Friday, December 28, 2012

Post Christmas Wrap up

Well, I don't know about you but I am so relieved that Christmas is finally over.   Now to take a couple of days off of eating and preparing food before New Years hits us.    Yeah, right, like that's going to happen soon.  Still have to eat, but at least I don't have to worry about preparing anything special until New Years Eve., when we'll be stopping a few places along the way.  So many parties, so little time. sigh.  Just kidding.

I wanted to share some pictures of the past week and some of the events we've been to.   First off is the Post-Apocolyptic party on the 22nd.   I didn't bring my camera to it, but did have my phone so after I was asked where my camera was by several people I just pulled out my phone and started taking pictures.  Which will explain the poor quality of the pictures.  Hey, I like that, I have an excuse for not taking really great pictures, WooHoo! 

I had made a cookie tray to take with me, and filled it with French Waffles, Jodekager, HomeMade Caramels and Fruit Cake.   The French Waffles disappeared, just poof! and they were gone.









 
  But the food there, well, let me tell you, there was a lot of it, and it was all good.   The shrimp were awesome, huge, properly cooked and yummy. 



























So then we move on to Christmas Eve, where I was lucky enough to be joined by several friends.   I made a lovely, even if I do say so myself, Prime Rib.


Cooked it according to Paula Deens instructions and even though it was a twelve pounder, it was cooked perfectly.   I will never, ever, ever make a roast any other way.   Why mess with success?   I even let it rest on a bed of lovely mushrooms and celery.  I followed the instructions exactly, one hour at 375 degrees, then turned the oven off, walked away for 3 hours.  Yup, didn't open it up, just monitored the temperature with my remote thermometer.    After three hours, turned the oven back on and monitored the temp.  Pulled out the roast when it reached 135 deg, let it rest for 20 minutes while the Yorkshire pudding cooked, and then we ate.    And I just season my roast with salt and pepper, with a little seasoned salt as well.   Really simple.  

Now, one of our guests was a Pescatarian (fish eating vegetarian), so I made her some Scallop Cakes.  I did taste test a bit of it before serving her, and it is something I will make again.   I'll post the recipe and how to do it at a later date.  In the meantime, here's how they looked as they were put in the fridge to rest up before being cooked.
Did you know that cookie cutters are great for shaping stuff like Scallop Cakes?  They are. 





 Then we went to a local watering hole for Christmas Dinner, it's a community potluck and it was also very good.   One gentleman brought a ham so tender and flavourful it made me want to cry.   I'm still trying to perfect roasting a ham, and one of these days I'll get it right.  But we eat the ham anyways, so there.  

And there you have it, a slight gustatory tour of the past week.   And

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Memories...

I guess I'm one of the fortunate ones, my memories of Christmas are generally great.  With one exception, well, actually three exceptions.  The year I came down with the Mumps over Christmas break, the year I got the Measles during Christmas break and the year of the Migraine, I thought my eyes would fall out.   Really, those were the exceptions.   And somehow I was well enough to help out with making all the goodies we stocked up on before Christmas, and I didn't get sick until after Boxing day, usually.

We had some lovely traditions in our family.   We would gather together to make cookies, well, it was more of an assembly line, cause I think my mom wanted to get it all done and finished with in one or two days, and I can't blame her for that one.  But that's OK, it left me with some great memories.   And at the end of it, there were the big green cannisters filled with cookies, Vanille Kranse, Brunkager, Jodekager, Pebernoder and more.   I made some Jodekager this year, but ran out of time and energy to make Brunkager, so I guess I'll make them next year.   Or maybe just get a wild hare and make them sooner, so I can practice, and you know what they say, practice makes perfect.

Then there are the memories of my Dad showing us how to make the hearts we hung on the tree.  He was amazing at weaving the paper together, never mind cutting the paper in the first place.   I have trouble doing it with the pre-cut shapes, never mind the fancy stuff.    Here are some of his examples, and my efforts.  I've circled his in pink and yellow, and mine in just yellow.  I have some of the older ones put away, and may just put them into a frame and use them as decoration one day.   They're faded, and creased and very fragile and the love coming off of them is so intense.   I love to just hold them and remember the magical Christmas Eve's when I was a child.

So many good/great memories, and pardon me while I share them here.   I know that it wasn't all gold and glitter, but the overall memories, well, they were pretty awesome.

My brother would make and put up an Advents Wreath in the beginning of December.   And we would always have a candle on the table when we ate the evening meal and it would be lit.  Then on the eighteenth we would put up the Nissemen, and start decorating. 

