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A Very Thankful New Years

One of the perks of Chris working for NATO is the annual opportunity we have to order real Butterball turkeys for Thanksgiving every year. The only thing is, we have to order them a few months in advance and you can only order in a size range (e.g. 10-15 lb or 16-20 lb, etc) so it’s kind of a crap shoot how much turkey you will actually get. Chris and I had talked about having a bunch of friends over for Thanksgiving, so we played it safe and ordered one in the 16-20 lb category back in September. And, since Chris REALLY likes leftover turkey, he played it extra safe and ordered an additional 10-15 lb turkey thinking we could have a smaller one just for leftovers.

 

Then as the months progressed, Chris’ little brother decided to get married around Thanksgiving so we bought plane tickets home instead of planning Thanksgiving dinner in Norway. Then the turkey shipment came in and we were given a 19lb turkey and a 14lb turkey! So we spent the holiday in the US with the Hills with two giant turkeys waiting for us back home. Yikes.

 

We had to do SOMETHING with the turkeys because as much as Chris loves Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, 33 pounds of turkey is a bit more than even he can handle. Since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Norway anyway, we decided we could celebrate our own Thanksgiving whenever we wanted to! So we picked New Year’s Day and had a bunch of our friends join us for a Thankful New Year’s feast!

We were lucky to be able to book the NATO boat house for the night, since we were still table-less and couch-less at our apartment. Eating Thanksgiving on the floor with 20 people just seemed like a bad idea…
I’m still on my quest to make the PERFECT Thanksgiving turkey. You know, like the ones on the cover of Martha Stewart Magazine with the perfectly even brown skin and juicy insides. I got pretty close this year! It looks a little charred in the photos, but in person it wasn’t far off. I think next year might just be the year I finally get it!
The group shot
Chris photobombing his own photo.
We spent the evening enjoying good food, fun games, and fantastic company! We couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2014!

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Riga Central Market

Unfortunately, even though I was on a vacation in Latvia, Chris still had to work. And doubly unfortunately, he had to work really long hours this trip. He usually didn’t get off the job until after 7:00 every night (well after dark), just in time for dinner and relaxing before bed. He got one unexpected free day right at the end of the trip, but I had already caught my flight home. Schedules were definitely out of sync this trip.

Naturally, we had to do all of our sight-seeing separately.  While I was out exploring during the day, I kept notes for him and made a list of all the things for him to do and try on his one day off before his flight home. So at least we got to see and experience the same things, even if not together (all the photos from the Riga posts are a combination of our different touring days.)

 

On the very TOP of my list was the Riga Central Market.

I like visiting open-air food markets wherever we go, and before I went I pictured this would be the same ol’-same-ol’, but NO! It was the biggest food market I’ve ever seen! It was built in the 1920s out of old German zeppelin hangars from World War I, which were apparently MASSIVE!  They only used the tops of the hangars in the construction and they were still huge. 5 full zeppelin hangars of food heaven, plus a maze of outdoor stalls :)

 

 

Each of the 5 pavilions specializes in its own type of food: Dairy, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, and Gastronomy (dry goods).

 

After walking through the meat pavilion, I have come to the conclusion that we Americans are way too distanced from our food. We rarely see what actual meat looks like before it is butchered and wrapped into perfect little sealed packages. The butchers in the meat pavilion were hauling whole, skinned pig and cow carcasses around through the crowds, suspending their products on giant meat hooks, and cleaving bones on large wooden blocks right in front of the customers. It wasn’t necessarily pretty (and was very questionably sanitary), but you certainly knew exactly where your food was coming from!
Ahhh! It’s looking at me!

 

 

And of course, I can’t talk about all this cool food without talking about my favorite Latvian food: Pelmenis.
They are basically the Latvian version of pierogis, aka little Eastern European raviolis stuffed with amazingness and topped with sour cream. They were everywhere! All of the grocery stores I went to had entire freezer sections dedicated to bags and bags of pelmenis of every flavor imaginable. Our friend James, who served his LDS mission in Latvia, recommended Pelmeni XL, a serve-yourself pelmeni bar, and I ate lunch there almost every day. I couldn’t get enough!
Especially of the fried ones. Oh man. Eating pelmenis was definitely on Chris’ to-do list along with the Riga market for his free day!

