Last week, Riley and I drove up to Evergreen. It’s about a half hour drive from our house and on this particular day, it was absolutely gorgeous. The snow that had fallen earlier in the week was still coating every rock and tree in the mountains, making me catch my breath at every turn. My favorite part of the drive was seeing the stream that runs along with road, which is usually bubbling merrily on it’s way regardless of the season, frozen over in most places. The few spots with visible running water added to the enchantment of the scene thanks to steam that slowly rose into the air. And did I mention that the sun was shining and the sky was a bright, vibrant blue? Well, it was. And it was magnificent.
I wasn’t able to find a good place to stop and get a photo, so I hope my description helps you imagine what it looked like. It was glorious.
Here’s a little taste of what life has been like for the past week…
The reason we went to Evergreen was to make lefse with a new friend of ours. She is a fellow Minnesota transplant and one of her family traditions is to make lefse at Christmas time. If you’re not familiar, lefse is a Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes, flour and milk or cream. The dough is made into golf-ball size rounds, then rolled very thinly and placed on a griddle where it gently cooks until brown spots are visible. The end result looks very similar to a tortilla but the texture is much more tender and delicate.
There are other versions made without potato, though I don’t recall having tasted that kind before. I do recall Christmases as a kid when my uncle’s parents would bring homemade lefse as their contribution to the holiday buffet. It was always folded neatly in triangles that were filled with creamy butter and nutty, sweet brown sugar. There is almost nothing in this world better than that combination.
This was my first experience making lefse and I was pleased to find it is not difficult at all. It does take a little practice finding the right consistency for the dough (my friend Andrea fortunately has lots of experience with this). It helps to do a test run with one or two balls of dough that have been rolled out to see if the dough needs more flour. If the dough seems exceptionally sticky as you’re rolling it out, you may want to add a bit more before forming the rest of the balls.
I loved using the traditional equipment to make the lefse, but I’m sure you could do it without a lefse stick or traditional griddle. (If you are interested in buying the traditional gear, click here.)
It took some trial and error experiences for us, but in the end we came out with a nice batch of beautiful, delicious lefse to have at home. Despite the fact that this is the most simple and comforting snack on the planet, Riley didn’t quite warm up to giving them a taste. Continue Reading →
It’s entirely possible that I am STILL full from the holiday weekend. Oops. BIG diet-oops.
To help my body and mind recover, I’m planning a week of healthy meals to help me feel energized and these are a few of my favorites that will be making an appearance at our table.
Did you overdo it for Thanksgivukkah? Or were you well-behaved? Either way, I think you’ll enjoy these clean eating recipes!
One of my all-time favorite healthy recipes is this Kale & Pineapple Smoothie. Fortunately, Riley loves them too so I can get a crazy amount of kale into my little toddler with no problem.
For lunch and dinner, I like to work with dark leafy greens and eggs. With flavorful garlic and chili flakes, this Baked Eggs, Rainbow Chard & Yogurt dish is satisfying, fast to assemble, and perfectly healthy (and yes, there is butter, which maybe doesn’t make this as “clean” as some might prefer, but you can always omit it).
Now this recipe is one that all of you, cooks or not, can make on a busy weeknight. It’s a one-pan, super healthy meal that is comforting without the typical comfort-food guilt. Jacqueline’s Pasta Bake is the perfect way to serve a healthy, crowd-pleasing meal to your family.
This Asparagus with Black Sesame is a beautiful way to enjoy your vegetables. Flavorful, nutritious, and gorgeous.
And finally, here is a perfectly amazing Roasted Broccoli Salad (I’m so thankful to the person who discovered roasted broccoli) that is perfect for a light lunch or a healthy side dish.
So now you’re armed with some delicious, healthy recipes that will help get you through the week! Of course, I can’t help you if you are still working through Thanksgiving leftovers. You’re on your own with that one.
Have a wonderful week everyone!
I fell down a rabbit hole yesterday. It started when I remembered that Brad and I had a blog from when we first moved to Tokyo. At first, I just wanted to read the posts from Thanksgiving in 2008 but then I just couldn’t stop. I’m thankful that we started The White’s in Tokyo and were able to document some of our earliest thoughts and feelings after moving to a brand new country that we had never been to before. Truthfully, I had forgotten a lot about those first days, weeks and months when everything- even a trip to the grocery store- was so new and different from anything I’d known before.
For our first Thanksgiving in Japan, I made apple crisp. We didn’t have an oven, so I ended up putting 2 very small pans of apple crisp in our fish oven which is essentially a tiny broiler. I cooked the apples on the stove-top, put them in 2 pans that would fit in the fish oven, and topped them with butter, brown sugar, oats and cinnamon. With the fish oven on it’s very lowest setting, I carefully cooked the crisp until the topping was a splotchy golden brown and only burned in a couple spots. I was pretty pleased that I didn’t burn our tiny apartment right to the ground.
Let’s just say that I don’t take my apple crisp for granted these days. It’s always been one of my favorite desserts, but after finding out how difficult apple crisp was to replicate in Japan, I seem to have grown even more fond of it. Having a regular sized oven that cooks more than a single fish is helpful, too.
It snowed here yesterday. It wasn’t the big wet flakes I expected; instead, we experienced a pretty, delicate snowfall thanks to chilly temperatures that made me feel like I was home in Minnesota. My heart was happy watching the flakes float slowly through the air, turning the ground a soft white. Finally, after feeling like I would never get into the spirit of the season, the snow brought what my soul needed. Riley
Also, it made me realize that some people just shouldn’t drive when it’s snowing because they forget how. That’s all I’ll say on that subject except for BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!