Citron Fromage
We never put the tree up until the 24th, and the anticipation was incredible.   My brother and Dad would bring in the tree, and set it up in the morning.   The tree had to come to room temp and the branches relax.   Then we got to decorate.  Mom would pop in from time to time, she was busy cooking the dinner, and as soon as the tree was decorated, we had to go and help her make the rest of the dinner.   The table would be set and the rest of the family would come.  The menu was always pretty much the same.  To start the meal we would have a small serving of Risengrød, (rice porridge),  an almond or two would be hidden in the Risengrød and the lucky recipient would get a prize.   Then the main meal would be served.  We would have Duck or Goose, potatoes, some veggies, and for dessert, Citron Fromage.

       And then the torture began.   First we had to eat, then the dishes had to be cleared away.   Which always took forever....  We would then join hands and circle the tree sing Christmas Carols.   Some Danish songs like Højt for træets grønne top (High upon the green tree top)  På loftet sidder nissen med sin julegrød (up in the rafters is the elf with his Christmas porridge) and of course Glade jul, dejlige jul (Silent Night).  Then there would be a selection of English carols and then, finally, we were allowed to open presents.  Mom would sit by the tree and call out our names and we would go and get our presents.   Somehow the youngest always got their presents first, amazing how that worked.    And then after all the presents were opened, and admired, we'd have coffee and some Christmas cookies.    And cannot forget one of the most important traditions, we would always save a little Risengrød and at the end of the evening, a bowlful would be taken out to the barn to feed the Nisse, basically you wanted to placate them, so they would not play tricks on you in the coming year.   They could be nasty, very nasty.  And they love to hide stuff throughout the year.  But if you ask nicely and remember to feed them on Christmas Eve, they will bring your stuff back.   Always the Risengrød is served in  a bowl with a wooden spoon.   No metal allowed. 

So there you have it, a short treatise on my Christmas traditions.   Of course they changed just a tad after I got married and moved away.   Now we have Prime Rib on Christmas Eve, but I still make Risengrød, and will have fun introducing it to my friends this year.   Oh and the prize you get for finding an almond, traditionally it's a marzipan pig.  I didn't get one this year, but will make up a fruit basket with marzipan fruit instead.

I'm going to leave you with a picture of me and one of the best Christmas Eve's ever!!!   I got a pair of red cowboy boots that year.   And I wore them til, well, either they fell apart or my feet grew too much.   Probably the first Christmas I remember clearly, I also got a baby buggy with a doll and the bed of the buggy had candy.  I don't think I played with the doll much, I never got into them, but I'm sure I gave the cats a ride in the buggy, ate the candy and as I said, I wore those boots out.






 So since tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I'll be busy cooking, I want to wish everyone  a
                                                                        Very Merry Christmas.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jødekager (Jewish Cakes)

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes which is a literal translation, are one of my favorite cookies.   I've made them pretty much every year since I learned how to bake.   And helped out my mom and sisters for years before that.
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes

I'm going to throw in a little teeny history lesson first though, before I get to the nitty gritty on how to make these cookies.   We Danes love to bake, OK, so I know that's a generalization, but many of us do.  And Danish bakers are famous for 'borrowing' recipes from other countries and cultures and making them their own.  But they do like to at least acknowledge where the original recipe came from.   Danish bakers brought home Weinerbrød from Vienna, which translates to Vienna Bread, took hamburgers home from Paris and called them Pariserbøf.   Which is probably how Jødekager came to be, a baker somewhere along the line tasted this cookies and brought them back to Denmark, where they are now one of the traditional cookies.   And made sure he acknowledged where he got them from, in the name.

 I made Jødekager and Fransk Vafler this year.  I was going to make Brunkager, but my social calendar got a little full, and I ran out of time.  I'm also making some Marzipan fruit,  and I have some Home made Caramels, Truffles and the fruitcake I made over a month ago.  I think I have enough goodies to take me to the New Year now.    And since I'm going to a party this weekend, I also have some goodies to take with me there as well.

Here's the recipe and the how to's on making Jødekager. 

Jødekager, or Jewish CakesThe recipe I use is the one my mom used, and quite frankly I see no reason to try any other one.   When I bite into one of the cookies, I get transported back to my childhood, sigh.  Christmas's past remembered are always the best.   I can see my sister, my mother, my brother, sometimes my dad or one of my older sisters sitting at the kitchen table, and all of us having a hand in making the cookies.  Making Christmas cookies was a family affair and sometimes, it turned into a marathon cookie making session.  Now, I do it by myself so I've learned how to stream line the process a lot.  One essential thing I've found though, is I have to have Christmas music playing.  For some reason the cookies taste better that way.  Well, I think they do.

