Brauðterta – Icelandic Party Sandwich Loaf

July 22, 2020

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So here is something a bit different for you – Today’s featured recipe is for Brauðterta. Brauðterta is kind of like a big old multi layered sandwich masquerading as a cake! In English I suppose you can just call it Bread Cake or perhaps Icelandic Party Sandwich Loaf  if you were being less literal. How fun is this!

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And I’m not only going to tell you all about this delicious dish, but I am also going to finish telling you all about that fantastic trip we took with the Parents to Iceland in September 2018. So just to recap, I’ve told you all about the beginning of this trip where we toured the Golden Circle and various other South Coast gems. And then I told you about our big adventure touring Þórsmork in a Super Jeep. Now, I’m going to fill you in on the rest of the trip. On day 5 we set out to visit the Westman Islands (Vestmannaejyar). The Westman Islands are located just off the south coast of Iceland.

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The Husband and I were there in September 2017 and absolutely LOVED it! I am originally from a small island in the Chesapeake Bay myself and my father has made his living as commercial fisherman, so I really wanted him to experience Vestmannaeyjar. Turns out it was the highlight of the trip for him. These islands are often overlooked by tourists in Iceland because you do need to either fly over or take the ferry. But in my opinion, it is so worth the effort! I probably shouldn’t let you in on the secret, but I can’t help myself!

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The Vestmannaeyjar are absolutely gorgeous!

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This archipelago consists of about 15 islands, but most folks live on Heimaey, which is the largest island. We booked a day tour with Eyja Tours to make sure the parents were able to see as much of it as possible

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House at the not to be missed Eldheimar Museum which documents the story of the surprise 1973 volcanic eruption.

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Since we were there at the end of August/early September, we not only were able to see the adult puffin colonies,

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but we were also able to experience the pufflings (baby puffins) flying into town.

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You see, puffins nest in clifftop colonies, digging a burrow in which a single egg is laid. The puffin chicks, or pufflings, are then cared for by their parents for about 6 weeks. At this point the fledgling makes its way out of its burrow at night and flies toward the sea.  However, many get confused by the lights of the town and rather than flying out to sea, they end up flying into town. The Vestmannaeyjar children, or Puffin Patrol as they are known, go out at night with flashlights to rescue them. The pufflings are then taken home in cardboard boxes for the night. The next morning their rescuers take them to the Saeheimar Aquarium (*since our visit in 2018, the aquarium has closed and its residents have moved to the Puffin Rescue Center at the Beluga Whale Sanctuary – see note below) to be measured and weighed. The children can have their pictures taken with their little charges as well. Once done, the little birds are taken to the shore and released back into the wild during daylight hours so that they won’t become confused. The Husband and I had seen this in 2017. But this year we unexpectedly got to participate!

Let me explain. After an action packed day exploring, we took the Parents to one of our favorite restaurants in the whole world – Slippurinn,

we headed back to our lovely apartment accommodations for some well deserved sleep.

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However, I was hoping to get another Northern Lights show. I was on watch. So while everyone else was snoozing – I was setting my alarm every 30 minutes to run outside and see if the Aurora was doing its thing. It was a beautiful, clear night. Not a cloud in the sky. So it should have been perfect conditions. But the elusive lights were not cooperating. I was really getting pretty frustrated around 2am, when I heard this strange slap, slap slap noise. I looked down from the sky to see a tiny puffling running full out at me, with a cat close on his tail. The puffling literally ran right into my ankles. I reached down and scooped him up telling the kitty “No, no, no! Not today!” And voila, I had a puffling! I promptly woke everyone up. Look-y here! Hurray! I have a puffling! But it quickly turned to  – “OMG! I have a puffling!” We had an early ferry to catch back to the mainland. A ferry that left before the aquarium opened. So the Husband and I decided we would get in the car and go find some locals that were rescuing pufflings. We would just hand ours over to them. Sadly, at around 2:30 in the morning, we did not find families out looking for pufflings, but rather groups of folks staggering home from the pub. No way I was going to entrust my puffling to them! And to make matters worse, about 5 minutes into our drive into town, we had to pull over because there was another puffling in the road. Now we had two of them! No box to put them in. And whereas my puffling was somewhat sedate, though a little bite-y (doesn’t really hurt….its a baby…), the Husband’s puffling was a little devil puffling – biting and scratching like a champ! Talk about driving while impaired! Thankfully we did find two non-drunk locals who had just rescued a puffling themselves and were willing to take our two on as well. What a crazy night! So although the Lights were not willing to show, it was still unforgettable!

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The next morning we were up early, caught the ferry back to the mainland and set off for Reykjavík! You can see all of the live action on Vestmannaeyjar in this video:

We arrived in Reykjavík after a short drive. We had booked into The Black Pearl and as a surprise for the Parents, we had reserved the luxurious Penthouse suite for them, which had a great wrap around balcony with lovely views over the city.

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The Black Pearl has been one of our favorite places to stay in Reykjavik. The apartments are fantastic, location perfect and the service is absolutely top-notch every single time. I should mention that they offer an absolutely amazing and plentiful in-suite breakfast service consisting of freshly baked bread, pastries, skyr, various cold cuts, salmon, bacon and eggs.

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Once settled in, we set out to explore. We showed them the old harbor area,

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went up in Hallgrimskirkja for amazing city views,

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recharged with a cup of coffee and a visit with the kitties at Kattakaffihúsið

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went to the famous hot dog stand Baejarins Beztu

and might have ended up going completely Viking at Mink Viking Portrait Studio .

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We were so sad to leave. But there was one more big surprise for everyone. As I have mentioned in a previous post, Icelandair offer the option to “Class Up” from economy seats to Saga Premium. So, how it works is 10 days prior to an eligible flight, you will receive an email asking if you would like to place a bid. You are then able to decide the amount you are willing to pay, in addition to the cost of your original ticket, to have a Saga class seat. All 5 of us had our bids accepted and were able to fly home first class!

It was truly such a fun, unforgettable trip!

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But don’t leave yet. You have simply got to hear all about this Brauðterta. In Iceland, you will likely find Brauðterta at any celebrations where you would find a gathering of extended family such as a birthday party or graduation. At these events, an elaborate coffee table is often laid out for guests featuring all sorts of sweet desserts. And there you will find the Brauðterta, dressed up to look just like a cake, but filled with all sorts of savory fillings. Certainly a welcome break and somewhat of a palate cleanser against the avalanche of sugary treats.

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So it isn’t really a cake, but a multilayered sandwich. The bread for making Brauðterta are sold in stores in Iceland and can either be a loaf of bread which has been sliced horizontally or a large sheet of bread similar to the cake you would use in a jelly roll. With this type of bread you can either roll it up like a jelly roll or use multiple pieces of it stacked on top of each other to create a really large Brauðterta. I used a loaf of Soft Sandwich Bread which I had baked myself. I have seen folks use regular store bought, sliced sandwich bread with the crusts removed, but I have not tried that and would fear that store bought bread might not hold up as well.

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These layers of bread are interspersed with creamy fillings. Some versions have the same filling repeated with each layer. Others have a different filling on each layer, which is what I have done. The fillings can be anything that you would use in a regular sandwich, though the salad type fillings – i.e. egg salad, shrimp salad – seem to strike the right level of not too dry but not too wet that is required. In Iceland you will often find seafood based fillings, but since the Husband has a seafood allergy and I did not fancy having to go the the ER during a pandemic, I steered clear of that choosing instead to do a layer of egg salad, ham said and a layer of bacon/scallion salad.

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The sandwich is then “frosted” with cream cheese or mayonnaise and decorated with meats/vegetables that you might find within.

