Something Swedish


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Pears, pears, everywhere

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pear flavored pastries

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pear flavored ice cream

One of the things I noticed when I moved here was how much Swedes love anything pear (päron) flavored. It’s everywhere, and for me it was strange. I’m not sure if this is just because I hated pears growing up, but I’ve never noticed “pear flavored” anything in New York.

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pear flavored syrup

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pear flavored cheese

Since moving to Sweden I’ve had pear flavored candy, pastries, cheese, ice cream, soda, juice and cider.

To me pear flavor is “lagom” because it’s fruity without being overly sweet like apple. I’ll never go back to drinking apple-anything and I even eat pears now.

Thanks Sweden!

Has anyone else noticed this?

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pear flavored juice

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pear flavored cream

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pear flavored candies (The green ones aren’t just apple or lime!)

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pear flavored soda

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pear flavored cider


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Veggie Progress

The first month of my 12-part “Resolution Evolution” (read about it HERE)  is over half way done, so I thought an update was in order. So far it has been a successful and interesting eye opening experience. It’s difficult for a non-vegetarian to not eat meat for a month (even if I do still have fish once a week), but I’m pleased with the results.

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Success: I haven’t caved and eaten any meat (who knew that veggie schnitzels and filets are so tasty?), I have been taking my vitamins every day, I pay more attention to what I eat, I’ve tried new recipes and discovered foods that we didn’t know we enjoyed.

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 Interesting: A side effect I didn’t expect is that I’ve been cooking almost everyday and my love of cooking has been rekindled. It’s a lot harder to make a meal without meat and takes a lot more thought to “mix it up.” Because of this and since most of our meals revolve around vegetables, I’m getting better at planning meals ahead and wasting less food.

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Eye-opening: Mostly though, I’ve “walked a mile in their shoes” – vegetarians that is, and it’s uncomfortable. On the social level I found it shocking and aggravating how many people are almost offended by ME not eating meat for a month. There was a lot of “But why would you do that? Meat is awesome” or “You’re not becoming one of them, are you?” or “I don’t understand vegetarians, it’s so stupid.” My reasoning was constantly dismissed and I was given strange looks for wanting to try something new. I can only imagine what real vegetarians have to go through to defend their choice. I hope people aren’t so blunt to people who have a reason/principle/belief behind not eating meat.

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On a logistical level, being a vegetarian is difficult because your options are so limited when eating out and you always feel like an inconvenience. Unless you are going to restrict yourself to eating french fries and mozzarella sticks, it’s hard to find decent vegetarian food at most places. Even if you know you’ll find something wherever you go, it becomes a huge awkward discussion with all the attention centered on your eating habits. I’m on a mission to find good vegetarian options in town and make a list of the best fast food veggie burgers for the next post, along with my top 5 favorite vegetarian recipes of the month (Spoiler: vegetarian chilli is in the lead).

Does anyone have any vegetarian recipes for me to try?


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Glad Påsk! Happy Easter!

Sitting on the train heading up to Värnamo to spend the holiday with my in-laws we were approached by a little girl. Being accustomed to panhandling on the subway in NYC, I averted my eyes, hoping my husband would deal with it and send her away. When a meek gentle voice wished us “Glad Påsk” I saw that the girl was dressed as an Easter Witch with a green apron and scarf, covered in painted-on freckles. She was the daughter of the train conductor, handing out free chocolate Easter egg candies to all the passengers.

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Easter in Sweden is all about the candy, eggs, and witches. Instead of Easter baskets, candy is kept in large paper Easter eggs:

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The three main decorations of Easter are these oversized decorated Easter eggs, colorful feathers, and witches on broomsticks.

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Wondering why Easter in Sweden has so many witches? Easter was believed to be the day when the witches would fly to the blue mountain and dance with the devil. It was common to  close the windows and light fires so the witches wouldn’t land on near your house. Nowadays, Swedish Easter witches are kids walking from house to house dressed in scarfs and rags with a copper teapot collecting treats from neighbors in exchange for drawings.

