Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Scandinavian Traditions

In our family, the holiday season kicks off with lefse making at Grandma's house shortly after Thanksgiving.  Closer to Christmas, we make the more perishable things: potato sausage and krumkake. Both are served on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. I don't eat the sausage, but take part in making it--gotta preserve family traditions!

1. Wash and peel the potatoes.

2. Chop and cook one onion.
4. Slice and then grind the salt pork. Only a little bit goes in.

5. Grind the potatoes.

6. Rinse casings and check for knots or other flaws.

7. Cut casings to desired sausage length.

8. Rinse casings.

9. Mix ground potatoes with ground pork. Then add salt, pepper, and allspice. There isn't a set recipe for this--this year the basic plan was 10 pounds of potatoes to 4 pounds of meat, and spiced to taste. Mom throws a little bit of meat into a skillet, Grandma cooks it up, and everyone tastes to determine what else is needed. There is a lot of allspice!
10. Stuff the casings! This is when we were just starting, so all you see is air coming out of the machine, but I did make some pretty good sausages!
11. Smile awkwardly as mom wipes spashed meat off of your t-shirt.
Voila! The finished product!

Yesterday evening we also made krumkake, but almond flavored, not lemon.
It was quite an operation, now that technology has provided us with an electric grill that makes two at a time! Grandma knew exactly how to set up the table; one roller on each side and the cooker in the middle, so things went very smoothly.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Graduation + Hardly Cookies

Well, graduation weekend has come and gone. While it took me a day to recover from everything, it was a very nice weekend.  My dad flew into Pullman on Thursday, and he helped me with various Hort Club tasks on Thursday and Friday, before attending the Holiday Party with me. 

On Saturday morning Michael showed up outside my apartment at 4 am after driving all the way up from Northern California. I donned my cap, gown, stole, medal, and Dean's List cord, and walked through the ceremony to get my WSU red diploma cover. Sitting there in my voluminous black gown it became a bit more real that I'm graduating and leaving this place. Today, however, I still can't believe that on Friday I'll have to turn in my keys, say goodbye to everyone, pack my little car and head for home.

To celebrate we had dinner at The Black Cypress, one of Pullman's newest restaurants, which I'd never been to before. I enjoyed my pasta while everyone else enjoyed steak, pork chops, or seafood.

Mom, Mel, Grandma, Michael and I had breakfast at Old European on Sunday before they got into their respective vehicles and headed for home. Michael didn't make it back until 6:00 on Monday morning, with a final at 8:00!  Luckily, he's rather brilliant and still did well enough on the exam!

After entertaining family all weekend, it was quiet and calm when they all left my apartment. I decided to whip up a batch of cookies to further relax myself, but to me one can hardly call them cookies.
Each time I make these I add a little more of my favorite ingredients. This time the recipe (based on one from ohsheglows) was as follows:
Hardly Cookies (no added sugar, no butter, is it really a cookie!?)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbl olive oil

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbl hemp seeds
1 tbl chia seeds
1/3 cup chocolate chips (I really should use mini ones)

First combine wet ingredients, then mix dry ingredients well, and combine the two.
Form into small balls, about a tablespoon of dough each, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 14 minutes. The bottoms will get golden brown, or just plain brown if you leave them too long, but the rest of the cookie remains moist and chewy.
This has become my go-to snack when getting home from campus in the evenings, and one that I easily take with me to class.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Missing San Diego

Last night there was someone sitting near me on the bus who smelled like, through some act of magic, orchids. And by orchids I mean the Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance' cultivar that Anton displays in the botanical building in Balboa Park. They're usually located just inside the entrance, just begging visitors to lean in for a whiff of their intoxicating fragrance.

One whiff of that scent and I'm taken back to sunny days in San Diego and quiet mornings sitting next to the Lily Pond, watching the fish and turtles swim. My Saturday morning routine was to stop at the Starbucks off of University, then head over to Balboa Park to enjoy the morning. And when I say morning, I was usually up by 6. Waking up at 4:30 during the work week sets you up for a pretty early weekend schedule, too.

One must time arrival at the park between when the homeless people are packing up and moving to their daytime haunts and the tourists arrive. At that time of morning the only other people around are joggers and dog walkers. It's quiet--sometimes you can hear the macaws squawking from inside the zoo.

I usually sat along the pond to write letters to friends back home before unwrapping my camera to document my favorite parts of the park. It was one such morning that I found the monarch bushes. Near the door into the botanical building I noticed a plant that was looking a bit worse for wear, all sorts of leaf area having been chewed. Upon closer inspection, there were caterpillars on those leaves! While I'd never seen a monarch caterpillar in person before, some part of my mind reached back to a science lesson from long ago, and I didn't doubt at all what I had found.  When I started to see the jeweled chrysalises tucked under the leaves, I was certain these bushes were full of monarchs preparing for the final stage of metamorphosis.

I must have watched those caterpillars and taken pictures of them for nearly an hour. Time just wandered by, and it was early enough that there was no one around to bother me.  Two weeks later I made another visit to the bushes to check how my caterpillars had progressed. I was rewarded with a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis! All in all, it was one of my best discoveries inside the park.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving, and then some.

Here it is, nearly a week since Thanksgiving, and I'm finally getting around to write of my triumphs. They weren't at the Thanksgiving table though, but in the days leading up, when I made a yummy broccoli pasta for dinner one night, and stuffed portobello mushrooms the next.

To me, the pasta didn't seem too heavy on broccoli. We put it through the food processor so it was very well chopped, and stuck to the noodles very well.  This broccoli "sauce" was pretty basic: olive oil, a couple of pressed cloves of garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, about 10 ounces of broccoli, and a bit of parmesan cheese. Cook all that together, toss it with a pound of pasta, add a huge amount of additional parmesan cheese (at least if you're my family), and chow down! As it turns out, my sister really enjoyed this meal and kept asking for it days later.

The stuffed mushrooms were another success--strategically planned, mind you, for a night when little sis wasn't around for dinner, because she was adamant it was something she would not eat. The stuffing consisted of garlic, onion, white button mushrooms, unseasoned breadcrumbs, and fresh goat cheese. The portobellos were marinated for 3-4 hours in a soy sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar mixture before baking and stuffing, and baking some more.
I'm a fan of mushrooms--if I'm making pizza for myself, they're the only topping I add to the traditional cheese and tomato sauce--so I was pretty sure things couldn't turn out badly.  And I was definitely right. I laugh to think about how my eyes must have popped open when I took the first bite. So meaty, and flavorful, and rich!

This meal, however, illustrates where I need to improve as a cook: making more than one thing for dinner! I'll often make burritos, or veggies, or the above mentioned mushrooms, and just when it's time to sit down and eat, realize that some rice or other accompanyment would have been nice. That's just something I'll have to work on...

The Thanksgiving festivities were held at our house, which meant we made the turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and pies. While I may admit to eating meat occasionally (Mom's Thanksgiving bird was locally-sourced), I definitely don't help with prepping and cooking it. I did slice and arrange the sweet potatoes, as well as give them a dab of butter and brown sugar, which was not generous enough to meet with my sister's approval.  Our crowing accomplishment, as far as I'm concerned, was probably the pies.  Here's the breakdown of work: Mom mixes the dough, while my sister mixed the filling. Leaving me to stand and watch, basically. I did get in on rolling out one of the crusts, and pouring the blackberries into the pan, but that's about it. And you know what, that's ok. Because it isn't about doing all the work, it's about being together for the holidays!
But here are some shots of our pies, in process. I spaced out and didn't take any of the finished product. oops.