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Brauðterta is considered very traditional, yet it didn’t really become popular in Iceland until the 1950’s. In the past, a lot of mayonnaise was used for the filling as well as the frosting.  Now a days you will find not as much mayonnaise but perhaps more sour cream or cream cheese mixtures. Brauðterta’s popularity may have waned for a bit, but recently it has started to make a comeback. The Facebook group Brauðtertufélag Erlu Og Erlu has over 11,000 members. It was founded to exchange recipes, tips and pictures of perfect Brauðtertas. Check it out for some inspiration!

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We loved our Brauðterta! I was afraid we would only get one meal out of it and then the bread would go soggy. Not so! We happily snacked on it for the whole week! Surprise folks at your next party or potluck and treat them to this Icelandic Party Sandwich Loaf!

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Brauðterta - Icelandic Party Sandwich Loaf

  • Servings: One - 4 layer loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups cream cheese (I used Philadelphia’s Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese), softened
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt
  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 6 ounces cooked, finely diced ham
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup green onion, diced
  • 1 loaf of white or whole wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed, sliced lengthwise into four slices (I used a loaf of Soft Sandwich bread which I had baked the day before)
  • cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, red & yellow peppers, chives, red onion, cilantro or parsley – for decorating

Directions:

Combine the sour cream with the softened cream cheese in a medium sized bowls. Take three additional bowls and divide the mixture equally among the four bowls. Set one bowl aside for the “frosting’.

Slice the hardboiled eggs crosswise. Reserve one center slice from one of the eggs for decoration. Chop the remaining eggs and add to one bowl with the sour cream/cream cheese combo. Set aside. Combine the finely diced ham with the sour cream/cream cheese mixture in another bowl. And finally add the bacon and diced green onion to the third bowl and mix to combine.

Take the loaf of bread and remove the crust. Slice the loaf horizontally into four slices. Spread the bottom slice evenly with one of filling mixtures. Top with another slice of bread and spread that evenly with the second filling combination. Top with the third slice of bread. Spread that evenly with the last filling combination. Place the final slice of bread on top of that. Press down evenly on the top. Wrap the entire “sandwich” in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.

Unwrap the loaf and place it on a large tray or cutting board. “Frost” the sandwich with the last bowl of reserved sour cream/cream cheese mixture.

Now for the fun part! Decorate your Bread Cake as you see fit! You can get creative here. I used chopped yellow and red peppers, red onion, cilantro, cucumber and an egg slice for my decoration, but feel free to improvise. Do another garden type scene as I have done or maybe do a geometric pattern. The sky’s the limit!

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Brauðterta:

Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Wilton 9″X 5″ Loaf pan

Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday Cookbook

Travel Planning Guide:

Covid-19 InformationPlease make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the Icelandic Government’s travel requirements BEFORE you head out. All of the official information can be found here.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. Planning a holiday can certainly be stressful which has become even more so with rapidly changing safety requirements due to Covid 19. I Heart Reykjavik is keeping up to date with all of the government guidelines and can provide guidance here. Additionally, they can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Car Rental:  Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Westman Island Links

To Buy tickets on the Herjólfur Ferry as well as read about all the things to see and do take a look at: Visit Westman Islands.

Accommodation:

Hotel Vestmannaeyjar – Great accommodation on the Islands.

Restaurants/ Cafés/ Bakeries/ Bars:

Slippurinn – Our favorite restaurant – not only in Iceland. Hands. Down. Favorite! Located in an old machinery shop this family owned eatery features seasonal local sourced dishes often including herbs and seaweed foraged right there on the island. Simply divine food in a friendly and casual environment. Don’t miss it!

Stofan Bakhús – Great bakery! Delicious kanilsnúðars – which are a weakness of mine.  Fantastic sandwiches as well. Everything there looks delicious. Go be tempted!

Brother’s Brewery – Microbrewery with delicious local craft brews.

Tour Companies:

Eyja Tours: Do the Puffin & Volcano Tour! Eyja Tours offers small group (minibus) tours of Heimaey guided by friendly locals who are very knowledgeable about their island home. You’ll  learn all about the history and culture of the island, see the major sights and actually get to visit a puffin sanctuary where you can see a live puffin up close! This experience is exclusive to Eyja Tours – though if you go in late August, perhaps you’ll get your own up close and personal experience with a Puffling like we did!

Attractions:

On puffins: If you travel to the Westman Island at the end of August/beginning of September there is a good chance you will see baby puffins (pufflings) being rescued by the local children. At this time of year, the pufflings leave their nests but get confused by the lights of the town and rather than flying out to sea, they end up flying into town. The children go out at night with flashlights to find them. They take them home in cardboard boxes for the night. The next morning they take them to the Puffin Rescue Centre to be measured and weighed and the children can have their pictures taken with their little charges as well. Once done, the kids take the little birds to the shore and release them back into the wild during daylight hours so that they won’t become confused. We were lucky enough to be there when this was happening and it was unforgettable!

Eldheimar museum – This museum documents the story of the surprise 1973 eruption of the volcano which caused the roughly 5,00 locals to flee on fishing boats in the middle of the night to the safety of the mainland. The eruption, which lasted for 5 months, buried 1/3 of the town in lava and destroyed over 400 houses and businesses. The resilient islanders did return and rebuilt the thriving community you will find today. Fascinating stuff! A must visit!

Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary/Puffin Rescue Centre – Back in 2018, when we visited the Vestmannaeyjar, the kids took their rescued pufflings to the Saeheimar Aquarium. The aquarium closed in 2019 and their residents moved to the new Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary. Now when you visit, you will be able to see two rescued beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, in addition to the rescued and resident puffins at the Puffin Rescue Centre!

Reykjavik Links

Accommodation:

The Black Pearl Reykjavik – Reykjavik’s Finest Apartments – We have stayed in their luxurious apartments twice and love them! The apartments are fantastic, location perfect and the service is absolutely top-notch.

Tour Companies:

I Heart Reykjavik Private Walking Tour – Do this tour when you first arrive in Reykjavík and you will be set! Auður will not only tell you about the history of the city but she will also impart a local’s insight on the best bars, restaurants and shopping that Reykjavik has to offer. She will guide you off the beaten tourist routes and back into the neighborhood streets to get a glimpse of a local’s life and to reveal some of the wonderful hidden street art. Fabulous tours catered just for you!

Attractions:

Mink Viking Portrait Studio: Unleash your inner Viking at Mink! This photo session was an absolute blast and we came away with a fantastic, lasting memento from Iceland!

Hallgrímskirkja – Reykjavík’s main landmark. Go up in the tower for breathtaking views of the city!

The Settlement Exhibition – Museum built around the remains of a home from around 871. Great interactive displays of Viking Age history.

Baktus the Cat – Yes, I’m talking about an actual cat here. But not any old cat – this cat if a Reykjavík celebrity! He has over 7,000 followers on Instagram. You might be able to catch a glimpse of him at his hooman’s store, Gyllti Kötturinn, where he lives. Or perhaps  you can see him at one of his favorite hangouts – the Icewear store, which is located across the street, which is where we found him.

Restaurants/ Cafés/ Bakeries/ Bars:

Íslenski Barinn– Love, love, love! Delicious food & local brews in a comfortable, cozy setting.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Legendary Icelandic Hot Dog stand in Reykjavik. A one a day must for the Husband while we are visiting the city!

Kattakaffihúsið – Iceland’s First Cat Café. Here you can not only enjoy a fantastic cup of coffee, delicious pastries and sandwiches (all vegan), but you can also pet some adorable kitties while you are at it! This cat café usually has three cat residents at all times. And even better, these adorable kitties are all available for adoption. An absolute must for cat lovers!

Brauð & Company– Bakes my most favorite in the world kanilsnúðar!

Reykjavik Roasters– Wonderful coffee & vibe. Love the cinnamon scones!

Sandholt Bakery – A never ending parade of scrumptious treats and sandwiches!

Kaldi Bar Fun & hip Bar featuring beers from the Kaldi Brewery

Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (Kormakur’s and Skjöldur’s alehouse) – Or just plain Ölstofan –house brew Brío is not to be missed!