This year I even found devil chickens to accompany my Easter witch:

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Freaky. Thankfully the cute type are still around:

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And then we have the edible type that my husband expertly crafted:

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Behind the scenes, making of:

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As with every Swedish Holiday, the smörgåsbord is beautiful and delicious:

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With a little extra eggs (Hard and soft boiled)  on the table, Påskmust (Easter soda) and schnaps. it is an Easter meal.

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We rounded the night off with some monopoly…guess who won!?

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Hope everyone had a great holiday!!

Read about last years Easter Here!


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Waffle Day – Våffeldagen

In Sweden, today – and every 25th of March – is WAFFLE DAY! If you ever needed an excuse to eat waffles, here it is.

Waffles in the U.S. are a breakfast food, covered in syrup and butter. In Sweden, however, waffles are strictly dessert covered in freshly whipped cream and strawberry jam.

Why is it Waffle Day? They say that it stems from the mispronunciation of “vårfrudagen” (Our Lady’s Day) to “våffeldagen” (Waffle Day).  Leave it to Swedes to turn the conception of Christ into a day to enjoy waffles!2013-03-25 18.41.492013-03-25 18.41.46


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Cooking Swedish: Semlor

Semlor day is here again! Read all about the history, meaning, and traditions of Fettisdag and semlor (And a review of the best semlor in Halmstad) in last years posts: HERE and HERE.

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This year, learn how to make your own beloved Swedish classic! c’mon be a little Swedish! These sweet buns are eaten until Easter, so you have time!

semlorblog


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Cooking Swedish: Fläskpannkaka

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine made a traditional Swedish dish called fläskpannkaka, or pork pancake. I’ve read about this food before and was curious about it because it seemed very simple and easy to make in addition to something that Swedes love to eat!

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It’s not just regular pancakes with pork, but instead a thicker version baked in the oven. The fläskpannkaka I ate was thinner and had spinach in it and I’ve read other recipes with parsley or other spices to give it a little different flavor and add some color. Below is the basic traditional way to make fläskpannkaka, enjoy!!

FLÄSKPANNKAKA

We used two different types of pork, as we didn’t have enough of either. Bacon works great, but the pork you’re supposed to use is called “rimmat fläsk” or “salted pork.” Many people prefer to bake the bacon or pork for 10-15 minutes instead of frying it by using the same pan as its going to be cooked in. Four eggs, 2.5 cups (6 dl) milk, and 1.5 cup (3.5 dl) flour with a sprinkle of salt and sugar into the batter.

Smaklig Måltid! Bon Apetitt!

Julbord: Christmas Table

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I’ve eaten Christmas dinner in Sweden four times now, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized how traditional it really is. A week before Christmas we had lunch at a restaurant, which happened to be serving a “Julbord.” Christmas in Sweden is all about the Julbord – think “Smörgåsbord” but with all the classic Christmas foods. The restaurant Julbord was serving the exact same Christmas foods as I’ve eaten in Sweden the last few years; it’s not just a family tradition.

Come noon on December 24th (Swede’s celebrate on the eve, or afton) our Julbord looks something like this every year:

Except this year we somehow forgot the boiled eggs – a Swedish tragedy. So, whats on this Christmas Table? Let’s see!

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Julskinka: Naturally, The Christmas Ham – only eaten after smothered in mustard.

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Dopp i gryta: “Dip in the pot” –  Using the rich flavored Christmas Ham broth, it is very traditional to dip dark bread and to eat the soaked bread along with Christmas dinner.

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Janssons Frestelse:  “Janssons Temptation”a delicious dish with very thinly cut potato ‘sticks’ is cooked in the oven with a secret ingredient that makes many non-swedes squirm…

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Anchovies. and anchovy juice.  Sounds gross, I know, but it’s awesome and full of flavor!

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Kålpudding:  Cabbage pudding. Thinly chopped cabbage, fried with syrup, baked with a thick layer of seasoned ground beef in the middle.

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Some Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse  preparation.

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Fläskkorv: large pork sausage

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Prinskorv: “Prince sausage”  mini hotdog-like sausages

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Köttbullar: The homemade meatballs, of course.

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Brunkål: Brown Cabbage, served as a side dish. Cabbage is boiled and fried and seasoned with vinegar, salt and syrup.

