Monday, December 7, 2009

Baking with my Grandmother

Sean and I took a trip back "home" to Sweden for the week of Thanksgiving. It was a short visit, but wonderful nonetheless. It sure feels like we spent a lot of time on our behinds in the airplane. We stayed the entire time with my paternal grandparents, "Farmor" (Grandmother) and "Farfar" (Grandfather), in their home near Arboga, Sweden.

I've written about this place before on my blog - it's the place where I spent my summers while young, and I have so many good memories of playing here with my parents, my brother and my cousins.

My favorite forest. So deep, dark and mysterious....

When I need to think of a place where I feel calm, at peace and utterly at home - the forest near this place is what I imagine. It is surrounded by tall pinetrees, with a floor of wet white moss, grey moss, granite boulders, blueberry bushes and lingon berry bushes. There is moose, fox, rabbit, all kinds of forest birds and lately also lynx (we saw tracks!).

My grandmother and I had decided in advance to have some baking sessions together, since we rarely get to bake for Christmas together. Being that the sun sets at 3pm in Sweden this time of year, we had plenty of indoors time for baking. Our first baking adventure was a basic Swedish cinnamon roll, but we added saffron (traditional Swedish Christmas baking spice), almond paste and raisins. Here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups melted butter plus 1/3 cup melted butter for filling
1 cup sugar

2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp saffron

1 tsp. salt
2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp.)
8-9 cups all purpose or bread flour

2 Tbsp. cinnamon

Almond Paste
1 egg plus 2 Tbsp. water, lightly beaten together into an egg wash

Pearl sugar (or crushed sugar cubes)

Melt the butter and add milk, heat it until it reaches body temperature roughly - use your (clean!) finger to test. You can do this in the microwave as well (but my grandparents don't have one!).

Add to a bowl with the sugar, salt, cardamom and saffron. Stir in the yeast.
Add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is firm and p
ulls away from the side of your mixing bowl. We use human power and a wooden spoon, but you can use a mixer with a dough hook as well.

Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch down the dough, then remove from bowl. On a floured counter, knead dough lightly until smooth and shiny. Use a knife to split the dough into two halves.

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular(ish) shape. No thinner than 1/4 inch.
Adding raisins.

Adding shredded almond paste.

Brush with melted butter, add raisins and then shred almond paste over the entire dough.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and some more sugar ( 1 tbsp or so) if you want. Raisins are optional too!
You can also top with sliced almonds.

Roll the rectangle from the top (long side) until you make a long cylinder. Cut each cylinder into slices about 1 inch wide. Place each slice into paper cups on a baking sheet.

Time to sleep for a little while!

Cover with a dishtowel and let them rise for another 45 minutes.

Behind the new electric stove is the old woodfire oven.
It's been sealed shut but the space remains, and at Christmas my grandmother fills it with small santas and gnomes.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Brush with egg/water mixture and sprinkle with pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes.

Bake for 7 minutes until medium golden brown.

Stay tuned for some more baking with my Farmor. Next we made gingersnaps. :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last Canning Session

I finally managed to find some time for the last canning session(s) of the year. My friend Janice had purchased some mountain apples for me, and I turned them into applesauce and apple/rosemary jelly.

For the applesauce, I used a saucer attachment to my mom's old Electrolux mixer. That mixer is probably close to 38 years old and it still works great. I mix most of my bread in that mixer.
I made one classic applesauce mix with apples and sugar, and one with cinnamon and only using honey as a sweetener. I'm trying to not eat "as much" sugar as I used to, and we will see how this works. I found the recipe for apple/rosemary jelly on Pioneer Woman's recipe site, called Tasty
Kitchen. My kitchen smelled great with the apple rosemary mixture cooking on the stove. I let the jelly liquid drain for about 20 hours using cheesecloth as a strainer. It took me a few more days to find time to cook it so I had it in the fridge for a few days. Once it was time to can the jelly (and turn the juice concentrate into jelly) I did a major mistake.
I started overachieving.
You know, thinking I can "just" vacuum for a few minutes while the pot of jelly starts boiling on the stove. Ha!