Shopping:

The Handknitting Association of Iceland – Icelandic Sweaters knitted in Iceland by Icelanders!

Thorvaldsen’s Bazar – Icelandic Sweaters (Lopapeysa) knitted in Iceland by Icelanders. All profits go to charity!

Misc:

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, I have written a bunch of posts about our travels there, which you might find helpful.


Vínarterta – Icelandic Vienna Cake

July 15, 2020

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So wow! Just look at this amazing layered treat! What we’ve got here is Vínarterta, which translates from Icelandic to “Vienna Cake”. This cake boasts multiple thin layers of cardamom flavored shortbread alternating with spiced dried plum jam and is topped with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

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I’m going to not only share this wonderful recipe with you today, but also continue to tell you all about that trip to the South Coast of Iceland that the Husband and I took with our parents back in September 2018. I told you all about visiting the Golden Circle, Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss, Dyrholaey & Vik as well as our stay at the luxurious Hótel Rangá in my previous post. Today I’ll tell you all about the big adventure we had on day four of our holiday. And I’m also delighted to tell you all about one of our absolute favorite places to stay while exploring the South Coast – The Garage Studio Apartments.

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Gorgeous spot huh? But let me tell you about our adventure first. So what was our big adventure? We went on a private Super Jeep day tour of Þórsmörk with Midgard Adventures. Þórsmörk  which translates to Thor’s Valley is a stunning nature reserve located in the Southern Highlands of Iceland between the mountain glaciers of Tindfjallajökull, the world famous Eyjafjallajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull. This lush valley has so much to offer – dramatic volcanic landscapes,

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breathtaking mountain views,

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lush valley scenery

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and amazing hiking opportunities.

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The Husband and I had visited it twice before and knew Þórsmörk is not to be missed. We really wanted the parents to be able to experience it. The thing is though, in order to enter Þórsmörk, you really must have a 4X4 vehicle as you will need to go onto the “F” roads and make several river crossings. And those “F roads” (not sure what the “F” stands for in F roads, but after having been on them, I can think of a possibility…) in the reserve are pretty rough. To be honest, even if you have rented a 4X4 vehicle, you really need to be experienced with this type of driving. And I should also mention that most rental car insurance will not cover you driving through rivers. River crossings can be quite tricky, so if you make a mistake and end up in too deep of a section the river, thus damaging your vehicle in the process, you could potentially be liable to your rental company for thousands of dollars.

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This poor bus required the aid of a tractor once it became stuck trying to cross the river.

Besides the financial burden, folks have actually died trying to cross these potentially dangerous rivers. The solution here is to hire a knowledgeable, experienced local guide. We whole heartedly recommend Midgard Adventures.

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The Husband and I have been out on adventures with Midgard previously. In 2012 we went out with them in December to experience the winter wonderland of Þórsmörk.

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We were back with them in December 2013 on a private tour of Jökulsárlón.

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And in September 2017 we were with Midgard Adventures to hike the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls trail .

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Each time our adventure with them has been one of  the highlights of our trip! And they didn’t let us down this time. The itinerary that they came up with for the Parent’s Day Tour was perfect. Not only did our charming and knowledgeable Midgard guide expertly navigate Þórsmörk, but he also took us to visit a nearby black sand beach

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as well as a couple of stunning, lesser known waterfalls.

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The parents were thrilled with the experience of crossing rivers, rough volcanic terrain and black sand beaches in the Super Jeep. And our guide knew how much the Husband and I enjoyed hiking, so he had planned ahead and dropped us off for a small hike over a mountain while he drove our parents around for some sightseeing and then met up with us on the other side. A win for everyone!

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What an absolutely superb day. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely! Take a look at this video for all of the river crossings, gorgeous scenery, hiking, blueberry picking and other live action!

After such an exciting day, we were so happy to come back to one of our absolute favorite places to stay on the South Coast – The Garage Studio Apartments. The Husband and I had stayed there previously in 2017 and we were so glad to be back! These lovely modern rustic apartments have been crafted from a former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides.

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Siggi’s family has been living on this land for over 200 years. Now Anna & Siggi are operating a “gentleman’s farm” on the site as well as managing several apartments. Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandfoss, these exceptional apartments are the perfect central location for taking in all the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. The setting is nothing less than magical.

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You are surrounded by the most idyllic scenery – green hills, a private waterfall, a view overlooking the ocean, fields full of Icelandic horses and sheep,

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chickens, a dog (Felix) who never tires of playing fetch

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and a cat, who wouldn’t reveal their name, but was friendly nevertheless,Anna was also such an amazing host, so friendly, warm and welcoming. Her spacious apartments are stylishly decorated, sparklingly clean and filled with thoughtful little touches. And as if all of that was not enough, she served us scrumptious freshly home-baked desserts every day! Hospitality like this is hard to find!

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And the Northern Lights even decided to put on a bit of a show for us to make our stay at the Garage even more delightful.

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Want to see more of the Garage as well as those Northern Lights? Take a peek at this video:

But let me get back to telling you about this Vínarterta – today’s featured recipe.

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Although the name translates to Vienna Cake, it likely did not arrive in Iceland straight from Vienna, but rather came by way of Denmark. This grand looking cake was often served on special occasions, such as Christmas. One of the wonderful things about this cake is not only is it delicious, but it also gets better with age. So you can make this up days and days before you actually plan to serve it. You just keep it wrapped in foil stored in a cool place.

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This cake reached the height of its popularity in the late 19th to early 20th century. Back in the day, the thin layers of this cake could be easily baked in the more primitive ovens of the time or even on the stove top. And when some Icelanders emigrated to parts of Canada and the Northern United States, they brought this recipe with them. Though now a days, it is slightly different in some ways from the original, such as in North America you will often find versions with more layers and with a frosting on top. They have for the most part stayed true to the filling, whereas in present day Iceland, you are likely to find other types of filling such as rhubarb or strawberry jams.

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I baked this Vínartera using Hartshorn or Baker’s Ammonia (Ammonium Carbonate) for the leavener. You will encounter this ingredient in many older, traditional Scandinavian cookie recipes. You can substitute baking powder for it, though the cookie will not have the same crispy texture that it will get from using Hartshorn. I gotta tell you though, man is that ammonia smell strong! It is thankfully completely gone once the cookies/cake is baked, but let me just say, you will not be tempted to nibble the batter before it goes in the oven!

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The original recipe did not call for any Vodka whatsoever, but I liked the idea of a celebration cake being just a bit boozy. And I do know that good Vodka doesn’t really have much of a taste. But somehow it just makes me feel better knowing that it is there. I splurged and added a few glugs of Reyka Vodka to thin my jam just a bit as well as soak the prunes. You can virtuously soak the prunes in plain water if you are a teetotaler.

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Oh, and I guess that brings me to the dreaded “P” word. You might have noticed that I don’t call it “spiced prune filling”. No. No prunes are in this treat. Just some dried plums. I don’t know why folks freak out when they hear prune, but they do. So yeah. Spiced dried plums are what is in this scrumptious Vínarterta – and believe me you are going to love it!

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Vínarterta

  • Servings: 8 -10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly from: Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Ingredients:

For the Spiced Dried Plum Filling:

  • 1 1/2 Cups Pitted Prunes
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • vodka (for soaking the prunes as well as thinning the jam – optional)

For the Cake Layers

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Cups all-purpose Flour, or as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baker’s Ammonia (you can substitute 1 tsp. baking powder)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1 1/2 Cup Spiced Dried Plum Filling
  • confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling over the top – optional)

Directions:

Prepare the filling:

The night before you plan to make the filling, place the pitted prunes in a bowl and cover with vodka or warm water. Leave them to plump up overnight. (optional)

Place the prunes, sugar and spices in a saucepan and add 1 cup of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook until the prunes are soft and the syrup has thickened, about 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly. Place it into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

If you would like to thin the jam a bit as well as add a bit of “cheer” to it, add a glug or two of vodka and stir to combine. (optional)

Prepare the shortbread:

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baker’s ammonia and cardamom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture and the milk and continue to mix until a smooth dough forms. The dough should be soft and just shy of sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Divide the dough into five equal parts. On a floured work surface, roll each part out into a thin disc about 9″ in diameter. Arrange the circles on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 minutes, or until they are just beginning to brown at the edges.