So many Danish cookies are rich in butter but short on sugar, we don't decorate cookies with frosting, we decorate them with chopped nuts and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon in the case of Jødekager.   And that's OK with me.  I'm not too fond of overly frosted sugar cookies, but then again, I didn't grow up with them either.
The following recipe is by weight, but I'm got the American measurements as well to the right.  

Jødekager
1/2 Kg. Flour                                                             or               2 cups Flour
180 grams Sugar                                                     or              3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 Kg. Butter                                                           or               1/2 lb. Butter
2 Eggs
1 teaspoonful Hjortetaksalt (Baking Ammonia)      or             1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

For the topping:
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Cinnamon mixed with a half cup sugar or to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds mixed with a half cup sugar

To start with, cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy.  Very light and fluffy, then add the egg.   Last add the flour and baking powder, mix well.  This year I was able to get some Baking Ammonia, (YIPPEEE!!!  sorry, got excited there),  and used that instead of the baking powder.  It does make for a lighter, crisper cookie, but baking powder works well also.   I use my stand mixer, cause it saves on the old shoulder, I just can't mix stuff up like I used to.   Once the flour has been well mixed in, form the dough into two or in my case three equal sized disks, wrap well and put into the fridge for a couple of hours.   You want the dough to rest and cool down.  Otherwise it's very hard to roll out, with all the butter in the dough it is very soft.   I flatten the disks quite a bit before I put them in the fridge, they're much easier to roll out then. 
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes dough

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes  dough wrapped and resting




















Take one of the disks of dough out of the fridge, and flour your board very lightly, you don't want to add more flour than you need to, this is a delicate dough.   Roll out thinly, then cut out circles with a small cookie cutter, or in my case a wine glass.  I've been using this glass for years, I don't know what I'd do if it ever broke, makes the perfect size cookie.

Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes  dough


 Brush tops with a beaten egg white, and sprinkle on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or finely chopped nuts and sugar.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes.   Check to make sure the cookies aren't browning too fast.   I check at the seven minute mark and take off the cookies which have browned just a little, returning the cookie pan to the oven again.  Sometimes, you'll put the same pan back in the oven two or three times for about 1 minute at a time.  I didn't say this recipe wouldn't be time consuming, but oh, is it worth it.  
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes

Now since I'm a one man band when it comes to cookie making here, I prepare two or three pans full at a time, putting the cookies on parchment paper and then transferring them to the cookie sheets proper when it comes time to bake them.  
Jødekager, or Jewish Cakes


Now don't those look good enough to eat?

I need to go and finish off my Fransk Vafler now.    I'm making a new frosting to put inside this year.   I'm going to use my Best Ever Frosting instead of the Buttercream I usually use.   I think it will be good.   Of course I'm going to experiment on a couple of them first, make sure they taste OK.   If I can't experiment on myself, who can I experiment on?   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Butter Tarts

During a conversation with a fellow Canadian recently, the subject turned to Butter Tarts, and I got an immediate craving for some.   So, I decided to make some up.

These are not mini Pecan Pies, they are a true Canadian recipe.   I've made them both the traditional way and with raisins, I've even put Pecans in them, but then they resemble Pecan Pie and that's just not a Butter Tart.

I even called my sister for the 'right' recipe because she makes the best Butter Tarts ever, and she told me she uses the recipe she got off of the flour bag years ago.    And I just googled 5 Roses Butter tarts and just about every recipe was the following one, except for the one on the 5 Roses site. hmmm

Theirs got a little fancy.   So I'm just making this my way.   Well, with one small change, I can't get currants locally so I use raisins.  But the next time I go to the big city, I'm buying me some currants and keeping them on hand.   For now, I just want a Butter Tart or three.   Oh, did I tell you I also shared them at our monthly Boat Club potluck. 
Butter Tarts

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Mom's old cookbook...

 I was just looking up my recipe for Jødekager, actually I have several recipes, each one just a tad different.   I wanted to look up the original recipe my mom had in her old cookbook, which is one I scanned in many years ago, cause the original is falling apart, and is missing pages to boot. 
  This one is from 1935, it's one my mom had and even though it is in Danish, at least I can read Danish.   
 Anna Strunge, rather a severe looking lady, but she did a pretty good job of making a cookbook.  