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Christmas Bread

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Cheese, bread, butter, and salad.

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My Christmas feast. Bottom center is the Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse.

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Alongside we drank Julmust, beer, and snaps.

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Julmust is a very popular cola beverage that is Christmas themed and has a distinctly different “holiday” flavor.

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After dinner and before the presents we eat Struva and glögg - a Swedish mulled spiced wine served warm with raisins and almonds.

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Later that evening we enjoyed Swedish cheesecake, icecream, jam, and cream with coffee, tea, and liquor.

If we had any young kids in the family our Christmas eve festivities would be very different, having to schedule around the must-watch 3:00pm Christmas cartoon, “Kalle Anka,” or as we know him – Donald Duck.  Every year half of Sweden faithfully sits around the television and watches “Kalle Anke och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Which would probably be followed by a mysterious Santa knocking on the door and giving out presents.

Christmas eve is also filled with tons of chocolate treats and candy, both as dessert and presents.

On Christmas Day, as if we aren’t full enough, we have our next food tradition – Lutfisk served with boiled potatoes.

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Lutefisk is a white fish that is air dried to later be re-hydrated with water and lye. The fish soaks in the lye water for weeks before it is ready to be cooked. The fish has a strange consistency the first time you eat it, but it is easily forgotten because it is served with a ton of white sauce, salt, and pepper. There are very small bones in the fish,  so be careful!

One last thing – it is very popular to make gingerbread houses in Sweden, as well as to eat ginger bread cookies throughout the month.

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A Swedish Thanksgiving

Figures that the first time I host my own Thanksgiving dinner, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate it! My first year away from my family traditions and celebrations, I wanted to start my own – so I brought Thanksgiving to Sweden, to share it with my Swedish family.

Turkey nails for the occasion

On The Menu:

Turkey & Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, String Bean Casserole, Cauliflower Casserole, Fruit & Walnut Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Pumpkin Cookies, Cannoli Cups, Mulled Apple Cider

Eight over-sized American dishes I’ve never cooked before for seven new Swedish family members who have never tasted my cooking? No Pressure! It’s not as if I only started cooking a year ago and have hardly stepped foot in a kitchen before then or something… No Problem! Thankfully my husband helped me through it all, my mother-in-law made sure the turkey was cooked and made the gravy, and my sister-in-law brought the apple pie and vanilla sauce.

Chopping nuts and veggies at 9 am, handling a knife this early is just not safe!

My Swedish Thanksgiving breakfast.

Initially I thought celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving in Sweden would be hard to do, as Turkeys aren’t really sold here, but about a month ago I was shocked to see a small part of the freezer in Hemköp filled with small-medium sized turkeys! And about a week later, it was empty. I guess there are other American expats out there! Thankfully my in-laws were able to buy one in time. The store “defrosted” it for us for three days – but it was still half frozen!

We placed the turkey in the cold laundry room with the window open overnight, while it was brining in a pot of water, salt, sugar, and spices. After it didn’t fit in the refrigerator we didn’t know were to put it! I’ll never forget my husband running around with a huge turkey pot, “New Plan! New Plan!”

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is the canned cranberry sauce. I asked my cousin to mail a can, but neither of us thought that it was worth the $13 shipping. I spotted fresh cranberries two weeks ago, thought it was normal, and didn’t rush to buy any. When they were gone, my husband said he has never seen them being sold fresh before. Luckily we found frozen cranberries and I made my own. It was easier than I thought: cranberries, water, orange juice, white & brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt & pepper. Tasty tasty.

I was tempted to buy an extra pumpkin after Halloween, because canned pumpkin isn’t sold here in Sweden and I thought I would have to make my own if we were to have a traditional pumpkin dessert. Then, I heard rumors of it being stocked in the international section of MAXI. I made Pumpkin cookies instead of pumpkin pie; they were gobbled up quickly, being compared to different sorts of Christmas cookies. I also made a batch of cannoli cups, which were a hit.

My cousin sent me a care package with some Thanksgiving essentials like a turkey baster and French’s fried onions – without which, a classic dish would have been missing (Yes, I added bacon):

She also sent festive turkey napkins and paper plates. The decorations pulled it all together.