Assembly:

While the layers are still warm, sandwich them with the spiced dried plum filling, leaving the top of the top layer of the cake bare.

Allow cake to cool completely and then wrap in foil. The cake will keep for weeks in a cool place and will improve with age.

Sprinkle top of cake with confectioner’s sugar just prior to serving.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Vínarterta:

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Baker’s Ammonia (ammonium carbonate)

Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Travel Planning Guide:

Covid-19 InformationPlease make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the Icelandic Government’s travel requirements BEFORE you head out. All of the official information can be found here.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. Planning a holiday can certainly be stressful which has become even more so with rapidly changing safety requirements due to Covid 19. I Heart Reykjavik is keeping up to date with all of the government guidelines and can provide guidance here. Additionally, they can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Car Rental:  Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Accommodation: The Garage – Studio Apartments – One of our favorite places to stay in Iceland! Located on the South Coast of Iceland, between Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss waterfalls. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides. These lovely modern rustic apartments were originally built from a former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. Since they built the original apartments, they have expanded and built a few more in a previous cow shed and most recently have remodeled a Haytower. These cozy apartments are studios, some of which are standard and some slightly bigger with a pull out sofa bed to accommodate extra guests. The Haytower is the biggest unit and is a full one bedroom apartment. You can book with The Garage here.(booking.com)

Tour Companies:

Midgard Adventure: I highly recommend you book a tour with Midgard. Midgard is a local family run business located in Hvolsvöllur. They offer single day and multiday tours which can be either private and shared. The shared tours are always with a small group. No massive bus tours here, just thoughtful personal service.They are skilled at helping you plan your whole itinerary as well should you desire and being locals they have first hand knowledge of the area as well as the hidden gems off the beaten path. As I have mentioned we have enjoyed four different tours with them, and on each occasion it has ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Consistent excellence is hard to find! They are a pleasure to deal with from the first email until your action packed day has come to an end. Everyone I have ever met there is friendly, helpful and professional.  And I should mention that Midgard now has a Basecamp. They can offer both hotel as well as hostel style accommodation in their beautiful facility which also boasts a restaurant, bar, and roof top hot tub and sauna. The Husband and I haven’t had the pleasure of staying with them yet, but we did grab a delicious breakfast in their restaurant before heading out for our adventure. We are planning a Highlands Adventure, which we will of course be booking with Midgard, so we will let you know!

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Restaurants:

Gamla Fjósið (The Old Cow House) – Located just off of Route 1, about 2 km away from the Garage Apartments. Cozy family run restaurant featuring delicious comfort food prepared with locally sourced (often from their own farm) fresh ingredients. Delicious homemade bread, jams and ice cream.

Midgard Basecamp – The Restaurant at Midgard Basecamp has it all! Serving food based on their Icelandic heritage, they offer everything from pasture raised lamb, to fresh caught fish, to juicy burgers. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan there are plenty of delicious offerings to choose from as well.   Check out their wonderful Breakfast Buffet and come back in the evening for a great dinner. They also carry a good selection of the locally crafted brews.

Misc:

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!


Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

July 3, 2020

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So here we are, just moments away from Independence Day. Certainly not the 4th of July for this year that I imagined last year. Not that the Husband and I have made a habit out of heading off to big fireworks displays on the 4th, but still…Needless to say, we’ll be spending this one right here at home. Where we have been. For oh – months and months. Perhaps years at this point. 2020 has certainly made months seems like they go on for years. Facing the tedium of yet another social distanced holiday, I thought it might be nice to make the Husband a little treat. Now I’ve told you how he absolutely loves any fruit based dessert and of the many fruit desserts out there, lemon bars hold a special place in his heart. So I was absolutely delighted when I saw that Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite blogs – had just shared a recipe for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars. Clearly, it was just meant to be!

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And the whole lemon thing is true. Yup – you actually use a WHOLE lemon in this recipe. Well – you take the seeds out and remove the stem, but otherwise the whole thing – skin and all.

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I was afraid that the whole lemon might have caused the lemon filling to be bitter, so I kind of held my breath a bit when the Husband took his first bite. Hooray! Not bitter at all. I think using the whole lemon actually gave it a much more – well lemony taste. I mean these bars actually tasted perfectly sour and tart and also sweet. But just the right amount of sweet. Sometimes when I’ve gotten lemon bars, they taste very, very cloyingly sweet with only a slight hint of lemon. Like maybe someone had only waved a lemon over the mix. That is certainly not what the Husband is hoping for in a lemon bar. He wants that pucker up sour citrus zing of a real lemon. Let me tell you, these bars definitely delivered in that regard.

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And although I have made lemon bars before, I had never added the meringue layer on top. With these Lemon Meringue Pie Bars the sweet marshmallowy toasted meringue works to perfectly balance the lip puckering intensity of that velvety lemon filling. Both the Husband and I were very well pleased.

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I don’t know what you’ll be getting up to this 4th of July, but I do know that no matter what it is, these Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars will make it better. Make yourself a batch today!

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Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

  • Servings: 12 - 16 bars depending how you slice them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Smitten Kitchen who sourced it from Susan Spungen’s Open Kitchen 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling:

  • 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note below in filling directions), scrubbed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Make the crust:

Heat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over the edge so that you can easily remove the bars later.

Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

Note on lemons: Deb Perelmen of Smitten Kitchen advises that you can use any variety of lemon but that you want to stick to a smaller lemon weighing approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces and that you do not want the skin to be too thick. The pith (white bit) should not be over 1/4 inch. If you feel the lemon you have is a bit too thick skinned, simply remove half of the skin from the lemon before proceeding.

Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until cold (you can speed this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet.

Make the meringue:

An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160°F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls.

Finish the bars:

When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

Breville Fresh & Furious Blender

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Sondiko Butane Torch

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook– This recipe is not in this cookbook, however a ton of other great ones are!

Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Another awesome cookbook by Deb Perelman

 

 


Kjötsúpa – Icelandic Lamb Soup

June 30, 2020

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Today I’m going to share with you a delicious recipe for Kjötsúpa – Icelandic Lamb Soup. Kjötsúpa actually means “meat soup”, but in Iceland the meat will almost always be lamb.

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The Husband absolutely loves to get a bowl of this when we visit Iceland. So I really wanted to try to find an authentic recipe that would taste a close as possible as I could get it to the soup we enjoy there. And the happy news is that this recipe, along with a secret ingredient I will tell you about a bit later, has done the trick!

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Annnnd…I also want to tell you all about a trip to Iceland that the Husband and I took with our parents in tow back in September 2018. You see? I am making progress writing up travel posts on the backlog of trips we have taken. What with the quarantine grounding us, I will soon be caught up and maybe then can actually post about eagerly awaited upcoming trips in a more timely fashion. (Hope springs eternal…) Anyhoo…Iceland has opened its borders to tourists from the Schengen area, EU/EEA, EFTA and UK Nationals, on June 15th, and plans at this point, to open to most countries from outside of the Schengen area on July 1st. Originally this was to include folks from the U.S. Much to my dismay, it looks like the US will now be excluded since Covid-19 cases are still on the increase here. Now be aware, Iceland has not just thrown their borders open willy-nilly. They have done a magnificent job managing Covid-19 for their citizens and are not just throwing caution to the wind at this point. So be aware that until further notice, anyone arriving in Iceland, with a few exceptions, will need to fill out a pre-registration form BEFORE they jump on a plane. You can find this form, along with official Icelandic government information on Covid 19, here. Basically folks arriving at Keflavik airport will either need to go immediately into 2 week quarantine, or will be required to have a PCR test done. The results of the test will be available 3 -5 hours later. And you will be encouraged to download the contract tracing app Rakning C-19 to your phone as well. After you have successfully navigated the safety measures which the Icelandic government has put in place to protect its citizens and visitors alike, this blog might be of some help to you with your planning for the rest of your adventures in the country. Make sure you take a look at all of the travel links I have listed at the end of this post and if you are still looking for further inspiration, you can also take a look at previous travel posts I have done on Iceland.