She explains how she got started in 1912, and how it all came to be that she finally got this cookbook done in June of 1935.  

Some of the ingredients she has are hard to come by here, but I got hold of some Hjortetaksalt (Bakers Ammonia) again this years so I am making one of my favorite recipes from this cookbook. 
 However, some of the directions, well, if you don't know how to bake or make stuff, you would be floundering.   Some of the cakes tell you to 'bake it in a good hot oven til done', none of this 'bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes', nope it's a good hot oven til done.    I will admit to having to play around with some of the measurements, they didn't exactly have standard measurements back then.   They did weigh most ingredients, but some of them, well, we're so used to standard measurements, that it's kinda hard to translate.  But then again, one of my favorite cookie recipes calls for 12 soup spoonfuls of light cream.   I have no idea how much that really is, and always mean to measure it out, just so I have a reference, but then again, why bother, I know how big a spoon is and how the dough is supposed to feel and gee, I just like using the old fashioned measurements sometimes.
 This cookbook is spotted with grease older than me, there are some of the pages which are charred on the edges, probably from getting too close to a gas flame.   Some years ago I scanned it into my computer, because the paper was getting too fragile to handle.    But when I want to make a recipe taste like something I remember from my childhood, I just go it and try to recreate it.   In fact my Jødekager recipe is here;
complete with a little blue arrow pointing to the recipe, and as you can see, it's dogeared and old. 

Well, gotta go and get the dough together for the Jødekager now, I'll post the translated version later on, complete with pictures. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Smörgåstårta aka Smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake)

It was our monthly Tapas night on Saturday and we did a fun Grinch Christmas, also known as Dirty Santa gift exchange.   I just love seeing what people come up with for these, and also to see what the most popular gifts are.    For some reason, wine is very popular here.

I wanted to do something simple, fun and different for Tapas night and I think I succeeded.   And I want to say bookmarks are the bomb, or does that date me.  Hmmmm...  At any rate, a long time ago I bookmarked a site and was scrolling through my bookmarks the other day trying to get inspired, when I ran across this site, Smörgåstårta and I had it, something fun, different and I had most of the ingredients in my cupboard/pantry and freezer.    So, I put it together.   In one sense it was very easy to make, but in another sense, it was kinda hard.  But then again, I have trouble cutting layers, just kidding.   But WOW, what fun to unveil it.
Smörgåstårta aka Smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake)

To start with I used two frozen bread loaves and put them into a bundt pan.   I let them rise and then baked it for about 40 minutes.   Now, it did do a muffin top a little (kinda like my Boston Cream Pie), but you cut the crust off anyway so, it wasn't a catastrophe.

I let the bread cool, and while it was cooling made up an egg salad spread as well as the Smoked Salmon spread I make.  I just doubled the amount of salmon for this recipe.   I thought it would lend itself to this and it did.   For the egg salad, I hard cooked 9 eggs, mashed them with a fork, then added some mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sour cream and about 1/2 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.   (and you do need to peel the eggs too).   Just make up your favorite egg salad if you have one.

As soon as the bread was cool, I started slicing layers in it.   Actually I sliced off about 1/2 inch off of the bottom, then spread about a third of the egg salad on it.




Went back and sliced another layer, and spread that with the Smoked Salmon Spread.  Repeated the process with another layer of egg salad, then another layer of Smoked Salmon, and finished it off with the remainder of the egg salad.




I then wrapped it up in a piece of plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for a couple of hours, to let the flavours mingle.















While it was in the fridge, I dived into the freezer and pulled out some frozen shrimp, poached it in my special poaching liquid, (yeah right, it's whatever I think to put into the water, some rosemary this time, cayenne, black pepper, lemon juice, salt and some parsley) let the shrimp cook, til they were done, pulled them out of the water and since I was limited on ice, spread them out on a cookie sheet to cool down.  Peeled the shrimp and put them in the fridge for later on.




I had fun decorating this 'cake'.   Basically, you spread it with a mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise.  Yup, sour cream and mayonnaise.   I used half of a pint of sour cream and a cup of mayonnaise.   I think you could probably also amp up the flavour here, but I choose to go with the simple approach.
Smörgåstårta aka Smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake)

  And just slather the 'frosting on there.   You don't really have to be especially neat, or fancy, cause you'll be decorating it with the shrimp and some hard cooked eggs and cucumber later on.      Use your imagination,  and HAVE FUN!!!  I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who are more talented at decorating than me, but I don't really care, I had fun.

