought a pre-mixed dressing. She makes all her dressings from scratch which is usually a perfect blend of various herbs, or herb mix, oilve oil with vinegar or a generous amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Everytime I am standing at the dressing isle in th grocery store I hear my mum’s voice..... Why don’t you make you own dressing?!  

Growing up I was not very interested in cooking and no one ever expected any of my dished to come of scrumptious or even eatable....... In university I started cooking to save money and to eat healthier. My now husband and I loved and still love to spend time in bookstores. I was always stuck in the cooking section while he was browsing the music shelves. Getting inspiration from all the Asian influenced students and restaurants in Brisbane (where we were both studying) I began my serious interest in cooking! 

I am lucky to have a husband who is always hungry so I can experiment with different ingredients and dishes. He will eat everything put in front of him except for anything zucchini looking! 

I hope you will enjoy  the blog!