Butternut Squash with Curried Chickpeas

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It happened again – the phenomenon where Mike disappears into the kitchen without really saying much, and then delicious food appears as if out of the blue. In all honesty though, this was the first time the end product was a savory dish and not something sweet (or a bread). He’s got his priorities straight, my husband!

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Warm Lentil Parsnip Salad

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As I’m typing this, it’s well below 0ºC (32ºF) outside and the ground is covered by snow. It’s 3pm… and the sun has already set. In other words, it’s (late) December. Salads might, therefore, seem a little off at first glance. But not this one. No, this unassuming yet perfect little winter salad has a lot of things going for it – seasonal vegetables, hearty lentils, flavorful dressing… and served warm or at room temperature, it feels just as grounding and nourishing as a bowl of soup. Nutritionally, it’s a bomb. Kale – as we all know by now – packs a wide range of micronutrients (and eaten raw, as in this recipe, it’s even better), and the heaping amount of lentils per serving guarantees plenty of both slow carbohydrates and protein. Parsnips bring – besides great flavor and texture – high levels of both potassium and folic acid, and the walnuts get us a quite the chunk of good fats (walnuts are a great source of omega 3), more protein, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc (among other goodies).

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Saffron Caramel Popcorn

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Mike pointed something out to me the other day – something fairly obvious but, you know, nothing I had really given much thought before. Popcorn is just a whole grain popped to deliciousness. Ha! In search for less refined and processed products, and maybe especially in the snacks department, popcorn is… a whole food. Pure and simple. It’s brilliant! It’s also one of our favorite snacks in front of a movie. And now, finally, we have them here in a Christmas edition (which might not qualify for a particularly healthy snack, but what can you do?). I love caramel flavor. Always has, always will. Salted caramel ice cream is my go-to during the warmer half of the year, and as I kid, I’d go for caramel sauce over chocolate sauce any day. Yes, it can be overly sweet. But boy, it’s good. And one of the good things about making your own caramel-flavored food items is that you can sweeten it to your liking. You get all the same flavors but just a little less of that tongue-rolling sweetness shock.

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Gingersnap Energy Balls

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Wherever you look, you see pictures of and recipes for bliss balls, energy balls, raw balls, raw bites etc. etc. There are so many names for (sort of) the same thing I feel utterly lost in what to use. In fact, there’s a quite lovely saying in Swedish that goes “Kärt barn har många namn”, which unfortunately lacks an English counterpart. However, it could be translated along the lines of “a highly loved child will have many different names”. It means that loving parents often have many nicknames for their beloved children, so whenever the expression is used, it’s supposed to show that there are various labels for the same (popular and well liked) thing. Given the first sentence, I think you know where I’m getting with this. There are many names for the energy-packed, naturally sweetened balls we see a lot of – and I’m not sure I know a) what I prefer calling them and b) if there’s any sort of difference between the names. Regardless, here’s another snack ball (oh boy, another name) – flavored in the spirit of Christmas and almost dangerously delicious.

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Slow Cooked Green Kale

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Slow cooked might not sound like the most appealing cooking method when you have a million things on your plate leading up to Christmas – there’s the decorations to put up, the Christmas cards to send out, the gifts to wrap… and the food to cook. I love Christmas with all my heart. Endlessly. But I’ve definitely come to learn that prioritizing tasks and letting go of all these ideas of how things should be the month of December a lot more like what I dream of and a lot less of what I fear. I want it to be a time full of lit candles, sweet treats, warming drinks and music. I want it to be about coming together, embracing the cold weather, wrapping up the year that’s been. And I want it to be about cooking and eating delicious food, at the expense of nothing and no one (except maybe your waistline but that’s ok too!). With that said, prioritize what matters to you. And know that even though this recipe is called “slow cooked”, it’s not going to require your attention for all that many minutes in total. Give it a spot on your stovetop and it’ll mostly take care of itself.

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Ginger-y Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

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Falling in love with Brussels sprouts seems a lengthy task for some. Many have traumatizing experiences from the past, where the poor sprouts have been cooked beyond recognition and turned into a cabbage-y flavored mush. Others have never dared trying them. Some can’t get past the bitter flavor (and that’s fair – we can’t all love the same thing). But trust me when I say – the day we have a kid (!), I’ll do my very best to put him/her in Brussels sprouts training right away. We LOVE Brussels sprouts. They’re so versatile, almost comically nutritious and available locally grown here in the north. We didn’t attempt growing our own this season, but it’s on our list for next year.