I sliced up a cucumber, then cut some of the slices in half.

 Then I went to town...
Smörgåstårta aka Smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake)

Smörgåstårta aka Smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake)


As you can see from the pictures...


And finished it off with some fresh parsley from almost (semi-recovered) plant. 


Smörgåstårta aka Smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake)
  
And if I was a really good food blogger, I would have grabbed the camera to show you pictures of it as it was being cut, but hey, I was at a party and having fun, so you'll just have to make your own and take pictures.   You could send them to me, if you like.   Seriously, I live in the real world, I like to share my adventures (and misadventures) in the kitchen, and I don't always think about how something is going to 'look' or to take the 'right kind of pictures', I have fun with food.  So there...

Oh, and this was not only fun to make, show off, it also tasted totally awesome.    If you want to google Smorgastarta, (Smörgåstårta) you'll find all kinds of ideas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December Tapas Night

I'm tired today and when I got up this morning it looked like a party had taken place in my house.   I didn't get it cleaned up all the way last night, it was late, I was tired, and quite frankly I like to take my time when it comes washing all those wineglasses.  Many of them are crystal, and also I love to reflect while I'm washing them, and putting them away. 

I thought I took a lot of pictures of the food last night, but honestly I think I missed some and some of the pictures were too blurry to post.   I had a houseful, and it was almost like SRO, standing room only.   Well, we had stools and chairs and people kind of mingled and had a good time. 
We did a Grinch Christmas gift exchange, and had fun with that.  

So without further ado, and if I missed taking a picture of your offering, I'm sorry, but really, it's my party and I can mingle and have fun and miss taking pictures.   Although, as usual, we had a wide variety of foods.   From the Smorgastata I made, to christmas breads, cookies, cakes, quiches to a great soup, dips, spreads, and I don't know what else.  


My Yule tree, I went with a minimalist approach to decorating this year.    

 Above and to the side here, some of the sweet treats that were brought.  Clockwise, Cookies, Coconut cake, more cookies, Cranberry Bread, Chocolate cake, and Chocolate cake balls.

 Cheese ball and Crackers and in the lower left a Lasagna (it was all gone by the time I got over there to get a taste.)
 Sorry for the blur, Pimento Cheese triangles.  I'd never had Pimento Cheese til I moved south, and now, well, I really like it.  I've even been known to buy the spread, haven't tried making it yet, but I will. 
 In the back some sliced sandwich meat, and in the front a really interesting spread, I did get a chance to taste it.   And the bread, well I love a good bread and this was one. 
 Another view, and to the right, another of my favorites, cream cheese with pepper jelly to spread on crackers.   Personally, I could make a meal of it, oh, wait a minute, I have made a meal of cream cheese and pepper jelly.  Sorry, I get side tracked sometimes.
 There were two Quiches brought and I tasted both of them.  I don't know what there is about quiche, but I just love them.  To the right in the back were some interesting rolls, like a blueberry pancake rolled around a sausage. 
 Smörgåstårta  (Swedish Sandwich Cake)
I'll be posting the how to's on this later on this week.   It was a lot of fun to make.   Also in the background here, the other Quiche. 
 Very blurry picture of the Pecan Pie.  I do love me a good Pecan pie.
 Deviled Eggs with a kick.   Don't they look pretty?   Harriet put curry powder in them, and we were all trying to figure out what was in them.  I could taste hot, but guessed it was some Chinese Hot mustard.  I thought they looked so festive.
 Zuppa Toscana, so tasty.   Kathy comes up with some fun stuff.   She's going to get me the recipe.   I'm still waiting for the Cuban Chicken recipe too, so, in the meantime, I'll just enjoy her offerings.
 I did manage to get an unblurred picture of some of the great Christmas breads, see, there in the back right on the green platter?   And in the foreground were some Latkes.  I do like Latkes.  Now, I just have to learn how to make them.  
 Another dip with some great crostini and carrots.   In the foreground the Mushroom Quiche.   Did I mention, I like Quiche?   Sorry, some things just bear repeating. 










 Last but not least,  a Christmas tree, a fitting end to this.   The tree did not survive intact though, I noticed a lot of branches missing as well as some of the garland as the evening progressed. 






As usual a lot of good great food, wonderful company and well, gee, what can I say, I love to do Tapas night, and have friends over.   I also get to meet new people all the time, and reconnect with old friends.  

Merry Christmas