After I cleaned up the boiled over jelly that went all over the stove, down the stove cabinet, INTO the stove cabinet, and finally all over the floor.....and trying to keep Kane from the hot liquid and keep myself from sticking to the floor.....after that I still came out with 9 half-pints of jelly. But just imagine how much I COULD HAVE HAD. sigh.

The floor is still sticky. I have washed it. Twice.

Here's to the women who can really multitask and who do not get caught up in vaccuming.
Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Newlyweds and Peppers Galore

Greetings from the newlyweds! :-) Yes, it's great although it really doesn't feel like much has changed. lol. Instead of the "When are you getting married?" questions, we now get the "When are you getting pregnant?" questions. lol. Oh and the "Mrs. Baaaaaaarley" wherever I go. Yep. You know who you are. I'm hereby letting you know that you're weird. And you should stop now.

Our honeymoon weekend at the Biltmore Estate in the NC mountains was awesome. We had a great time, eating good food, enjoying adventures that friends had so graciously given us as wedding gifts. Here we are enjoying the Segway tour. Off-road Segways are so much fun!

Back home I ventured out in the garden to find that the bok choi and chard I had planted the weekend before the wedding had survived, the cabbage and broccoli that still needs to be planted has survived the neglect, the raspberry bushes and persimmon tree that friends gave us for the wedding are waiting for their "place" and I had a huge bounty of peppers! I think I'm going to make some pepper jelly this weekend and can it as holiday gifts. We have a mixture of Carolina Bell peppers, Banana peppers and some Wenk's Yellow Hot. I also have some cutie Lemon Drop hot peppers that aren't in the picture.

I also have to take care of these that my friend Janice got for me during their trip to a mountain orchard. Apple sauce here we come.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our wedding day!

Here are a few initial photos. It was a gorgeous day - a few raindrops in the morning, warm and sunny (and humid!) but a perfect day nonetheless. All the hard work we did up until one hour before paid off. The food was delicious, the place was gorgeous, our friends and family were there and I married the most wonderful man in the world. :-) Life is good indeed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jamfest 2009

My awesome friend Janice graciously volunteered to help me with cooking and canning the strawberry jam that we're going to use for favors at the wedding. Thus Jamfest '09 was born.

The 'jammin begins....

We had two batches going at any time, and once we had done two batches we got down to it; Janice decided on an improvised assembly line and off we went and canned 84 6oz jars of strawberry jam.
Yes, you read that right. 84 jars. My kitchen was COOKING during jamfest. I cannot wait for that electric bill....

"The Jammers"

(I was making my mom a salad for lunch. She was doing hard time with Sean on the walkway outside, and so the very least I could do was to make her lunch. So no, we did not add avocado and mushrooms to the jam....)

The final product turned out good. A few of the jars did not seal all the way, not even after a second hot water bath. Next time, I will do more research to find smooth side canning jars with double lids so that I won't have to worry. On the flipside, all the jars that didn't seal are in my fridge now, begging to be eaten.
Final pictures will be posted once I have the fabulous labels (ordered via Ms Pickles Press on Etsy because Mrs. JP reminded me to not do everything myself!)

Less than 4 weeks left! :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

223 pieces of bread

My dear friend came over a few weekends ago, and brought her KitchenAid mixer. It was time to bake bread for the wedding.
I had already decided on a simple recipe for good rolls, that wouldn't require a lot of hand-shaping or kneading for that matter.
I made these rolls a few weekends before for my bridal shower and everyone loved them, so....I'm hoping everyone will love them for the wedding as well!!!

I froze some after the shower and they turned out fine, so hopefully being frozen for 6+ weeks won't hurt them.

Sean was busy outside with our neighbor's digger digging a trench for the flagstone walkway. It's going to look great. Gotta love a man that knows how to operate heavy machinery. :-)

With my Electrolux mixer (30+ years old, and still kicking!) and her KitchenAid, we made a dozen sets of dough. My mixer made 2 to hers making one, so we did pretty well.

The dough looked like little mushrooms rising under the towels.... This dough requires no kneading and after rising, all you do is tip it out onto a surface with some flour on it and cut each set into 12-14 pieces, irregular shape is fine.