 

It’s probably a good thing they don’t have these in Norway…

 

 

 

Category: Adventures, Food, Travel  Tags: ,  2 Comments
The best things we ate: Greece Edition

1. Gyros

Lots and lots of gyros.

OUR FAVORITE GYRO: Hole-in-the-wall gyro shop by the downtown bus station in Oia, Santorini and Bairaktaris in Athens (see below)


2. Moussaka

It was our first time ever trying moussaka and holy smokes I think we’re converted! It definitely tastes way more delicious than My Big Fat Greek Wedding makes it sound.
OUR FAVORITE MOUSSAKA: Bairaktaris in Athens
Spelled like so:

3. Saganaki

The fried cheese
OUR FAVORITE SAGANAKI: Plaka, Naxos

4. Ice Cream.

Everyday.

OUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM: Everywhere

5. Real Donuts

7. Delicious, dripping, honey-soaked pastries

Loukoumades, pistachio nest things, lots of things made with crunchy phyllo dough… basically heaven.
We ate these like it was our job.
OUR FAVORITE GREEK PASTRIES: Any and every pastry shop throughout downtown Athens

 

And last but not least,

8. BAKLAVA!

(Sadly, no pictures. We were simply too busy eating it to waste time photographing it)
OUR FAVORITE BAKLAVA: Melenio Cafe in Oia, Santorini

 

Category: Food, Travel  Tags: , ,  One Comment
From our Garden: Glazed Radishes and Radish-Top Soup

Did I mention we grew a lot of radishes this summer in our Zombie Garden? Because we grew A LOT of radishes.

Vegetable Gardening for Dummies said that since radishes grow really fast, you can just scatter them on top of your garden after you plant everything else. The radishes will be ready for harvest before the rest of the veggies grow enough to crowd them. So I did just that. Scattered a bunch of seeds over all my pots.

A whole handful of seeds.

All at once.

See where we might have gone wrong?

A month later, radishes were everywhere. And, you know what I learned? Chris doesn’t particularly like radishes (you learn new things every day in a marriage.) Unfortunately, I’m a horrible wife and fed them to him for dinner anyway and he was a champ and did his best to eat them. I tried a bunch of different preparations to see if I could find something that Chris might actually enjoy. We tried them raw, sauteed, and in salads but in the end there were two winners:

1. Glazed Radishes (click for the recipe)

2. Radish-top Soup (recipe below)

The fact that the glazed radishes were delicious was unsurprising because, let’s be honest, the recipe calls for “a slab of butter.” The glazing process turns the radishes into juicy little pink balls of sweet-n-salty goodness that I’m now convinced will convert any radish-hater.

The radish-top soup, however, was the star.

The recipe came about after I made the glazed radishes. It only called for the bottom root parts which left the leafy greens, majority of the plant, to go to waste. I was distressed because I worked hard to grow those stinkin’ radishes! I didn’t want to throw them out after all that watering and weeding! Plus, since this is an apocalypse garden, I wanted to be all homesteady and use the entire plant. Most recipes I found online said to toss the tops in salads, but when I tried that they were spiney and made my tongue itch.

In my searches though, I stumbled across the idea to make Radish-Top Soup so I gave that a shot. It was super simple to make and it tasted like split-pea soup, which Chris loves. SUCCESS! It also made a lot more meals than just the radish bottoms did. We still have some of it frozen in the freezer. Which makes it a pretty good apocalypse dinner, me thinks.

