Christmas rice pudding

Just popping in with another little snippet of a post to share one more of the recipes from our gløgg feast the other day.  Though it is a traditional Christmas dish, we didn’t grow up having rice pudding at Christmas.  During Christmas Eve day, to stem the tide of complaints about having to wait until after dinner to open presents, my mother would make us a rich, smooth porridge – I believe it was mostly milk, butter, and a little flour and sugar, topped with cinnamon sugar and butter – but not rice pudding.  Some Danish friends of ours had rice pudding, though, and I was always interested in it, particularly because whipped cream was folded into it.  (It’s easy to catch my interest – I am to cream as a magpie is to silver.)

In spite of the cream, when I tried it I discovered I didn’t love it.  I found the nubby texture of the cooked rice off-putting, and preferred smooth puddings and porridges.  (No tapioca for me either, please and thank you.)  But, that was when I was young, and foolish, and over sensitive to textural interest.  Over time I have evolved to love rice pudding.  It is cool, creamy, slightly chewy, and one of the most comforting foods there is.  In addition to being an excellent way to use cooked rice.  So, this year rice pudding is in the lineup – for gløgg parties and Christmas!

Christmas rice pudding 2

Creamy rice pudding
Serves: 6-8
  • ½ cup long grain rice
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raisins or dried currants
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  1. Combine the rice and water with the pinch of salt in a pot, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a very low simmer, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the milk, ½ cup sugar, and cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture just barely to a boil (watch carefully so you don't let it boil over), then turn down to low and cook, uncovered, until thick, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and raisins/dried currants. Allow to cool completely.
  3. Chill for 2 hours. Just before serving, whip the heavy cream with the 2 tsp. sugar until it holds stiff peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the rice mixture, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve.


roots parsley pistou 1

One of the moments I most look forward to all year long is coming home from Christmas Eve service with my family, building a fire in the fireplace, turning on Perry Como’s Christmas album, and sipping on a sizeable mug of gløgg. Still glowing from belting out all my favorite Christmas carols (I can’t help it, when it comes to carols, I have to sing at the top of my lungs), the gløgg elevates the moment to the warmest, fuzziest, softly glowing-est feeling of the year.

Gløgg, the Scandinavian version of mulled wine, often begins making an appearance in Scandinavian households at the beginning of December. In Sweden, it is especially popular to host glögg (that’s the Swedish spelling) parties during early advent. The sweet, fragrantly spiced warm wine is the perfect antidote to cold dark days. Many families have their own gløgg recipes. Some, like mine always has, buy premade gløgg concentrate from the grocery store – just add wine and warm. Though my family goes the pre-made route with gløgg, many of my good friends are hard core do-it-yourself-ers when it comes to gløgg, and I have learned from them. Our friend Peter Peterson makes liter upon liter of gløgg mix every December, funnels it into growlers, decorates these with his own, signature Dala horse label and distributes them to friends and family. My friend Megan and I have traditionally hosted a gløgg party for all of our friends with an ever-evolving pot of gløgg. We start with a base recipe, but as friends bring their own ingredients to throw in as they arrive, so every time you go back for another cup-ful you get something new, but still delicious and warming.

roots parsley pistou 2

Those gløgg parties at Megan’s apartment are something I miss terribly.  So, this year I decided to bring a little of that holiday spirit to our neighborhood.  I commandeered the house of one of my really good friends here, and threw a little gløgg (and punch too!) soaked party.  I’m going to post menus and recipes for the whole party over on our distillery website in a couple of days, and I’ll share that here when I do, but first THESE ROOT VEGETABLES.  Because they are mixed root vegetables, roasted until creamy within and almost charred without, then tossed with an herb sauce with roasted garlic and parsley, and piled on top of a swoosh of creme fraiche.  And it turns out they are one of the best ways of eating vegetables, possibly of all time.  I was wowed by my own vegetable prowess, and though there was a whole table food of wonderful food and drink, these veggies were what everyone was talking about.