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By September 2018, the Husband and I had visited Iceland eight times (as of this writing, we have visited the country eleven times and are eagerly monitoring the Icelandic governments Covid-19 travel guidelines, so that we can get back for or twelfth trip). Our parents had heard all about it from us and were eager to experience it themselves. Seeing the Northern Lights was on the Father-in-law’s bucket list. So we decided to play tour guides and show them around. You read a lot about planning kid friendly holidays/vacations, but not so much about parent friendly ones. The Husband and I usually incorporate a lot of hiking and outdoor activities in our travels. But we knew that would not really be appropriate or quite frankly of interest to the Parents, whose ages range from mid 70’s to early 80’s. They would want a more sightseeing type of itinerary. We only had one week to work with, so we did not feel that a rushed driving around the entire ring road would be a good experience for them. We know that the South Coast of Iceland is gorgeous, has lots to offer and is easily accessible from the airport. This seemed like an ideal spot to take the parents. And although we have been there many times ourselves, we can never get enough of any part of Iceland, so off we went. We chose to go early in the month of September because the weather is still (hopefully – you never know with Iceland) good, it is dark enough for Northern Lights at night and there was not likely to be any snow or ice where we were visiting (a couple of the parents do have some mobility issues).

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We flew with Icelandair, rented a big SUV from Blue Car Rental and set out for the South Coast. The Lava Centre in Hvolsvöllur was our first stop. The Lava Centre sits squarely between five of Iceland’s greatest volcanos. This new award winning attraction provides a multimedia interactive experience on Iceland’s formation, earthquakes and its many volcanos. Great introduction to the country!

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Then we headed off to our hotel. We had booked with Hótel Rangá for our first two nights. Back in December 2012 as well as December 2013, the Husband and I had stayed with them for four wonderful nights in their Antarctica Suite.

Antarctica Suite Hotel Rangá

Antarctica Suite at Hotel Rangá

We had told the Parents all about it. And the Mom had seen it on one of those Housewives shows, so she was very intrigued.

IMG_0688Hótel Rangá is the only 4 star resort in South Iceland. This lovely boutique hotel is situated rather remotely next to the East Rangá river, somewhat near the small town of Hella. This remote location, far from city lights make it an ideal place to view the Northern Lights should they make an appearance. Being well aware that many of their guests are keenly interested in viewing this natural wonder, the hotel offers a service where you can sign up to be notified if the lights do show up.

Aurora over Hotel Rangá

Amazing Northern Lights we saw at Hotel Rangá on our first visit in December 2012.

The quirky decor is reminiscent of a hunting lodge

and there are several geothermal hot tubs available if you need a good soak.

This was the perfect place to stay at the beginning of our journey. Everyone was very tired after the overnight flight and the folks at Rangá, friendly and charming as always, had us relax in their plush upstairs lounge, while our rooms were readied. They were even able to get us in a bit early.

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Another great reason to stay at Rangá is their amazing restaurant which serves modern Nordic cuisine with and emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.

The next day, after partaking in their extensive Champagne buffet breakfast, we piled into the car to check out the Golden Circle. First stop: Geysir! As if you hadn’t guessed, Geysir is a geyser. In fact it is from Geysir that we get the word geyser. Geysa is an old Norse verb meaning “to gush”. Geysir doesn’t actually erupt very regularly at this point. However, Strokkur, another geyser nearby, is very predictable, erupting every 5 -7 minutes.

Then onto to Gullfoss or the Golden Waterfall. One of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, the water cascades down over several levels.

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The Husband wasn’t about to pass up the chance for a bowl of Kjötsúpa at the Gullfoss Kaffi, which is located inside the visitor center. Now I usually wouldn’t recommend dining in a touristy shop, but I gotta admit – you should get a bowl of Kjötsúpa here. We had enjoyed it on a previous visit and knew it was really tasty. Trust me!

Then on to Þingvellir National Park . This World UNESCO site is gorgeous!

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And lucky us, we did have a small glimpse of those elusive Northern Lights that evening.

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The third day we headed east towards the lovely village of Vík, taking in Seljalandfoss waterfall along the way.

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The weather was not too bad that day, and the Husband and I have all of the waterproof kit at this point, so we did walk behind it. The Parents decided to sit that one out.

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Magestic Skógafoss was next on the itinerary.

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Continuing eastwards, our next stop was at Sólheimajökull, a glacial tongue of Mýrdalsjökull. We didn’t go for a glacial hike while there, but just took in views.

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Then onto Dyrhólaey

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and Vík í Mýdral’s (often just known as Vík) black sand beach.

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According to legend, those large basalt columns, or sea stacks that you see right off the coast are trolls which didn’t make it back inside before sunrise and were subsequently turned into stone.

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We had definitely seen a lot on our first three days in Iceland. To see all the live action take a peek at the video below. And stay tuned to see what we get up to on day four!

But wait – don’t go! I have yet to tell you about today’s featured recipe. Kjötsúpa is a vey traditional soup and each Icelandic family likely has their own version of it. Some folks have been known to thicken the soup with rice or oatmeal, but this version remains very soup-like in consistency. Homey and very comforting, it is just the thing to warm you on any chilly day.

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As I mentioned, I am quite pleased with this recipe because it tastes very similar to the Kjötsúpa we have enjoyed in Iceland. I think this is due in no small part to a secret ingredient, which gives it such an authentic flavor.

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I will keep it a secret no longer – Icelandic Soup Herbs. This is a mixture of arctic thyme, birch leaves, bilberry and juniper. You can find this in pretty much any grocery store in Iceland and I’ve included a link at the bottom where you can purchase it online. It will truly make a big difference. So, what are you waiting for? Make up a big pot of this Kjötsúpa to fortify you while you plan your Icelandic adventure!

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Kjötsúpa - Islandic Lamb Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lamb on the bone
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion or leek, chopped
  • 1 -2 Tablespoons soup herbs (see note that follows)
  • 1 pound rutabaga (or turnips), peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup green cabbage, roughly chopped

Directions:

Trim excess fat from the meat. Place it in a large dutch oven. Add 6 cups water and salt. Slowly bring to a boil. Add pepper, soup herbsand onions. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes.

Add all of the vegetables, except for the cabbage, to the pot and continue to simmer for 15 more minutes.

Add the cabbage and simmer until all of the vegetable are fork tender.

Remove the meat from the soup. Separate out the bones and chop the meat into bite sized pieces. Add back to the soup.

Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

You can serve this soup immediately, however we usually let soup sit overnight to develop the flavors. If you so choose to rest the soup,  let it cool and then put in refrigerator overnight. Another great thing about letting the soup rest in the fridge overnight is that it is easy to skim off any excess fat, as it solidifies on top. Reheat soup and garnish with fresh parsley, chives or chopped celery leaves.

*Icelandic soup herbs are a mixture of thyme, birch leaves, bilberry and juniper. I have included a link where you can purchase it online. That is if you don’t remember to pick so up while you are visiting Iceland. Good substitutions are thyme, parsley, bay leaves.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Kjotsupa:

Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir – great cookbook!

Urta Villikrydd (wild herbs) – Soup herbs I mentioned above. This link is for a site called Nammi which sells all sorts of Icelandic products. Nammi also sells another brand of soup herbs (Sûpujurtir), but I have not tried it.