Radish-Top Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Why waste the radish plant by only using the bottoms?
Creator:
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch of radish tops
  • 4 medium potatoes, chopped with skin on
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (or butter or olive oil, but bacon is better :) )
  • ½ onion, chopped (or ¼ cup dried onion flakes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth, heated to almost boiling
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cajun seasoning to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt bacon fat in a medium pot. Add raish leaves and saute for 3-4 minutes until wilted. Add potatoes and continue to saute for 3-4 minutes longer.
  2. Add onions and garlic and saute for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add hot chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes.
  4. When potatoes are soft, puree the soup with an immersion blender (or normal blender, just be careful!) until well-blended and creamy.
  5. Add salt, pepper and cajun seasoing to taste.
  6. If you cooked bacon to get the bacon fat, sprinkle soup with chopped bacon bits and a dollop of sour cream!

 

 

I think despite the initial “HOLY RADISHES BATMAN!!” panic, we will definitely be planting radishes again next year!

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Zombies vs Plants

A few months ago, after finishing an episode of The Walking Dead, Chris was talking all big and manly about how if the zombie apocalypse actually happened he would totally dominate and be King of the Survivors.

“Chris, you do realize if the zombie apocalypse ACTUALLY happened right this minute, we have no food stored up, no water, no access to guns, no first aid stores and no knowledge of local hunting/gathering. We defintiely wouldn't survive.”

Cue pensive silence.

I was initially joking… but for real, we have little to no emergency supplies. (Heads up to all you neighbors keeping tabs on who to raid when the apocalypse goes down, save your precious time and just move past our house. It's not worth it.)

Emergency preparedness just always seemed like a boring adult thing to worry about. Apparently though, we are technically grown up. And we want to survive the zombies dang it! It suddenly seems a little less boring!

Bahaha Mormon joke!

So over the past year we've been trying to work on getting more prepared for emergencies.

Norway seems to be both a great place and awful place to weather a zombie apocalypse. For one thing, it's cold, so that would slow down the zombies. It's also rather sparsly populated. Less zombies to fight off. On the other hand, it's really hard to grow food here (just ask the vikings. It was way easier to just pillage and plunder). So I took that as a challenge this summer and planted a Zombie Survival Garden on our balcony patio.

Ta Da!
I am definitely a dummy when it comes to green things, so I used Vegetable Gardening for Dummies as my garden sensei. I filled my brain with seed starters, harvesting times, succession crops, watering schedules and dreams of garden-fresh salads and home-grown stuffed peppers. Since the summers here don't get that warm, I tried to focus on cold-weather, spring/fall crops.
 
The successes:
Radishes
We got a TON of radishes! If you are ever in an apocalypse scenario, plant radishes. They grow like nobody's business!

Peas

Just be sure to stake them with stakes taller than 3 feet. They grow reeeallly long. Who knew?
Carrots
I managed to get a few carrots (I planted a rainbow variety, which was awesome!) They grew a bit short and stubby unfortunately though. I'm thinking it was because the containers weren't deep enough?
Kale
It took forever to grow big enough to eat, but once it grew it was awesome! We tried making kale chips for the first time. I think I'm a fan!
Lettuce
It was so cool to think, “Hmm… I wish I had a salad to go with dinner. Oh wait! I'll just go pick one from the balcony!”
 
Not successes:
Peppers
Unfortunately it was just too cold for my little pepper seedlings. They tried their little hardest though!
Beets
They grew, but they were little bitty beets. I'm not sure what went wrong there.
Broccoli
Since broccoli is a cold-weather crop, I figured it would be a shoe-in. Unfortunately, each plant only produced one tiny bite of broccoli. And then those little bits bloomed into yellow flowers overnight. I suspect I planted the broccoli too early in the season.
Broccoli flowers! Who knew?
 
Things we learned about container gardening in Stavanger:
  • Pay attention to timing in the season. Some plants really do grow better in cold weather and others in warm.
  • Vegetables need more sun than you think they do.
  • Don't overcrowd your patio pots. The seedlings look small when you plant them, but they grow fast and you won't get big harvests if your plants are too crowded.

All-in-all, we probably only grew enough produce for us to survive a week, but I'd say it was a pretty successful first attempt. I'm not saying we're ready to survive any apocalypses in the near future, but at least if it happened tomorrow, we know we could survive on radishes!

 

Category: Daily life, Food  Tags: , ,  One Comment