We put parmesan cheese on some, some with sesame seeds, some with sea salt and some just plain. Then we baked them for 12 minutes or so, and voila - after at least 8 hours of baking (and cleaning) we had 223 rolls of bread.

Minus the three that I had right out of the oven.
Minus the three that Julie had right out of the oven.
Minus the four that Sean ate coming in from digging the walkway outside.
Minus the two that Kane stole off the dining room table when I wasn't looking. (with cheese of course.)
Minus the five that I let Julie take home with her.

Here's the recipe for wedding rolls:
3 3/4 tsp dry yeast (I use bread machine yeast, if you don't here's a conversion table)
500 ml or 2 cups + 3 tbsp water (body temperature)

100 ml or 1/2 cup of kefir, plain yougurt or milk
2 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey

5 - 5.5 cups all-purpose flour

Mix all ingredients except the flour in a bowl.
Add half of the flour at first and mix until you have a nice shiny dough. Add the rest of the flour.
The dough will be a bit looser than what you may be used to.

Place a towel over the bowl and let it rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Turn your oven on to 425 F.

Pour the dough out onto a surface well dusted with flour. Do Not Knead!!!

Use a sharp knife or dough scraper to cut into 12-15 pieces.
Add toppings if you wish. Toppings tend to stick better if you brush the rolls with a little water first.

Bake them for 14-16 minutes, preferrably with a bowl of water in your oven to get some steam.
Let cool on a wire-rack.
Eat promtply with butter. Yes, butter. The real stuff.

Once they have cooled, you can freeze them if you wish.
Find a friend to bake with. I highly recommend it.

Somewhat of a garden bounty

The happy harvesters.

The kids came over again (see Let's plant potatoes) came back to dig up their potatoes and were sorely disappointed....sadly enough, they only got a few potatoes from their two rows. Our potatoes just did not do well this year.

Luckily the rest of the garden is delivering, so they got to pick green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, hot peppers and cucumbers. The day was saved! (plus - who doesn't like digging in the dirt? lol)

Hope you were able to share your garden(s) this year!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Canning Pictorial

The wedding invitations are sent out and I am rewarding myself by doing a short pictorial of the canning we have done this year. First up were the canned peaches, recipe and instructions courtesy of the informative and knowledgeable Mrs. Zen at TennZen.

We then graduated to peach jam, with real vanilla beans. Yumm.....

We canned two different kind of pickles. The one on the left is pickle chips with a "Rodale spice mix" which includes bay leaves, mustard seeds, ginger, coriander, allspice, peppercorns and dried chilis. The one on the right is dill pickle spears with dill, mustard seeds and garlic cloves.
The chips are responsible for banning me from using the (new) mandolin..... I am so smart stupid that I did not feel the need to use the holder that comes with it, and promptly sliced off a nice chunk on one finger. Nice work. Even better was when I, a mere 2 days later, did it again on the next two fingers on the same hand. Apparently I don't like to learn from my mistake, and again felt that I was so smart stupid that I didn't need the holder. Then Sean banned me from the mandolin. But I know where he hid it.

The gracious and wonderful Mrs. JP over at "The Little Dog Shelter in the Holler" shared her recipe for salsa, and Sean and I spent an entire evening making LOTS of salsa with my pinieapple tomatoes. Hence the orange color salsa. We made a medium spicy for me, and a spicy version for him.

Now I just have this to work on. 96 small jars that are waiting on strawberry jam, blueberry jam and maybe a tomato marmalade. These will be the favors for the wedding, and I've found the most adorable little labels to put on the outside.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So much to do

In case it seems like I never blog anymore, this is why.
The DIY AMAYC (As Much As You Can) wedding is only 8 weeks and 2 days away!
(Excuse me while I run off and scream into a pillow)

It's not that bad, really. But there are a lot of things to do. Kane may just not get a lot of training in the next two weeks. My garden might feel a bit neglected. I'm feeling bad already.... :-)
The favors have to be done, the bread bakes, the porta-pottys ordered (thanks, hon!), the shrug knitted, the invitations mailed, the shoes must be found, the decorations decided on and aquired.....