Roasted root vegetables with creme fraiche and parsley pistou
Serves: 6 servings
  • about 3.5 lbs mixed root vegetables (I used sweet potato, parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, turnip, and cauliflower - which is not a root vegetable, but it works), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 or 4 large cloves of garlic, skin on
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • ¼-1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • ¾ cup creme fraiche
  1. Heat your oven to 425F. Toss the cubed vegetables and the garlic cloves with ¼ cup olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until extremely tender and browned on the outside, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  2. Remove the roasted garlic cloves and take off their peels. Combine the roasted garlic, parsley, white wine vinegar, and ¼ cup olive oil plus a pinch of salt in a food processor. Process until thoroughly chopped together (but stop before it becomes a paste) adding more olive oil if it needs to be more sauce-y. Taste and adjust the vinegar and salt to taste.
  3. Toss the roasted vegetables with as much of the parsley pistou as you'd like.
  4. To serve, spread the creme fraiche in a layer on a serving dish, then layer the root vegetables over this. Serve warm or at room temperature.


salmon with creamed spinach 1

Well, I thought I was going to have more time.  I was wrong.  Instead we have had a string of little mishaps and bits insanity one after the next.  Our house was broken into and all of my photography equipment and computer along with a bunch of heirloom jewelry and my flute were stolen.  That was really a horrible feeling.  But, no one was home and no one was hurt, and therefore we are putting it behind us and just moving forward.  With new locks.  And an alarm system.  Sigh.  And our roof sprang a leak and had to be redone.  And our wall sprang a leak and we had to actually remove the whole wall – our house was completely open to the outside for a day and a half there – and build a new one (and by we, I mean Joel and a handful of our handy, lifesaving, employees).  Our yard had a drainage problem so we had to dig it up and put in piping.  We said we were opposed to a proposed mining project because of concerns about potential negative economic and environmental impact in our area that depends on the water as a central part of the regional economy, and it made some people who want mining jobs really, really angry.  We released a whiskey!  I started writing a column about drinks and also wrote another fun little piece for Lucky Peach, this one about food in fairytales.  And throughout it all, the world just keeps turning, eh? a dizzying place, always mixing the profoundly horrible and profoundly wonderful all together, a cement that binds us all.

salmon creamed spinach 2

Anyway, it’s real life.  And, hey, the tagline of this blog is fitting real food into real life, so why not try to scramble in some little posts with what we’ve been eating in the midst of everything.  I can’t remember the last time I looked at a recipe.  Everything I cook these days is something simple that I can pull out of my brain, recipes that I make using muscle memory more than thought.  This was a simple and delicious meal of that sort.  A simple roast salmon smothered in creamed spinach.  How can you go wrong?  The only thing that would have made it better would have been if I had figured out how to make it all in one pot, instead of a whole two.  But, hey, Joel was doing the dishes…

Salmon with creamed spinach
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 fillet of salmon, about 2 lbs
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat your oven to 425F.
  2. Brush your salmon fillet with ½ Tbs. of the olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until just cooked through, mine took 15-20 minutes, I think.
  3. While the salmon is roasting, heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and let it sizzle until golden, then stir in the spinach and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the spinach is quite wilted. Then, add the cream. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve the salmon with the creamed spinach as a sauce and potatoes or another vegetable on the side.
I bet this would also be really good with coconut milk instead of cream. In that case, though, I might spice it up by adding a couple tsp. of ginger with the garlic, and stirring in some brown sugar and fish sauce and serving lime wedges on the side.


veggie toad 1

I made this and wrote this months ago.  Like, in June.  And then I Espen’s school was out for the summer and our schedule blew up and I never found time to input the recipe and post it.  Until now!  I think this is a dish that will actually still work nicely through August and into early fall.  You can even adjust the veggies in it somewhat to suit what you have.

The other day I woke up and for the first time in months and months, I didn’t feel like only eating pizza and chocolate cake for every meal.  Which seems like a hopeful sign, right?

