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Pizza Party

Making pizza from scratch has always been one of those things that I’ve wanted to try but had been pretty intimidated by. This weekend I decided to face my fears and take on this challenge. I got my recipe for pizza crust from The Best New Recipe. I love this cookbook because it explains so much about what to do, what not to do, and what could go wrong and why. PIZZA1PIZZA2PIZZA3PIZZA5The book even includes diagrams showing how to shape the dough! Of course, even with diagrams I managed only one well shaped pizza. The dough was easy with the help of a food processor and stand mixer. The dough rose well in about an hour and a half. The question of sauce had the lazy part of me and the foodie part of me at odds with each other. Do I use jarred sauce for ease, or do I make sauce for better flavor? That question was answered when I checked in The Best New Recipe cookbook and found a super simple sauce that had 5 ingredients, took all of 20 minutes to make and was delicious. My wonderful sister Sarah drove up from College Station for the night to help with the rest. (more…)

Wedding Bells in New York

My sister Lisa married Randy Kim on September 21 and it was incredible! I love being in the city…it’s a pretty fast paced environment and I find it invigorating. Ben finds it irritating, so I wouldn’t bet on us making New York City our place of residence anytime soon…or ever.

cab benandme bridge

It was a whirlwind weekend. Ben and I flew up with my Dad and Sarah on Thursday morning. We arrived at the Cosmopolitan Hotel around 5 o’clock and got ready for the rehearsal dinner at Dekk. Yummy food and great company. Friday morning we met up at Mandy’s new apartment in Brooklyn to get mani-pedis and get beautiful. How convenient that Jacques Torres chocolate shop was just a 5 minute walk down the street 🙂 Chocolate covered cheerios are delicious!!

sisters bride cake

The wedding and reception were at Smack Mellon…an art gallery that they completely transformed with beautiful lavender and green flowers and cool lighting. The food was delicious; traditional roast chicken, Korean bbq and some Swedish touches…Swedish meatball hors d’oeuvres and rice pudding for dessert. The wedding cake was a bit Swedish too…cardamom cake with lingonberry filling. The outside of the cake was covered in folded white chocolate. Everything was amazing. It didn’t hurt that you could look out the window and see the Brooklyn bridge and the lights of Manhattan in the distance.

In summary, the wedding weekend was spectacular. I had an amazing time. It was special to be there and for so much of our family to make the trip.

My First Real Dinner Party

The idea came to me on Thursday evening. My husband Ben and I sometimes have special dinners on the weekends since I actually have time to cook an entire meal instead of reheating lasagna 3 nights in a row. We were planning such an evening for Saturday, but then thought about inviting our friends Jason and Carrie over for dinner. I started searching for recipes and found something that would be more ambitious than anything I’ve tried before…but I was ready for a challenge. Pan seared venison with blackberry ancho sauce and sweet potato pine nut polenta. I replaced the venison with pork tenderloin. Cinnamon ice cream (from scratch) with Mexican shortbread cookies for dessert. Jason and Carrie offered to bring some cheeses and a salad.

The plan had been made….but not executed…yet. Saturday morning at 8 am I head to the grocery store. I return with quite a few HEB bags and a bouquet of flowers…no dinner party would be complete without flowers. I start with the blackberry ancho sauce…a 4 step process. Then I start the cinnamon ice cream…also a time intensive effort. Then the polenta. Then the marinade for the pork. A quick house cleaning and I was pretty much prepped and hitting the showers by 4:30 pm.  I was ready…

Carrie and Jason get to the house at 6 pm and Jason sets out the cheeses, crackers, bread and fruit.  I discovered that I have a deep love for Port Salut…creamy French wonderfulness.

With Carries’ help, dinner was tasty and dessert was terrific.  The 90’s Trivial Pursuit game was good for the Hartmans…not so good for the Zinneckers.  The pressure of hosting a dinner party has been lifted.  What challenge will be next…hosting family Thanksgiving?!!?!

Min tripp till Sverige…

I would not be writing this blog post if I had not received my passport…thanks again kind woman at Chet Edwards office!!