With the white snow and cloudy skies, it seems like the perfect excuse to make a brilliantly colored and flavorful cocktail. This Spiced Rum & Cranberry Old Fashioned uses a little bit of the syrup from my homemade cranberry sauce. The spicy ginger, warm cloves, bright citrus and tangy cranberries are the perfect mate for spiced rum. You may be wondering what on EARTH rum is doing in an Old Fashioned. You’re right- it isn’t traditional. But the formula for an Old Fashioned is this: spirit + bitters + sugar + water. That’s it. Makes you want to play around a little, doesn’t it?
When I make an Old Fashioned, I let the ice act as the water. It melts a little as you stir it with the spirit, bitters and sugar, which is really all you need. If you want more water, go ahead and add it. Continue Reading →
I love this time of year. Even though the trees have lost their colorful leaves and there is no snow on the ground (yet) to cover the many shades of brown, I find myself feeling thankful for the cooler air, the clear, bright blue skies, and the feeling that everyone is cozying up with their families filling their bellies with comforting foods and curling up under warm blankets. In our own home, I’m watching Riley make the transformation from baby to toddler to little boy. His sweet snuggles are few and far between because, let’s face it, there are more exciting things to do. But the way he says mommy melts my heart to a gooey puddle on the floor. The overriding emotion I have is, appropriately, thankfulness for all of these things and much more. My heart is full.
This is the first Thanksgiving in 5 years that I haven’t hosted. It’s kind of a strange feeling because typically this time of year is filled with menu planning, cleaning, and usually trying to tackle a random house project that probably isn’t necessary but seems like a good idea at the time. I think I am a bit of a bite-off-more-than-I-can-chew type of person in that respect. Not hosting thanksgiving has also made it a little harder to get in the holiday spirit. My sister and I have always been the worst offenders when it comes to listening to Christmas music too early. Not so for me this year. One of our neighbors put up their Christmas lights last weekend and I said to Brad, “Can you believe they already have their lights up?” When he reminded me that Thanksgiving was mere days away I went into a little bit of shock and tried to force myself into the holidays by having a peppermint mocha, a Christmas Ale, and listening to a little Christmas music. No, not all at once.
Making these delicious cranberry turnovers with cinnamon glaze may have worked better than any other attempt to prepare for the upcoming holiday season. The bright color of the cranberry filling (which is actually the cranberry sauce from Monday’s post here) and the warm cinnamon icing created a lovely dessert full of seasonal flavors. Store-bought puff pastry folded into triangles and baked to a beautiful golden brown makes for an easy and beautiful dessert for Thanksgiving. Or breakfast for whenever. I won’t judge.
During our 4 years in Japan, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our multicultural group of friends who became our family in Tokyo. For some, Thanksgiving was not a part of their holiday calendar, so we had the unique experience of giving people their first taste (literally) of this holiday. The first year, I attempted to cook everything by myself in a tiny kitchen with no oven. To make it even worse, I wouldn’t let anyone help with the dishes after dinner. Instead, I hid all the dirties under the kitchen sink and waited until everyone left to clean up. Rookie mistake.
There was also a situation involving a 20+ pound turkey and a bicycle. More on that at a later date. And if you’re lucky, I’ll share the video documenting the insane logistics of pulling off a Thanksgiving celebration in Tokyo without an oven or, perhaps more importantly, a car.
One of the dishes I handed off after that first fateful Thanksgiving was cranberry sauce. To be honest, I’m not sure we even had it the first time around. Our friend Danny took on the sauce-responsibility and reminded me that cranberry sauce does not need to look like a congealed metal can mold, complete with ridges and an eery jiggle. Cranberry sauce can in fact be very beautiful and full of wonderfully fresh, complex flavors to offset the heavy, rich offerings Thanksgiving brings.
Danny always put ginger in his cranberry sauce, which I have also done with the recipe sharing today. I kept it pretty simple, adding only whole cloves for spice, a couple strips of orange zest, and a sprig of rosemary. To keep a little bit of Japan present at our table, I added sake as the main liquid. The sake is mild, which is nice because it does not overwhelm or hide the other flavors. Instead, it brings them out even more.
I’m thankful for the Thanksgiving meals we shared with our friends in Japan. The memories we made are always with me, reminding me that there is always a reason to be thankful no matter where you are or who you’re with.
I love when something forces you to learn. It is easy to get stuck in the usual rotations of life, but sometimes we get an opportunity handed to us that blesses our minds with new information that can reignite our excitement. For me, promoting a luau was just what I needed as a reminder that there is so much food out there that we don’t know about.
Over the weekend, I was honored to be part of the United Noodles Second Annual Luau where we served plate lunches filled with kalua pork, mac salad, lomi salmon, and rice. It was so amazing to see how many Hawaiians who now live in Minnesota appreciated eating food that reminded them of home. When we lived in Japan, one of the most comforting things when we were homesick was eating something familiar. It felt good to provide that feeling, but it was also wonderful to see people enjoying Hawaiian food that they didn’t necessarily know existed. With Hawaiian music playing in the background and bellies full of delicious Hawaiian food, it was almost enough to forget the chilly Minnesota temperatures outside.
One of my favorite new-to-me recipes is this chocolate and haupia tart. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut pudding made of coconut milk, shredded coconut, sugar, and cornstarch. It is creamy and the smell will immediately transport you to a beautiful Hawaiian beach. Paired with rich dark chocolate, this dessert is a crowd pleaser for sure.