I made this roasted vegetable toad in the hole for dinner because the stunning image of it called to me from an issue of Food & Wine magazine I had lying open.  The original recipe was from Marte Marie Forsberg, a Norwegian photographer living in the British countryside.  Terribly romantic.  Her version required all sorts of separate cooking of the vegetables in separate pots or pans and I thought, ‘what?  There’s a pan going into the oven to preheat anyway, can’t I just roast the vegetables in there while it preheats?’ And so I did.  And it worked great.

veggie toad 2


Oh my dear friends, I’m so sorry, but I’m still not cooking.  Not anything of note.  Not anything with any inspiration.  Case in point, I just ate some fish balls from a can plus sauteed greens for dinner.  Standing at the counter.  I guess I made a sort of chicken curry thing yesterday – Espen got the leftovers of that today.  It was good, but not noteworthy.  Cooking still doesn’t inspire me.  Actually, on that note, paging all working moms, HELP!  Do you have any tips for getting dinner on the table every day while mustering some occasional sense of inspiration, or at least not total burnout, about it?  I would LOVE TIPS!!!!!

In the meantime, this is what I’m up to most of the time: orchestrating the workings of our cocktail program, and making 900 different jars of liqueurs and amari, and tweaking our gins, and working on our whiskey.  Oh and we are releasing a vodka next week (I’m surly about that because I find vodka dull – sorry if you’re a vodka lover, I mean no offense! It’s just not a personal favorite.)  And that’s good too.  And at the end of this post I’ll share a recipe for the cocktail I came up with in honor of my grandmother.  For the most part it’s easy to make – the IPA syrup is mildly tricky, but not very – and it’s fantastically complex and colorful, a little tart, salty, spicy, and full of attitude.  Like my grandma.  I’ll share that, but first I’m going to share a bunch of pictures from the distillery because that’s what I have pictures of right now.

cocktail making behind bar copypouring lumbersexual copyice block copyEmily with event punch copy

ted and caleb and stills copycaleb checking run copyjoel espen and measuring tape copy

bottling line copy More

bacon date grilled cheese 1

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi
(translation by Coleman Barks)

This poem has been running through my mind of late. We’ve been sick a lot this past month.  Month and a half now, actually.  Espen has started a Montessorri preschool toddler program, which was a hard transition for both him and me.  But, it is such a blessing now that he has picked up this new routine and is running with it.  He loves it there.  He loves the stimulation of the activities, the interaction with other children his age (oh it is just grand to see him making friends!  Little friends!!!), the sitting down for morning snack in a chair just his size with a glass cup just his size and water poured from a colorful fish jug.  It makes me happy to see him enjoying himself.  However, kids are kids and they are little petri dishes of sickness, and then whatever Espen catches I catch, and then Joel catches it, in predictable progression.  And the sicknesses sweep through each one after the next violently sweeping our house empty, again and again.  But, they’re just colds and stomach bugs, when it comes down to it, and for that I am so very grateful.  Fundamentally we are healthy (even if sometimes grumpy about the aches and fatigue), and that matters.


bar front

Oh heyyyyyy.  Has it seriously been over a month since we last talked?! Yipes.  And my little seasonal favorites section is still all about spring favorites – oops, must fix that!

Anyway, since I was last here I’ve been up to a few little things.  I was on Minnesota Public Radio a couple times, for example, first talking about porridge and then talking pie crusts (they even made a video of me for that one!  That was weird, having a guy come in and video me for a couple hours while I made a pie crust.  I practiced for two weeks to make sure I could roll under pressure, and then I tried to just pretend I was talking to a friend in the kitchen about how I go about making pie crust.  I think it mostly worked.  Except that it lead me to babble about some fairly silly things.  Thank goodness for video editing and the fact that they took two hours and turned it into two minutes.).  That’s been cool.  I like radio recording equipment even better in person than I did in concept.  It makes you feel very official to wear giant headphones and talk into a microphone attached to a long arm.

apple pie

We took Espen trick or treating for the first time (well, sort of. Really we visited two neighbors and then we were done) – he was a stegosaurus.  And he’s now had his first Thanksgiving meal, which he loved.  He went to town on the turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes, and then took his plate of pie and whipped cream and smashed it into his face to lick it clean with the vigor and enthusiasm that I always secretly want to apply to my pumpkin pie eating but am too concerned about table manners to do so.


pumpkin raisin scones 1

I knoowww, pumpkin scones are everywhere right now.  But seriously now, is that really a bad thing?  No.  We all want pumpkin scones right now anyway, so their ubiquity is just helpful, right?

