Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rice noodles and peanut sauce

While searching for a good dinner option, I happened to notice my friend Carol's post about a meal she had just made of rice noodles with peanut sauce. Even though they didn't give it rave reviews, it sounded exactly perfect for the type of food I was in the mood for that day. So I too, decided to make some rice noodles with peanut sauce. We couldn't find sriracha or hoisin sauce, so we got some sort of red chili stuff, and some mushroom soy sauce (still not sure what that really means/is).


I managed to make a big mess of the kitchen, but I really enjoyed this meal. I hadn't had any peanut butter in a long time, so it was a really nice change. Greg thought it was alright as well, although in general he prefers his noodles less dry and more saucy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Photos from lately


1. View of the cathedral from the castle, with a hint of the beginning of fall (this photo was not actually that recent).


2. My dad and the cannons outside of the castle.


3. Cannon.


4. A vibrantly bright autumn tree.


5. Saturday morning coffee and pastries at the konditori.


6. A bird seen out my office window, flying high to be in the sunlight after sunset.

Pizza

The last time I made pizza, I had mistakenly thought we had a packet of yeast at home, but we really didn't. We did have brewer's yeast, so I found a recipe that used that and went for it. It was an okay pizza, but nothing extraordinary.

Tonight though. Tonight I made pizza, and it was extraordinary.


I've had great success using this recipe for pizza dough. In Sweden, they sell fresh yeast, so I changed to this recipe, except I didn't have any wine, so I just used extra water. One of my favorite unique pizzas is the apple, cheddar, and onion, but I haven't followed the recipe exactly recently, or maybe ever. So one of the pizzas had pesto, cheese, tomato slices, apple slices, sautéed red onions, and feta. The other pizza had pesto, cheese, tomato slices, yellow bell pepper, black olives, jalapeños, and feta. Also, we only have pie pans, so everything that goes in the oven gets put in a pie pan. And for these pizzas I did not regret that, and I think I'll never go back to any sort of thinner crust.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Feed my dancing spirit

Leaving work, I feel the nervous excitement of a new adventure. I ride my bicycle to a new location. I've walked by here before, but at the time was not in need of bicycle parking. I've allowed too much extra time for such a simple task, and of course, I am early. It has started to become colder, and as I wait outside, I regret not having worn a heavier coat.

Standing outside. Looking for some people I might recognize. Is that one? I think I recognize her. She also looks like she is hoping to meet some people here. I mention something about folk dance and am glad to find she is here for the same purpose. One becomes two, and two become a dozen. We notice a group has formed nearby, so we join them to become many.

A very old bus drives up and in we go.

We drive out of the city and deep into the woods. The windows of the bus are fogged up, so it is impossible for me to know where we are. I am made to realise we are on a narrow road when our headlights come face to face with those of a smaller car, who must back up to find a wider part of the road.

We arrive. A path is lit by candles, which we walk along until we reach the cabin. The candles do not provide much light, and I make a mental note to locate my headlamp for the return trip. Inside the cabin, candles are burning everywhere, and at least two fireplaces and a wood stove are keeping the inside toasty. Coats are removed, shoes are changed. The main room is filled with long tables, where we find seats. The organizers of the group welcome us and share the history of the cabin with us. They speak in Swedish of course, but I've been lucky enough to sit next to someone who readily volunteers to translate.

And we are given coffee or tea and sandwiches. Simple and delicious.

After our meal, the tables and chairs are cleared away. Fiddles have been brought out, and dancing begins. It is tradition to bring the beginner's course to the cabin for a dance party. Mostly we do dances we've learned, but we also add in a bit of variety.

There is a break for fika upstairs, but the fiddlers keep playing, drawing out the more experienced dancers to the open floor. I skip fika in favor of watching the dancing. And I get a little extra dancing in as well. The floor fills up again. I'm mightily impressed with the progress our group has made since that first bumper-car lesson. The final dance is the långdans från Sollerön. Many sing along with the fiddles, and still the "dum da dee da dee dum" repeats in my head.

Friday, October 19, 2012

TGIF - a listing

1. On Thursday we got the keys to our apartment. We like it a lot. In the bathroom there is a heated towel rack and a heated floor. I might have mentioned that once before, but it is worth repeating.

2. Somebody gets to spend his birthday moving. Unless of course we finish today. And in that case, somebody gets to spend his birthday shopping for things we might want in our apartment that are not already there.

3. I have ridden my new bicycle over 300 miles.

4. Our new commute is much shorter (maybe half the distance?) so my total mileage will be increasing more slowly now.

5. Greg and I are going to take Swedish courses. We've learned some of the language. Mainly, we can recognize food words (out of necessity at the grocery store). Pronunciation of words is tough though. I've been doing the Rosetta Stone course, which is helpful, but so far I've only been finding time to do that about once a week.

6. On Monday I get to go to a folk dance party! The student folkdance group at UU is quite good. You can read about the history of Philochoros here. The link is in Swedish, but google translate works wonders. So I've been taking their beginner course, which is open to more than just students. And on Monday, instead of our usual class, we are going to this cabin that is owned by the group. It is just outside the city, and it is quite rustic. There we will have a dance party! And sandwiches!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cooking Indian food

In the US I often liked to buy those Indian food packets, which you just warm up and serve over rice. They were pretty yummy and also very simple.