Links for Planning a Parent Friendly vacation in Iceland:

Covid-19 InformationPlease make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the Icelandic Government’s travel requirements BEFORE you head out. All of the official information can be found here.

Travel Planning Guide:

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. Planning a holiday can certainly be stressful which has become even more so with rapidly changing safety requirements due to Covid 19. I Heart Reykjavik is keeping up to date with all of the government guidelines and can provide guidance here. Additionally, they can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Car Rental:  Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Accommodation:

Hótel Rangá – Gorgeous 4 star boutique hotel, decorated in a rustic hunting lodge or ski resort style. It is located out in the country (hence no light pollution), about two hours from Reykjavik. Hotel Rangá caters to folks hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights and will give you a wake up call should you desire if the elusive lights do make an appearance. The rooms range from cozy standards to quirky spacious suites. Expansive breakfast buffet. Comfortable laid back lounges. Relaxing geothermal hot tubs, private observatory with telescopes for sky gazing and an on site restaurant serving up delicious modern Nordic cuisine. All of that with a friendly, helpful & welcoming staff. Highly recommended.

Destinations:

The Lava Centre: Located in Hvolsvöllur, The Lava Centre sits squarely between five of Iceland’s greatest volcanos. This new award winning attraction provides a multimedia interactive experience on Iceland’s formation, earthquakes and its many volcanos. Great introduction to the country!

The Golden Circle: This popular tour route usually begins Reykjavik, loops around for 140 miles to include three stunning locations: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area & Gullfoss Waterfall and then ends up back in Reykjavik. It generally takes 3 1/2 hours to complete the drive and that is without stopping at all, which I don’t know why anyone would want to do that. So, it is definitely an all day activity when you factor in stops along the way. Many tour companies offer Golden Circle tours. If you are interested in driving it yourself, take a look at I Heart Reykjavik’s Guide. Here you will find answers to many of the questions you might have as well as a google driving map which not only includes the three main areas of interests, but also restaurants along the way, and other attractions which you might want to add to your itinerary.

Geysir Geothermal Area – See the original Geysir as well as Strokkur and other geothermal attractions.

Þingvellir National Park– Unesco World Heritage Site. First Icelandic Parliament, or Alþingi, was held here in the year 930 AD. It is also the place where you can see the rift between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates. You can literally walk between the continents.

Gullfoss – Stunning multi level waterfall located on Hvítá river in south Iceland. Gull means “Gold” in Icelandic and Foss means “waterfall” – hence Golden Falls. One of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls.

Seljalandfoss – A beautiful waterfall located just off of Route 1 on the South Coast. If the weather is good and you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you can walk behind this waterfall.

Skógafoss – Another beautiful waterfall located just off of Route1 on the South Coast. Due to the amount of spray from the falls, if the sun is out you will likely see a rainbow in front of it.

Sólheimajökull– A glacial tongue of Mýrdalsjökull located just off Route 1 on the South Coast of Iceland.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach– Famous picturesque black sand beach located near the village of Vík. Please be careful at this beach. The waves and rip currents are quite powerful. There are sneaker waves which can seemingly come out of nowhere and travel much further up the beach than expected, knocking you off your feet and potentially pulling you out to the freezing sea. Never turn your back to the waves. Unfortunately there have been several fatalities at this beach.

Dyrhólaey Peninsula – Stunning views of Iceland’s south coast and over to Reynisfjara Beach.


Soft Sandwich Bread & Butterflake Rolls

June 11, 2020

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Aaaand……I’m back to bread today – Peter Reinhart’s Soft Sandwich Bread to be exact. This Classic Sandwich Bread is wonderful! It comes together very easily and bakes up very tall with a lovely soft crumb.

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And bonus! This recipe can also be used to make these gorgeous little Butterflake Rolls, or a combination of one loaf of bread along with some rolls, such as I did.

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This dough does require an overnight rest, but otherwise everything about this recipe is quick and easy. And the bread…oh so amazing! There are few things that beat the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchen.

IMG_0255This bread is lovely and soft, but sturdy enough to hold up to any sandwich. Wonderful for grilled cheese and delightful when simply toasted and slathered with butter.IMG_0272And speaking of butter – these Butterflake Rolls are the bomb! To make them you roll the dough out, brush melted butter all over the surface, cut it into strips, stack them and then bake them in muffin tins. Just look at all those lovely flaky buttery layers just waiting to be pulled apart!IMG_0298

Truth be told, I originally baked this loaf of sandwich bread to use in another recipe that I have been working on. I don’t want to give too much away, because I hope to post that one soon, but lets just say it is a sandwich like none other! How’s that for a teaser?!! And this bread was nothing short of perfection!

 

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Take my word for it! You will LOVE this Soft Sandwich Bread!

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Soft Sandwich Bread & Butterflake Rolls

  • Servings: 2 loaves or 1 loaf & 10 -12 rolls or a whole bunch of rolls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon (.33 oz/9 grams) instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons (15 oz./425 grams) lukewarm (35°C/95°F) milk
  • 6 1/4 cups (28 oz./794 grams) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (.5 oz./14 grams) salt, or 1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 5 1/2 Tablespoons (2.75 oz. /78 grams) sugar, or 1/4 cup honey
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 oz./85 grams) vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved. Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes.

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer, then pour in the milk mixture. Using the paddle attachment mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, supply and tacky but not sticky.

Knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.

On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake.

If you would like to bake two 8″X4 1/2″ loaves, divide dough in half. Each piece should weigh about 25 ounces (709 grams). For a 5″X9″ loaf, like I baked, you will need 794 to 907 grams (28 – 32 ounces). I then used the remaining dough to make the Butterflake Rolls.*see below for shaping method.

Shape the dough into sandwich loaves and place in greased loaf pans to rise. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hour, until it domes about 1″ above the rim of the pans.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350°F. (177°C)

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 20 -30 minutes. The bread is done when the top is golden brown, the sides are firm and brown, the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom and the internal temperature is at least 185°F (85°C) in the center.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

For the Butterflake Rolls:

Roll the dough to a 1/4″ thick rectangle. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into four even strips, then stack the strips neatly on top of one another. Use a pastry scraper to cut the stacked strips into 1″ wide     pieces. Place the small stacks on their sides in an oiled muffin tin. Proof and bake following the recipe. It should take 15 -20 baking time total for rolls.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Soft Sandwich Bread & Butterflake Rolls:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Wilton 9″X 5″ Loaf pan

Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday Cookbook

 


Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

June 4, 2020

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Did someone say Chocolate & Peanut Butter? Cuz those are without a doubt two of my favorites! Even better – those two delicious words were followed by Icebox? I’m in! Today I am sharing this glorious recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake with you.

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Now I’m sure you already can tell that this confection is going to be amazing just by looking at the ingredients – chocolate, peanut butter, cream cheese, heavy cream and crispy chocolate wafers. I probably don’t even need to say another word.

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However, I would be remiss if I did not point out some other aspects of this recipe which make it so magnificent. Foremost in my mind is that you can prepare this tasty treat without ever having to turn on your oven! It is supposed to reach 95 degrees F today (35 C)! Needless to say, I am not at all happy. Swampy old Virginia summer has indeed arrived. I do not want to be stuck in the hot kitchen with the oven on for even one second. This Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake is perfect in that sense.

IMG_8188Also it is not only easy to make, but also can be made ahead of time. Yup – an icebox cake keeps very well in the icebox. And while it’s chilling in there, those Chocolate Wafers are becoming soft and wonderfully spongy. It is as if you baked the thinest cake layers. But the good news is that you had to do nothing of the sort.

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Once you are ready to dig into the cake, simply turn it out of the pan onto a serving tray and decorate it with a dusting of cocoa powder and some peanuts. This Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake is a perfect summer indulgence. Folks will be delighted!