The most important thing is that we have a date, we have a minister and we are ready!
What else do we need, right? (well, yes, a license would be good to make it all official and all, I know)

It's going to be very busy, but fun at the same time. Sean is such a wonderful guy, I can't wait to make things official! :-)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Basil pesto pizza

Sean does not appreciate the minimaters the way I do, so his 40% is without.

Here's a slightly homegrown thrown together pizza recipe that we made the other weekend. I was hungry for some homemade pizza, and our garden is just overflowing with basil, and mini-maters, so I created this:

Basil Pesto pizza with Kalamata Olives and Mini Tomatoes

The basil pesto recipe I have is an adapted version from a Jamie Oliver cookbook:

Toasted pinenuts (toast in cast iron pan on stove for a few minutes - keep your eyes on them, or they WILL burn)
A few handful of washed, dried basil leaves
1 garlic clove
Salt and Pepper

Mix all this in a foodprocessor. Add olive oil and handful of parmesan cheese until you get the right "pasty" consistency.

Set your oven to 450 Fahrenheit.

I have a few different pizza-dough recipes I like, but Here is the one I used this time.

I finagled (that's right, finagled!) the dough into the right thickness and shape, placed it on the hot baking stone, spread the pesto out evenly, dribbled on some mini maters, sliced kalamata olives and then.....more shredded parmesan cheese (the real kind, mind you, not the stuff from a can).
I popped it in the oven for 8-10 minutes (depending on your oven). Watch for a golden crust and melted parmesan cheese.

As you can (not) see, it was so good that we promptly ate it and completely forgot about taking a picture of it. :-)

Have a great weekend everyone! My best friend is in town and Sunday is my BRIDAL SHOWER!!!! :-))))

ps. No we did not have pizzasalad with this pizza. :-(

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tag Two

A place that makes me happy - my grandparents place in Sweden, wintertime.
Phew - just looking at this picture cools me down!


YD at YD's A Little Bit of Everything tagged us for a cute little list of 6 things that make me happy. Thanks for the tag, YD!

Here we go:

1. Being with Sean makes me happy. No matter where we are or what we're doing. I luv you hun, can't wait to marry you in a few months! muah!

2. Training my dog Kane makes me happy! I love interacting with him, seeing him think, learn and having his attention is an awe-inspiring feeling.

3. Growing my own vegetables. This is our second garden year and I am delighted with everything that grows well, and confounded with everything that doesn't. It's such a joy to see something you started and nurtured as a seed all of a sudden be a healthy, vigourous living green thing!That gives back to you! Even better!

4. Being at "Torpet" - my grandparents place in Sweden. Tall, dark pine woods with blueberry bushes for carpet, quiet forests, big granite rocks, plum trees, currants and strawberry patch, the lilac hedge, "fika" and my grandmothers cooking. I get a content kind of feeling just looking at pictures from there.

5. Spending time with friends.

6. Living in the here and now. Being thankful for all the gifts life has given me, starting every day with a smile.

I'm going to tag my friend Lisa at Molto di Moda Designs with this one - she has such a wonderful way of writing about the things she enjoys, I'm sure she will come up with something good! :-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tagged! (1 out of 2)

A picture that has nothing to do with this post. I just felt like it needed a picture!
I took this last year on our vacation back to Sweden, and I've added some texture.
Typical southern Swedish farm house.

Two people awarded us with this tag!! Wow! I feel so popular! Thank you guys! Wvfarmgirl over at Creating Utopia in WV, One Project at a time and JP and Mrs. JP over at The little dog shelter in the holler tagged us for the Honest Scrap. The deal is to tell your readers 10 things about you that they may or may not know, but are true.
Thank you to the talented vwfarmgirl and the lovely and wonderful JP and Mrs. JP for this tag. We love your blogs!

1. Sean grew up on an 8000 acre farm and ranch operation in New Mexico.
2. Lena once threw her brothers Nintendo game into the wall so that it broke. Not a very well thought out plan, since this meant she had to give him hers.
3. Lena hates bananas.
4. Sean is allergic to bee-stings, ever since he was stung in the main artery once as a child. The epi-pen is our friend and goes with us everywhere.
5. Lena has never broken a bone in her body.
6. Kane is afraid of feathers.
7. Lena wants to learn how to play the guitar some day.
8. Sean owns workout videos titled "Yoga Booty Ballet" (I've never seen him actually work out to them though, but stay tuned, my camera is ready!)
9. Lena reads romance novels like they are going out of style. (No wonder the house never gets cleaned!!!)
10. Sean makes THE BEST cream cheese stuffed and bacon-wrapped jalapenos!