July 12:  I departed from Austin with my mom and my sisters Lindsey and Sarah for the homeland…Sweden!  We met my sister Lisa in London a mere 14 hours later.  From there we head to Stockholm…

July 13: We pick up our Volvo S70 from Hertz and drive to the Hotel Diplomat for our first night.  It was 8pm Sweden time, but since the sun doesn’t set until 11pm we had plenty of daylight left for sightseeing!  Lisa led us on a mini-tour around Stockholm to Gamla Stan (Old Town) to do a little shopping and get some dinner.  We found a place to eat and shared some Swedish meatballs, steamed mussels, and fried scallops and shrimp.  We followed dinner with some dessert…ice cream!  Some of the best I’ve ever had.  Off to bed at 11:30.

July 14: No better way to start the day than a breakfast buffet of smoked salmon, caviar, bread, cheese, yogurt, muesli and wonderfully strong coffee.  We visited Skansen, the oldest open air museum in the world, and the Vasa Museum before driving 5 hours south to Smaland.

July 15: Our first day at the little red cottage in Ljungby!  We visited Rydaholm to see the church where my mom’s grandmother went.  From there we went to a flea market and a cute cafe in Ohr.  Grocery shopping for 5 people in a foreign country is interesting…

July 16: Our 4th cousin Samuel and his family live in Jonskoping, so we spent the day there.  We got to see the houses where my great grandma Tina Sundbeck and great grandpa Ernest Johnson were born.  We had dinner on the pier with Samuels family.  I tasted a freshly picked cloudberry!!

July 17: The House of Emigrants and a beautiful double spire church dedicated to Saint Sven are in Vaxjo.  We spent most of the day here with a little side trip to have fika (coffee and cookies) with Bertil and Lisa at a cute cafe.  Some people have a hard time polishing off a cinnamon bun, 7 small cookies and a piece of cake….those people are weaklings.
July 18: A relative on my mom’s side of the family lives about 2 hours from our cottage, so we drove there to see them…Stellan and his wife Lisbeth.  We went to a military base and got to see a few boats come through the locks on the Gota Canal.  We had a picnic in the park that afternoon and a wonderful home cooked meal of smoked fish, potatoes, carrots and bread and cheese before heading back to the cottage.  Oh, ice cream and fresh berries from the garden for dessert.  You don’t get berries from your garden for dessert in Texas.

July 19: A day in the “Kingdom of Crystal” brought us to 5 different glasswork.  The things we saw were amazing.  My big souvenir from the trip was a clear and white vase from Pukeberg….seriously, that is the name of the town.

July 20: Helsingborg, Sweden in on the southwest coast.  We did quite a bit of shopping here and saw Denmark from the fortress Karnan in the city center.  We got back to the cottage and had time for a rowboat outing on our semi-private lake.  Sarah and I managed to get the hang of the rowing after a few good minutes of rowing in circles…thanks for your help, Mom!

July 21: We left the cottage and headed back to Stockholm.  We stopped to see Byrtil and Lisa where we had a lovely lunch of fresh chanterelle mushroom soup, bread, cheese and an amazing rhubard tart.  In Stockholm we did a little more shopping, had pizza at an Italian place and got ice cream…again.  Everyone seemed to be eating ice cream all the time in Sweden, so it was only natural 🙂  I finally got my Tunnsbrodsrulle (a swedish hotdog wrapped in flatbread, filled with mashed potatoes, ketchup, mustard and relish…I kid you not)  It was an experience.  Let’s just say that after a bite you’re pretty much satisfied.

July 22:  Goodbye Sweden!!  Back to Texas…31 hours of birthday celebration for me thanks to the time change 🙂  A Cinnabon at O’Hare makes a nice birthday cake…thanks mom and Sarah!

I highly recommend a trip to Sweden in the summer.  I don’t know what it is, but the grass seems greener, the sky seems bluer, the air cleaner, the sun brighter and the godis (candy) sweeter.  I think it has something to do with Socialism…

Passport

If you are planning to leave the country in the next couple of days….beware!  The passport you applied for in April may not arrive in the 3 months (12 weeks) the passport agency promised.   In fact, you may find yourself without a passport two days before you are supposed to leave for Sweden!  Not to fear…just call your Congressman!  My new friend Chet Edwards helped me to get my passport so that I could take a family trip to the homeland.  Thanks Chet!  No one else I know could have helped to get a passport in 48 hours.