Lately though, lately I've been wanting Indian food. I am especially a fan of saag paneer, and ever since reading this post by my friend Brian, I've been thinking that I should just make my own, paneer included. Actually, I think even before he blogged about it, he had told me enough to make me interested in making my own paneer.

So the mission was clear, locate cheese cloth and Indian spices. My ICA didn't have cheesecloth, so I didn't bother looking for the spices. I knew the weekend would be full of trying to find special ingredients at any store possible. (Sweden, why oh why don't you sell vegetable shortening? more on that in another post.)

We ended up at Willy's, where we found cheesecloth (no shortening though). I followed this recipe for saag paneer, which also includes directions for making paneer with lemon juice. Here you can see the cheese in the cheesecloth getting pressed between some plates.


We even saved the whey, which we cooked our rice in. High protein rice! Yum!


Here are my cheese cubes, marinating in some oil and spices.


Here is the frozen spinach I bought. The bag was full of these little frozen hockey pucks of spinach, so obviously I had to document that with a photo.


And the final product!


Overall impression: This was pretty tasty! Sadly, it did not compare to the saag paneer that I loved to get at the Jewel of India in Hanover. I guess I shouldn't have expected that, considering I am not Indian and have never cooked my own Indian food.

With more realistic expections, I think I did an alright job. The paneer was really good, but the whole dish was a little watery and also under-spiced (which might have been because I used more spinach than the recipe called for). This definitely makes me want to cook more Indian food!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday dinner

These photos aren't actually from today. They are from a Sunday dinner though, because Greg and I like to have roasted chicken on Sundays. And on this particular Sunday we also had apple crisp, with cream and also caramel ice cream. It was pretty spectacular.










I hope you don't get the impression that the dessert was more important than the dinner (based on the 4:1 ratio of photos). The problem was that the dinner was just so delicious that I forgot to take any photos until it was nearly all gone (hence the photo of the chicken carcass).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tortilla Soup

This is my latest culinary success!

Tortilla soup has been one of my favorite recipes for awhile. It is delicious and memory filled. I learned the recipe from Laura, who learned it from her friend Jenny. I think Laura and I even watched the movie while eating the soup once.

_____________________

Jenny's Famous Tortilla Soup

ingredients
3 chicken breasts
celery
carrots
1 onion
4 bullion cubes (or 6 cups of chicken broth in a box)
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp lemon pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 lime
2 cans tomatoes with green chilies
monterey jack cheese, grated
tortilla chips
1 avocado


cut raw chicken into bite-size pieces and cook on the stove.  set
aside chicken aside, leaving grease in pan.  chop celery, onions, and
carrots and saute in left-over chicken grease (mmm) and olive oil.
boil 6 cups water (or boil the chicken broth and skip the cubes). add
4 bullion cubes, chili powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper, cumin,
lime juice, and tomatoes w/ green chilies. add chicken and veggies.
simmer all 20 minutes.  crush tortilla chips in bottom of bowl.  add
soup, avocado slices, and cheese.
_____________________

I learned awhile ago that I am just not good at cooking chicken breasts in a way that makes them delicious. I always get paranoid about chicken and end up overcooking it. My solution is to use the leftover chicken from a roasted chicken

But this time, I went one step further. I made my very own chicken stock. And it was awesome. On Sunday I roasted two small chickens (so that we'd have plenty of leftovers of course), and I boiled the two carcasses with an onion, carrot, and celery. The chicken roasting technique uses so much salt, that I didn't even add salt to my stock.

Needless to say, the soup was awesome.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On weather and bicycles

Uppsala has gotten cold. This morning it was 3 degrees on the Celsius scale. I'm glad we are still above zero, because I'm not quite ready to try riding my bicycle over potentially icy roads. The good thing is that the act of riding my bicycle is a pretty good way to generate heat. Unfortunately, my fingertips, my feet, and my face don't really benefit from that. If I want to keep commuting in this manner during the winter I'm going to need some sort of face shield. I was in a store last weekend and saw these neoprene foot covers. They were pretty awesome, but probably a bit too nerdy for me to handle.

"I'm heading to the office!"
"Don't forget your foot booties to keep your feet warm!"

At any rate, the wind chill factor is not a factor to ignore while riding a bicycle. This is what I've learned.

I am also spending these days getting more acquainted with my bicycle. If you were wondering how much I can haul on my bicycle, it is quite a lot. Last weekend Greg and I survived a trip to Ikea, and we had our bikes loaded up with pillows, blankets, and towels. The need for our own linens and things is due to our upcoming move. We will finally have our own apartment, which we are pretty happy about. Finding an apartment in Uppsala is completely ridiculous, so I am glad we found one we like, and I am also glad that our temporary living situation has been as good as it has.

The new apartment is in a neighborhood that does not require riding my bicycle up a large hill to get to the office. I would say that is my favorite feature, but really, my favorite is the towel heating rack and the heated floor in the bathroom. What a great European delight!