As soon as we arrived I realized I forgot the marshmallows at home. THE MARSHMALLOWS! A Thanksgiving tragedy, I thought – our poor sweet potatoes!  Seeing as I already cut out half of the sugar and mixed in white potatoes to make this dish more “Swedish” the lack of marshmallows was probably a good thing.

When we started talking  about celebrating Thanksgiving one of the first questions was, “Are we going to stuff the turkey??” Having seen Thanksgiving celebrated on T.V and movies, I guess this part of the meal was a staple for my Swedish family’s knowledge of the holiday. At first I said “Sure!” which lead to a bit of disappointment when I decided not to do it, as it can be potentially dangerous, too salty, and too much work for a first timer.

I was probably just as nervous about the fruit & walnuts stuffing as I was about the turkey. It came out very good, and now I know what to do to make it better next year! (Smaller, torn pieces of bread)

Next year I need to make more cauliflower casserole and green bean casserole:

Of course we had  to Swedify Thanksgiving a bit and have some boiled potatoes and meatballs -

Once all the side dishes were done, and the kitchen was clean (Thanks to my incredibly helpful & supportive husband, who also did all the peeling and mashing) we had time to sit back for an hour before we started prepping the bird.

Being in Sweden means having no roasting rack or pan, but we made do with what we had!

Hubby had the honor of  washing, handling, and carving the bird, while I prepped the flavoring.

While it was cooking everyone was in the kitchen saying “luktar så gott!” – “Smells so good!”

I tried the method of cooking it upside-down for half of the time, which seemed to make the breast less dry and more tasty. The gravy from the juices was delicious!

Tasted, smelled, and felt like home.

Thanksgiving in Sweden was officially a success! Everyone took seconds, and had a favorite dish. The next day we all enjoyed a full plate of left overs. I took home enough sweet potatoes and stuffing to last a few days. Looking forward to next year with notes of improvement from this very first Thanksgiving! Happy Gobble Gobble Day!

Vocabulary

Turkey: Kalkon

Give thanks: Ge tack

Family: Familj

Tradition: Tradition


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Cooking Swedish: Falukorv med Bostongurka

Today we pondered what we can have for dinner and my husband told me to look up “Falukorv med Bostongurka”  After looking at a few photos, I chopped a few veggies, spread some condiments, sprinkled some cheese, baked, and enjoyed!

 

Falukorv is a large traditional sausage made of pork, spices and potato starch flour. It is commonly eaten fried in a few popular meals, as well as atop of a smörgås. Bostongurka is a type of pickled relish that is very popular in Sweden.

This is a pretty common Swedish meal, something kids learn to make in school. It would be considered a “vardag” or “husmanskost” food, because it is simple, traditional, and made with common local ingredients.

Vocabulary

Sausage – Korv

Cucumber – Gurka

Pepper – Peprika

Tomato – Tomat

Onion – Lök

Cheese – Ost

Dinner – Middag


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Exploring Sweden: Café Killeröd, Båstad

Last weekend we had a little “utflykt” (outing) to a town called Båstad, which is a bit south of Halmstad. Our friends wanted to show us a cafe they were told about during the summer called Café Killeröd. We arrived around 4pm on a cloudy day, so we couldn’t fully enjoy what looked like would normally be a beautiful view. The cafe is up high so you can look down onto and past Båstad, over the ocean and see the nearest tip of Denmark.

We only drove through Båstad, but it seemed like a small (5,000 population) cozy harbor town. It was originally named a city while under Danish rule and was named “Botstœdœ” (boat landing place).

We shared the two specials: Äpplemarängtårtbit med vaniljsås (apple meringue pie with vanilla sauce) and tryffeltårtbit (truffle cake), both were delish!!

The tryffeltårtbit is actually named “Carl-Johan Bernadotte Tryffeltårtbit” because it was created as an 80th birthday cake for a prince of Sweden, Count Carl Johan Bernadotte of Wisborg.

 

Vocabulary:

Boat: båt

Harbor: hamn

Apple: äpple

Chocolate: choklad

Tasty: smaklig

Cozy: mysig

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