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Cranberry Nut Bread

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We welcome bread with open arms in this house. Now, Michael was a little bit of a… bread-novice, if I may say so, when we first met. His idea of bread was a little different than mine, quite far away from the dark, rye-laden breads of the Nordic region that I grew up eating. Thankfully, he was not hard to turn. Neither was he – despite his Italian heritage – hard to convince butter is better on bread than olive oil (my apologies to my father-in-law, Tony). And now, almost six years later, Michael is the designated bread baker of this little family. His kneading outdoes mine any day of the week.

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Crunchy Brussels Sprouts Salad

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Brussels sprouts have been cool and hip for quite a few years now, wouldn’t you say? Well, we couldn’t be happier about their revival on the food scene. Besides being delicious and all, they belong to the out-of-this-world nutrient dense vegetable family of brassicas (the cabbage family). Its nutritional profile is simply awesome – vitamins en masse, minerals high and low, cancer fighting phytochemicals left and right. Brussels sprouts in particular have significant amounts of vitamins C and K, folate, potassium and iron, in addition to some B vitamins and plenty of gut-friendly fibers. We’re sort of crazy about all the different members of the cabbage family and have devoted most of garden to growing them ourselves. Broccoli, dino kale, green kale and sweetheart cabbage all live right outside the door this time of year – but we haven’t yet tried growing Brussels sprouts! You can find the locally sourced ones in any regular store right about now though, so we’ll be cooking with them often over the next month or so anyway. With that said… go buy some!

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Roasted Delicata Squash

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I may already have hinted at this one particular meal Michael cooked me way back when we had just started dating, but it deserves another mentioning. Swedish as I was (and still am – but I honestly think we’re turning each other into a mix of us both), this whole winter squash concept was quite new – and very exotic. Don’t get me wrong – people in Sweden were definitely familiar with butternut squash six years ago, and you could find it in any well stocked grocery store. But that was kind of it. So when the Union Square farmers market (my go-to) went all in fall-mode and presented crate after crate of these uniquely looking ‘fruits’, I was in awe. Some were full of craggy dimples, some felt velvety smooth. A few showcased pretty stripes and cute speckles, one looked like a big acorn (and is thus named ‘acorn squash’). They were big and small and medium, came in all sorts of colors and… tasted amazing. At least many of them. The delicata variety is our favorite. The flavor is nutty and a little sweet, and the peel is perfectly edible. That means not only no peeling needed, but also that the consistency gets more interesting, with the soft flesh contrasting the tender yet chewy skin. It’s mentioned in the instructions below, but it can’t hurt to remind you here as well – if you use another type of squash than delicata, make sure the peel is edible before you start cooking. Or edible is a misnomer – all peels are edible, but some won’t be enjoyable to eat.

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White Bean & Dill “Hummus”

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We certainly like our plant based spreads in this household. Traditional hummus is an obvious favorite, and we just love always having a tub of it sitting in the fridge, ready to be spread on bread or act as a dip (or – confession time – just eaten with a spoon). For #localthirty, we had to figure out what to replace it with – because, unfortunately, we can’t get the core ingredients chickpeas and tahini locally. With the help of our ‘cheat’ ingredients lemon, salt and black pepper though, you can still cook up pretty delicious stuff! Thanks to the overall awesome food brand GoGreen, we can get our hands on Swedish (and close enough to us to fit the #localthirty challenge) grown white, kidney, black and cranberry beans. Needless to say, we’ve been carrying out these by the dozens from the store the past month. The small white beans have proven themselves a great substitute for chickpeas in all types of bean spreads, purees etc. Here, they’re paired with our own dill, frozen at the peak of summer, and the combination is quite lovely. Have you ever tried a dill flavored spread before? It’s really, really good! One of the best ways of having this ‘hummus’ is spread on flatbread, topped with something a little crispy (such as carrot ribbons) and then rolled up and eaten as a wrap. Truth to be told, this has been our lunch food many days during September. Filling, nutritious – and yummy. Give it a try!

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