I also feel a little bad I’ve been sharing so many baked goods recently.  I don’t actually bake that often (I swear!), but the truth of the matter is that when I’m cooking dinner these days the light is bad and the time is short and we’re super hungry and tired at the end of the day, so I keep finding myself not wanting to be bothered with a) trying to make the bowl of soup or the fish pie or whatever I’ve made look pretty and b) pulling out my camera and trying to fix the lighting situation in order to capture the food in a way that isn’t completely off-putting.

On the other hand, baked goods have the advantage of looking cute and appetizing almost no matter what you do to them, and you usually have some randoms that don’t get eaten right away that you can photograph in the daylight.  Not to mention, if I’m baking, it usually means somebody is helping out with the kiddo and I’m avoiding other work, and therefore I have the wherewithal and energy to take a few photographs of whatever it is I’ve baked.


lamb meatballs 1

There are some chefs who have a knack for taking apparently simple dishes, ones you think you know, and making them, well, fussy.  There are days when this causes nothing but blustering, snorting, and throwing up of the hands because, what the heck you don’t have time to reduce that then add water then blend part of it then reduce again!!!!!!  Pffffffffft.  But on those lovely days when you aren’t in a rush, that’s when you discover, or perhaps rediscover for the umpteenth time, that this very fussiness is better described as technique, and while it asks you for more effort, it is in fact in the service of nudging a simple dish toward transcendence.

Two chefs that I think are great in this way are Suzanne Goin and April Bloomfield.  I’m awfully partial to those two ladies, at least as far as I can make out from their fantastic cookbooks.  And they’re endearingly frank about the fussy aspect, Suzanne Goin joking that the job of a chef is to take something and then ask themselves, “stop. wait. how can I make this more complicated?” while April Bloomfield actually refers to her recipes as “my fussy recipes.”  Fussy, but so, so good.

There was actually one week awhile back where I cooked all of our dinners from either Sunday Suppers at Lucques or A Girl and Her Pig.  I say awhile back, but now as I think of it I realize that it must have been several years ago! (erp.)  It was definitely pre-baby.  Back in those days when I didn’t even know what busy or tired really were, ha (busy and tired is sure most days now, hence the quick snaps of leftovers for lunch because it was the only chance I had to photograph these meatballs).  Anyway, I guess it’s still fresh in my mind because we truly ate like kings.  It was a great week.  Not one that’s going to be repeated any time soon, sadly.


espen bday cake slice overhead

Last week fall descended overnight.  We went from sunny days in the 70’s to breezy, invigorating 50-degree highs.  Every day I step outside and the smell in the air reminds me of orienteering when I was little, standing with map and compass in hand and breathing in the distinctive smell of wild grass that has spent the summer soaking up sun and is now coated with cold morning dew.

Last Friday Espen turned one.(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  And I discovered that it is completely true that it “goes by so fast,” and your memories do all become a hazy fog.  This year has been very long and very full, and yet it feels like it was only two or three days ago that we had just met Espen for the first time, and he was a 6-pound peanut who rarely opened his eyes and almost disappeared when we put him into the Ergo to take him walking through the woods so I could watch the leaves turning gold and he would sleep (blissful sleep).  And now he doesn’t want to go into a front pack at all because he can walk!!!!  He walks a bit like a drunken sailor, but he definitely walks.  And his favorite things are lights (“dight!”), dogs (“da!), trucks (“cruck!”), flowers (“ooooh”), and hoses (no word for hose yet).  How did that happen?  Wow. Wow wow wow.

espen bday cake whole overheadespen bday cake whole