Now I am supposed to tag others....well, I'll just put this out there for the masses - if you feel like doing this tag- GO AHEAD! If you feel like you want to be singled out tagged, let me know and I will be happy to tag you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What to do with all the cucumbers?!?

Along with the mini mater invasion this year, I'm also having a very good cucumber year. Self-seeded cucumbers at that. They are climbing the 6ft fence is several spots, shamelessly using the lettuce that went to seed as shade, and they have higher aspirations than the tomatoes - using their trellises to wind their way up, up, up. I draw the line at them winding their little tentacles around the peppers and eggplants though. Enough of that, you are being yanked back and put elsewhere! There should be some order in my garden! :-)

I promised Lisa at
Molto di Moda Designs that I would post some cucumber recipes, so here goes. This is a fun and quick recipe for a thai pickled cucumber salad that I made tonight.
I used my own cucumbers, the french red shallots that grew over winter, and my friend Melika's hot peppers that she gave me last week. I have no clue what they are, but they are adorable and look like little Christmas lights.

Thai Pickled Cucumber Salad - Ajad
(Enough for 4-6 people)
1 cucumber (mine was about 8 inches)
2 medium-sized shallots or other mild onion, Vidalia would work
1/2 red chili pepper or other hot pepper

Vinegar Mixture
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp regular sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp rice vinegar

Make the vinegar mixture first.
Place sugar and salt in a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the vinegar. Let sit.

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half length-wise.
With a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard (compost bin!).
Slice the cucumber across. Place cucumbers in the vinegar mixture.

Chop the shallots and clean the hot pepper before chopping it as well.
Add hot pepper and shallots and stir.

It may seem as if you don't have enough liquid at first, but the cucumbers will release some water as well.

Let sit for about an hour.

I really like the sweet-hot-sour mixture of this pickled salad. This would be a nice side to any asian dish, or even to a nice meal from the grill.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Great Mini Mater Invasion and the Pizza Salad

Once upon a time there was a salad, it was a cabbage salad, and it wasn't very exciting. It was depressing, really, and it needed some spicing up.
In walks the swedish pizza-chef with a fabulous recipe:

Shred half a head of green cabbage, preferably with a cheese-slicer. Place in a bowl.
Sprinkle on 1/2 tsp sea salt, a few turns with the black pepper grinder.
Add some italian seasonings - thyme, oregano, basil.
Mix up a small batch of basic vinaigrette: 1/3 apple cider vinegar and 2/3 oil (I used canola)
Pour the vinaigrette over the cabbage and spices, mix well.
Cover with plastic and let sit in fridge overnight.
Sample the next day and add more salt or pepper depending on your preferences.

All was well - the swedish pizza salad had been invented.

Swedish pizza is near and dear to my heart. When my friends ask what I want to eat while I'm at home, I always say "Let's get some pizza!" At which point they look at me like I'm crazy. But it is not true, they say, that you live in the land of deep dish pizza? The land of pepperoni and extra cheese? The land of Papa Johns, Little Ceasar and Domino's? Why do you want Swedish pizza?

Swedish pizza is thin crust, are single servings (if you LOVE them like I do!) and have interesting Italian names like Capricciosa, Quattro Stagniono etc. And they always come with a small container of pizza salad.

And now back to the SC homefront:

We are under attack. I repeat, we are under attack. The mini maters (also known as sweet currant) have decided to launch an invasion. They are all ripening and intense speed and take forever to pick. But they're good. Oh are they ever good. Especially on salads. Yum.

The zucchini is ripening at frightening speed. We had stuffed zucchini last night (and probably will all week). We have a boatload of cucumbers that needs something done to them, lots of green tomatoes (not mini), and a ton of melon flowers, but no melons. The corn is catching up, and I think we'll have to harvest the potatoes early, They just already died off.....just not a good potato year here.
Hope you are enjoying the fruits of your labor!