 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients:

  • 113 grams (4 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 260 grams (1 cup) smooth peanut butter (I use Skippy All Natural, No Need To Stir)
  • 120 grams (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 480 grams (2 cups) cold heavy cream
  • 50 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, from one box (see note)
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 35 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted dry roasted peanuts

Directions:

Line a 23×12.5-cm (9″X5″) loaf pan with two pieces of overlapping plastic wrap, allowing the excess to hang over the edges of the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not over-whip. Set aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt together until smooth.

Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture and beat with the mixer until smooth. Add the remaining whipped cream and fold with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, until the mixture is evenly combined and uniform in color and texture.

Spoon about two-thirds of the cream into the prepared pan. Starting at a short side of the pan, arrange 12 cookies in the cream, standing them on their edge in a row. Do the same with a second row of cookies, slightly overlapping the cookies from the first row. Continue with two more rows for a total of four rows. Save the last two cookies for the topping.

Cover the cookies with the remaining cream. Smooth the cream with a spatula, gently pressing to make sure any gaps between the cookies are filled.

Cover the cake with the excess plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours. When ready to serve, peel the plastic wrap from the top. Set a platter on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it. Lift the pan off and gently peel away the plastic wrap. Use a warm offset spatula to smooth the edges, if desired. Dust the cake lightly with cocoa powder through a fine sieve. Crush the remaining wafers and scatter the peanuts over top, pressing down on them slightly so they adhere. Slice with a sharp knife and serve cold.

 

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Wilton 9″X 5″ Loaf Pan

Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers – Here is a link which will show you what the chocolate wafer cookies look like. I think you should be able to find them in your local grocery, either with the cookies or with ice cream fixings. This amazon price seems a bit high to me, so definitely take a look in your local store if you can.

Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook by Jennifer Segal – You will not find the recipe for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake in this cookbook, but will find a bunch of other awesome tasty recipes. I love this cookbook, as well as the Once Upon a Chef blog. All of Jennifer’s recipes are easy to make and absolutely delicious!

Valhrona French Chocolate Pearls – This is what I used to decorate the top of the cake. It is a crispy bit of cereal coated in dark chocolate. This link if for a much, much bigger bag than you would need for just this dessert, but I wanted to let you know what I had used.


Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils

May 28, 2020

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I’m going to take a bit of a break from bread recipes today and tell you all about these Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils! If you are a fan of spicy, Tex-mex cuisine, you need to add this recipe to your repertoire.

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The Husband and I absolutely love zucchini. Can’t get enough of the stuff, which is a bit strange because neither of us liked it one little bit when we were kids. Now I want to eat it all the time. One of our absolute favorite sides are these Zucchini Spicy Grilled Corn & Cheese Pancakes:

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And zucchini adds moisture as well as flavor to my favorite Banana Bread recipe:

Zucchini Banana Bread

So yeah, we are all about zucchini here. Stuffing a few of them with some spiced up lager lentils seemed like a great idea. And boy was it ever! I first told you about these lentils when we made tacos with them. Absolutely delish!

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Now we’ve got those same spicy lentils wrapped with zucchini, rather than a tortilla. This is great news if you are trying to cut back on carbs. And you still get to top these Zucchini Boats with all the same fun toppings you would put on a taco.

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Another win is that these little boats are perfect for a Meatless Monday! I swear you won’t miss that meat at all.

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Later this summer, when you are absolutely swimming in zucchini, you will be so happy that I shared this idea with you. And the recipe is easily customizable, so if you are a hardcore carnivore – go ahead and add some meat. Turns out there really aren’t any rules. So have fun creating your own version of these Zucchini Boats today! (but I gotta say…these Spicy Lager Lentils are pretty amazing…)

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Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe inspired by: The Mountain Kitchen’s Meatless Mexican Zucchini Boats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils, cooked (you will end up with about 2 cups of lentils when cooked)
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz. chopped green chilis
  • 1/2 cup salsa (your favourite – We love Green Mountain Gringo Salsa)
  • 6 oz.- 8 oz. lager beer (I used Estrella Damm, Dos Equis would be great too )

For the spice mixture:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Spanish Smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

For the Zucchini Boats:

  • 4 medium zucchini – halved and with a channel scooped out for the spicy lentils
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Toppings: sour cream, Cotija Cheese, salsa, fresh jalapeños, fresh cilantro

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and tin of green chilis, cook for another minute or two.  Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently. You don’t want to burn the spices just crank up the flavor by cooking them.

Add the lentils, salsa and 6 ounces of the beer and stir to combine. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Using a potato masher or fork, gently mash the lentils until the mixture reaches the consistency you are happy with. Cook another few minutes until hot. If the lentils start to dry out, add another glug or two of the lager. ( If you haven’t slurped it down…cooking is hard & thirsty work!)

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon to dredge out a channel for the spicy lentils to sit in. Don’t remove too much of the zucchini. Take care to leave at least 1/4″ flesh in the zucchini. Just remove the center seeds and discard.

Place the zucchini on the prepared baking sheet.

Fill the prepared zucchini boats with the spicy lentils. Sprinkle shredded Mexican style spicy cheese over the tops.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the zucchini are fork tender.

Remove from oven. Add any additional toppers you would like.

Enjoy!

Zucchini Boats filled with Spicy Lager Lentils brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Bon Appétit’s Best Buttermilk Biscuits

May 21, 2020

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I have been all about bread recently…Skillet Cornbread and then, most recently, Buttery Potato Burger Buns. And guess what? I must be on a roll (ha! pun intended), but I’m going to stay the course today and share a recipe with you for Buttermilk Biscuits. And not any ole buttermilk biscuits, but these golden delicious darlings happen to be Bon Appétit’s Best Buttermilk Biscuits!

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Now I must admit the Husband and I do love our buttermilk biscuits and have always been on the lookout for the “best” recipe. I took a look back at my catalog of past recipes and found four different ones for the elusive best buttermilk biscuit. There were the Buttermilk Biscuits that I baked for my Spicy Pork & Chorizo Breakfast Biscuits

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The Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits

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The Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

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And finally those Buttermilk Biscuits that I baked to go with my Nashville Hot Chicken

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That is a lot of Buttermilk Biscuits, no? So what makes these biscuits Bon Appétit’s best?  And perhaps more importantly are they our best? Well, there does not  seem to be any secret ingredient to be found in this recipe – it’s flour, butter, buttermilk, baking powder and soda, a little salt and sugar. Nope, it isn’t the ingredients. It is all about the technique. You need to use cold butter. You need to work quickly and have a very light touch. Overworking the dough will result in tough biscuits. Nobody wants that. Tender, fluffy & flaky are what we are going for!

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As you are mixing these biscuits up, you are probably going to think that the recipe is too dry. Resist the urge to add any more buttermilk. Just continue to lightly work that shaggy, craggy, crumbly dough as best you can into a square that is 1″ tall. As the dough sits it will continue to hydrate. Believe me. I was skeptical as I was doing it, but it really does work! Another trick that makes these biscuits so irresistible is the stacking of the dough. This ends up creating layers of thin sheets of butter. Kind of like that laminated dough I told you about when I made these Spinach Croissants

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It is these little butter rivers running through the dough that expand upon baking to create this lovely tall layers.

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Final tip – when you cut the dough into biscuits, use a sharp blade and push your blade straight down to cut. Do not saw back and forth. This will help to give you biscuits the tallest rise possible.

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And perhaps the best thing about this recipe for me is that you can make up a big batch of biscuits ahead of time and freeze them. Then when you get a hankering for a biscuit, be it for breakfast with some egg and sausage or even country ham, or slathered with butter and drizzled with honey or maybe to go along with your Sunday dinner, just grab however many you want out of the freezer and pop them right into a hot oven. A mere 20 -25 minutes later these exquisite golden tall flaky biscuits will be ready. Now you can’t beat that! But back to that question “Are these Buttermilk Biscuits our best?” Hmmm…these are definitely up there! They were so buttery & golden and rose so high with lots of flaky layers, but I’m not sure the quest is over. Certainly the continued pursuit will lead to even more biscuit sampling, which is always a good thing in my book!