Aebleskiver Rip-off

Pancake puffs (check out the link)!! My dreams have come true! What an ingenious invention! Or is it?

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but these are not new to the culinary world. I’ve been eating AEBLESKIVERS, that’s right aebleskivers not pancake puffs, since I was just a wee little Scandinavian baby. Eating aebleskivers has been a tradition in the Sundbeck/Rystrom family on Christmas morning for years, but their history dates back to the time of the Vikings. Legend has it that a meeting between the Vikings and King Arthur’s Knights brought about the beginning of aebles. The vikings cooked the “pancakes” in their shields which had dents from battle…dents that cooked up pancake balls…pancake balls which are now known as aebleskiver!

We eat our aebles spread with butter then topped with lingonberries, or syrup and powdered sugar. YUMMY!

If you choose to buy a “pancake puff” pan that is ok…but you better not call them “pancake puffs”!! They are aebleskivers and always will be.

aebleskiver

Top Chef Update: Episode 2

June 20: I agree to meet Ben and Matthew at Pei Wei only if we get home by 9pm to watch Top Chef…I may be addicted.

The Quickfire challenge is a battle of the citrus. Hung wins. Gourmet BBQ is the elimination challenge in Episode 2. Tre gloats about being from Texas and knowing BBQ so well that he’ll easily take the top spot…the first taste of foreshadowing from our friends at Bravo. Clips of Lisa showcase her lack of confidence in her ability as a chef and in her food in this episode which makes me think she’s going to be the next to go…she goes on to be in the top 3 of the BBQ challenge. They tricked me. Tre’s peach BBQ salmon is not a success. Tricked again. Brian wins the BBQ challenge with seafood sausage and Sandee’s not-so-barbequed lobster puts her on the bus back home. I still think Hung is one of the best chefs, but his attitude is horribly irritating and he is completely inconsiderate. I find out from my cousin that he’s friends with Marcel from season 2. It all makes sense now.

The Most Expensive Chocolate in the Whole Wide World

Think beyond the giant Hershey Kiss or the 5lb Hershey Bar…this isn’t about size. Think beyond the “high end” Ghirardelli and Lindt chocolates at your local grocery store…you can’t buy these at the grocery store. This is serious chocolate. I can’t help but wonder…is it really worth it? This list of chocolates range from Jacques Torres assorted truffles at $50 per pound all the way to Knipschildt’s La Medeline au Truffe at $2,400 per pound. No joke. Will a 2 ounce chocolate truffle with truffle oil and an actual Perigord truffle mushroom wrapped in Valrhona dark chocolate make me swoon more than a ho-hum Hershey kiss? I may never know.

“The World’s Most Expensive Chocolates” by Forbes

Geoduck, Black chicken, Ostrich…

I turn to Bravo at 8:57, and what do I see? A countdown clock in the bottom right hand corner of the screen with 0:02:37 remaining! I had to practice patience. My patience was greatly rewarded over the next 75 minutes.

We are first introduced to the cast of 15 that will soon dwindle to 14. A surprise amuse bouche quick fire challenge greets the chefs in Miami. Micah wins the quick fire and earns a spot in my pick for the final 4. The elimination challenge: exotic surf and turf with appetizing proteins like black chicken, geoduck, ostrich and rattlesnake. Harsh guest Anthony Bourdain joins the judging table. Tre and his seared ostrich filet and abalone reduction win the elimination challenge and Hung (black chicken and geoduck) is also a favorite. Clay, the odd ball from Mississippi serves up some poorly cooked wild boar chops and must “Take his knives, and go.”

Overall, I was pleased with the premiere. The women weren’t in the top or bottom for the elimination challenge. But I don’t think they’ll stay under the radar for long. Micah seems really talented, so she, Tre and Hung are my picks for the final competing chefs. As for lucky # 4…probably Howie.

Brilliant Advertising

I would like to be friends or at least have dinner with the people who came up with this commercial. It’s perfect. A normal looking guy in a Wendy’s wig—with his hair sticking out—who single-handedly starts a burger revolution which has little to do with tree kicking. But that just makes it all the more memorable. Way to go Wendy’s advertising team!