a delicious start to 2015

I said goodbye to my family and headed back to North Carolina in the end of December to get my car inspected on the last possible day because I am incredibly irresponsible have a few days at home before classes started up again.

Steve and I traditionally spend the holidays with our families and then have “our Christmas” on New Year’s Eve. We started with a festive appetizer; Steve’s bike buddy works at the lovely City Kitchen and gave him a coupon for a free app; then since Steve would’ve felt racked with guilt otherwise, we got an additional app.

I loved their beautiful cheese plate!

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Mussels as well.

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But the real New Year’s culinary events began in Steve’s apartment. I found a Scandinavian cookbook at the thrift/antique store and knew my Swede-ophile boyfriend would be excited.

We wanted to create the spirit in this picture.

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Steve planned a stunner of a menu which we cooked together.

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Steve did most of the legwork on the most ambitious project: Swedish meatballs. “Meat” balls rather, since Steve is trying to eat mostly vegetarian. He combined a recipe found online for the ball part- it included vital wheat gluten, almond flour, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste, among quite a few other things- and the recipe for Swedish meatball sauce from the book (hint: mostly butter and sour cream. You know it was good). I took the lead on that cucumber salad on the right which took like five minutes to make- just salt, sugar, and vinegar for a quick pickle. So good! Nice and clean and light and acidic to contrast with some of the richer elements of the meal.

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A long but still very easy and very worth it project was this beet soup. Basically you boil beets in water til tender and peel them. Then chop them. Then add them to a pan with a browned flour and butter roux, hot broth, a little bit of vinegar, and a little bit of sugar. That’s it. And cook them in it for two hours. And darn it if it wasn’t fantastic. It reduced down so much that the beet flavor was really concentrated and intense and mellow. And of course we put sour cream on top and it was booooomb.

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We also made some unconventional deviled eggs. Steve cooked them and I stuffed them. Fun fact: apparently in Sweden instead of mixing the egg yolks with mayonnaise, you mix them with pure butter. This was quite rich indeed!

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The other secret ingredient was shrimp. The recipe told you to buy canned small shrimp (…?) and then mix their juice (ew) with the egg yolks before adding the butter. So we bought and cooked regular shrimp, then chopped them up and mixed them into the egg filling. Much less weird.

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The eggs, like so much we’ve been eating lately, were even more delicious topped with this little condiment, a gift I got for Steve in Asheville. (This was the same shop where I bought my mom ginger tea, which she loves, for Christmas. Have to get all my gifts there now!)

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I will of course mention that we ate our Swedish smorgasboard underneath the flag of Sweden that Steve has hanging prominently in his dining area.

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We stayed up til midnight and watched the countdown on… a computer. (Neither Steve nor I have a TV). It’s slightly cooler because we watched the countdown on a large computer image magnified using Steve’s new projector! Whoo! Anyway, I’m old now and can’t make it up a lot later than midnight.

We started 2015 on a healthy note! Because we had leftover almond flour from making the “meat”balls and neither of us had ever really cooked with it before, we tried this little paleo recipe for almond flour pancakes. They were really good!

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Surprisingly fluffy, given what dense ingredients they had. Satisfying, too. Note: we didn’t finish them all at breakfasttime, and ate a few later in the day, and they were EXTRA ALMONDY! So if and when we make them again we might make them in advance on purpose next time.

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Then we went on a nice active nature ramble. We parked near NC State’s campus where Steve works and walked around on their impressive trails.

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It’s always nice for Steve to start a new year by getting to climb something.

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State has a beautiful LAKE just right there! We had an unseasonably lovely December and first few days of January (no more, alas) and it was soooo nice and relaxing to walk around. And yknow, have a resolution-y active first day of the new year.

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Then I was feeling caffeine deprivation (I think I got readdicted when I was home with the family during break and had lots of time to leisurely drink cup after cup of breakfast tea) so we went to get coffee. We ended up at this bar/restaurant which Steve had been to, just because it was so COOL!

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But again, the real highlight of the day was had via home cooking. Steve’s trivia buddy Mike is amazing and hosts an annual New Year’s Day dinner filled with good luck foods.

This year he made pork shoulder Hawaiian style- the recipe called for roasting it in banana leaves, but he opted to use collards and keep with the New Year good luck foods theme.

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He just made a BIG OLD FEAST. Lots of wine and beer (we and others brought some, too); giant pot of macaroni and cheese; the best collard greens I’ve ever had! Made VEGETARIAN for Mike’s girlfriend and STILL the best I’ve ever had! Without pork fat! They were tangy and tomatoey and oniony and meltingly tender and just SO SO GOOD. Also cornbread, made with what tasted like five sticks of butter or so- just melted in your mouth. Plus hoppin’ John (rice and black eyed peas and tomatoes and spices and I don’t know what else- may’ve been vegetarian too). And spiced pecans that had CRACK in them.

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My plate. Lots more mac and cheese ensued.

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The meal concluded with pecan pie, which definitely tasted as though it had bourbon in it, and homemade whipped cream. Swooooon.

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