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Bon Appétit's Best Buttermilk Biscuits

  • Servings: 9-12 depending on how big you cut them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Bon Appétit

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces, plus more melted for brushing over the tops
  • 1 cup chilled buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Pulse baking powder, salt, sugar, baking soda, and 3½ cups flour in a food processor to combine. Add chilled butter and pulse until largest pieces of butter are the size of a pea. Transfer to a large bowl and gradually drizzle buttermilk over top, tossing with a fork as you go to incorporate. Knead mixture a few times in bowl until a shaggy dough forms (mixture will look a little dry), then turn out onto a clean surface and pat into a 1″-thick square.

Using a knife or bench scraper, cut dough into 4 pieces. Stack pieces on top of one another, sandwiching any loose dry bits of dough between layers, and press down to flatten. Lift up dough with bench scraper and dust surface with flour. Roll dough into a 1″-thick rectangle and trim a thin border around sides of dough to create clean edges. Cut into a 4×3 grid to make 12 biscuits (don’t reroll scraps). Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2″ apart; freeze 10 minutes.

Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt if you desire and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 400° and bake biscuits until deep golden brown on bottom and golden on top, 20–25 minutes.

Do Ahead: Biscuits (unbaked) can be made 1 month ahead. Freeze, uncovered, on baking sheet until solid, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Do not thaw before baking, but add a few minutes to baking time.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Bon Appétit’s Best Buttermilk Biscuits:

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Oxo Multipurpose Scraper

Dough Rolling Mat


Buttery Potato Burger Buns

May 15, 2020

IMG_9980So let me get this right…last weekend we had a freeze/frost warning which had all the gardeners out there scrambling and me cooking up a pot of chili. Today, just six short days later, it is forecasted to be 86° F (that is 30°C)!?! That is insanity from the weather. Kind of goes along with the surealness of this Covid-19 crisis. I am definitely not pleased about either one. However, I know that a lot of folks out there will be happy to see this what I will call “hot” weather. They will be firing up their grills. And I’ve got a great Burger Bun recipe for you just in time: Buttery Potato Burger Buns!

IMG_9974Apparently pandemics bring out the bread baking in everyone out there. Folks have bought up all the flour, all the yeast. Hopefully you’ve managed to score some. Besides regular all purpose flour, this recipe does also call for potato flour, which I know is an ingredient that you might not have on hand. Don’t despair, you can just sub in some instant potato flakes and you’re good. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have a hamburger bun pan, you can make due with a parchment lined baking sheet.IMG_9972These buns are so amazing! I could not have been anymore pleased with them. If you’ve ever had a Martin’s Potato Roll – they are like that ‘cept better! I didn’t have any fresh hamburger meat in the house when the whole lockdown thing started, but we had some burger patties in the freezer. Believe me, these buns stole the show! I can’t wait until the day, you know a year or so from now (just kidding! I hope…) when I can actually get some ingredients that will be worthy to put between these fantastic, tender, buttery buns. In the meantime, I’m thrilled that these Buttery Potato Burger Buns are the thing that truly make us look forward to our quaran-burger dinners.IMG_9968

Buttery Potato Burger Buns

servings = “6 Burger Buns” difficulty = “easy”]

recipe from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (361grams) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup (43grams) Potato flour or 1/2 cup (43grams) dried potato flakes
  • 1/4 cup (35grams) nonfat dry milk
  • 2 Tablespoons (25grams) sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 4 Tablespoons (57grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (227grams) lukewarm water (95° F)

Directions:

Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it’s almost doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface, gently deflate it, and divide it into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Place the balls into the greased cups of a hamburger bun pan, flattening gently. Or place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2″ to 3″ between them; flatten gently.

Cover and let rise until the buns have doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re light golden brown.

Remove them from the oven, and brush them with melted butter, if desired.

Transfer the buns to a rack to cool. Store buns, well-wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Enjoy!

Buttery Potato Burger Buns brought to you by: RuncibleEats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Buttery Potato Burger Buns:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Hamburger Bun Pan

 


Skillet Cornbread

May 12, 2020

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So Winter hasn’t given up yet around here! Over the past weekend there were frost warnings and forecasts of snow out in the mountains. Not that I’m complaining…I’d rather keep things on the cool side rather than move right into the hot, muggy unpleasantness that is often a Virginia summer. With the chilly weather, I decided to make up a big ole pot of chili, White Chicken Chili to be exact. And what goes better with chili? A big ole pint of beer? Well, yes. Beer is good. But how about a big ole hunk of cornbread slathered with butter! Now you’re talking!

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The Husband and I love cornbread. And I’ve posted quite a few recipes in the past. But I gotta say – I think we’ve found a new favorite: Skillet Cornbread. This cornbread has it all! It is moist. It is buttery. It has crispy crunchy edges. And it is not too sweet. A little brown sugar and a bit of honey gives it just the right amount of sweetness.

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I’ve always thought that Northern Cornbread was sweeter than Southern Cornbread. When I did a bit of snooping around online, I found out that I had stumbled into a raging debate. A lot of folks out there have some definite ideas about that topic and can get downright prickly over it with statements such as “If God had wanted sugar in cornbread he would have called it cake”. Hmmm…

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There is no doubt that cornbread is associated with the South. This is likely due to the fact that cornbread was the bread that was eaten there daily from colonial times up to the 20th Century. As it turns out, corn was the South’s main crop. Wheat tended not to do so well in the heat & humidity there. So although I know Buttermilk Biscuits are also considered a Southern thing, in the past they were only baked for special occasions or maybe for Sunday dinner. Folk’s daily bread was cornbread.

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I was fascinated to discover that back in the day, the type of corn predominantly grown in the South was a white corn. This corn was left in the fields to ripen completely and then taken to a water mill to be stone ground. Eventually, with industrialization, these stone mills were replaced by steel roller mills. This type of mill took away much of the corn kernel and thereby the flavor. Furthermore, these roller mills preferred to use unripened yellow corn, which was not as sweet. In order to get that sweet flavor back in their cornbread, guess what folks added – you got it, sugar.

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So, this recipe does have a little bit of sugar in it, but not so much sugar that you are going to be thinking you are eating a cake. But I think the thing that really makes this cornbread so spectacular is that it is cooked in a blazing hot cast iron skillet. Pouring the batter into that hot skillet sears the edges and caramelizes the sugar in the batter to give you that scrumptiously crunchy crust, while keeping the middle nice and tender and moist.

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Yum, yum and yum! Whether you’re from the North, or the South or any other place, you are going to agree, this is some super tasty, buttery delicious cornbread! Pull out your cast iron skillets and bake a batch of this cornbread today!

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Skillet Cornbread

  • Servings: 6-8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (120grams) cornmeal
  • 1 cup (125grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/3 cup (67grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) honey
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons minced jalapeño peppers (optional – you could also throw in some cheese or bacon or even dried cranberries – or leave it plain, your choice)
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • Maldon flaky sea salt to sprinkle over top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Grease a 9″-10″ cast iron skillet. Set aside.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and honey together until completely smooth and thick. Then, whisk in the egg until combined. Finally, add in the buttermilk and mix to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the jalapeños if you are using them and whisk until just combined. Take care not to over mix, or beat the batter or the cornbread will be tough.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and the center is cooked through. Use a toothpick to test. Edges should be crispy at this point.

Paint melted butter over the top of the cornbread and sprinkle with a bit of flaky Maldon sea salt.

Allow to slightly cool before slicing and serving. Serve cornbread with butter, honey, jam, or whatever you like.

Wrap leftovers up tightly and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Enjoy!

Skillet Cornbread brought to you today by Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Skillet Cornbread:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Le Creuset Cast Iron Skillet

Le Creuset Handle Sleeve

 


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