Cheese and Caraway Crackers

One of the things (among many and not the least of which) you learn after you have children, is that the cocktail hour as you once knew it is now no longer. My husband I were married 5 years before having our first child. Five years to go meet up for  happy hour drinks and little bites at the posh little bar down the street. Five years to spend as much time as we liked talking about our hellish days at the office. Five years to just relax with each other and enjoy being together after a long and stress filled day.

It was blissful. And while lovely and fun, I gladly gave it all up. Having kids was definitely a wake-up call for me. Frankly, I was a little bit too self absorbed. It was as if the blinders came off and I could see the world in this whole new way.  All of the sudden the focus was now no longer on me, but on this gorgeous child and how the heck was I going to raise it to adulthood with any relative semblance of success? I had major doubts. And for some time there was no time for a happy hour break. There were no breaks. Period.

But as the months went by, the piles of laundry, dirty diapers and the mountains of baby paraphernalia grew and grew and grew,  I began to long to feel a bit like the grown up I was before I had my son. The one who could just sit, and relax with her husband and enjoy a pretty drink and some delicious little bites. So, when we could, we would make a point of taking a little time together each week, at home to do just that. It's still my favorite time of the day, some 16 years and one additional child later. 

The boys are older now, and we could easily go to happy hour every night if we wanted but outside of the occasional date and dinner out, we don't.  I'm a bit of a do it your-selfer by nature anyway and I love the idea of having really good drinks and really good appetizers at home for a fraction of what it would cost me to have it out.  So I hit the kitchen and devoured appetizer recipe after recipe. Out of all that manic cooking and creating my love of the cheese cracker was born.

Some people call them cheese straws, but whatever you call them they're dang delicious, easy to make and go amazingly well with a cocktail or two. My favorite, is the oldie but goodie, sharp cheddar with cayenne pepper cracker.  Help me Jesus.. So, so good. Usually with cheese crackers, if you can think of a tasty combination, it's likely to be good.  Blue cheese and pecan,  Parmesan and thyme, and the aforementioned sharp cheddar and cayenne, crazy good.

Lately our favorite cracker is this brown cheese and caraway variety.  I'm a huge fan of Norwegian Brown cheese (also known as Brunost) and shared about it and this recipe with you last year. Sweetly caramel and creamy, the cheese is fantastic on it's own, but I couldn't help think it would be amazing in a cracker, made with spelt flour and a sprinkling of caraway and sea salt. 

Now it's all I can think about.  It's really a perfect little bite. If you can't find Norwegian Brown Cheese you can easily substitute any other variety of cheese that you prefer. The caraway and spelt flour are used commonly in Nordic baking and cuisine so they seemed a natural addition.

Cheese + Caraway Crackers
1/2 C. cold unsalted butter, diced
1 1/4 C. spelt flour (you can substitute all purpose flour if you want)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (about 1 cup) brown cheese
2 eggs, divided
1 T. milk
1-2 tsp. caraway seeds, slightly crushed

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cold butter, the flour and the salt.  Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. Add one of the eggs and the 1 T. milk to moisten the mixture and bring it together.  

Process just until the ingredients form a ball. 

 Remove from the processor and place the mixture on a lightly floured cutting board. Sprinkle flour over the top (the mixture will be sticky) and roll gently into a long (about 10") log.  Dust off the additional flour, if any and wrap in plastic wrap.

Place in the freezer for 20 or until the dough is firm, not frozen.  You can alternatively refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Slice the dough into 1/4" rounds and place on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.

Lightly beat the remaining egg, and brush over each of the crackers.  Sprinkle the caraway seeds on top and bake 15-20 minutes until the crackers are golden. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt if desired.

Remove from the oven, cool and devour with your favorite cocktail.


Swedish Cardamom Braid and the #BakeForGood Tour with King Arthur Flour

You know the feeling don't you, when someone goes to the trouble to make you food? I can really think of few emotions that overwhelm me quite like the ones I feel when someone goes to the effort to care for me in that way. 

Making someone a meal is an act both simple and profound. Its a way of recognizing each other on a basic, beautiful and fundamental level.  Its a way of saying, "I see you and I care that you are hungry". Hunger can take many shapes and can define many emotions and needs.  When you feed someone, anyone, you meet those needs, physical, mental and spiritual.

 For over 20 years King Arthur Flour has been traveling all around the country teaching children how to Bake for Good with their Life Skills Bread Baking Program and how to share their efforts with those in need. Meeting needs. So when King Arthur Flour, reached out and asked me to join their Bake For Good Tour in Seattle, I jumped at the chance. This month they met up with bloggers in Seattle, Minneapolis and Los Angeles to further promote their fantastic program and encourage others to think about how they can Bake for Good.

I have always been a fan of King Arthur Flour, but to know that they have been giving back to communities around the U.S. in such a meaningful way, for such a long time,  increased my admiration and appreciation tenfold.

Our weekend began in the classroom at the Le Cordon Bleu-Seattle campus where we learned from pastry chef Amber Eisler about the finer points of bread and pie dough making. After a morning of instruction we got to work, baking loaves of bread and pies to take with us on our visit the following day to the Union Gospel Mission Women's and Children's Shelter. It was a fantastic experience learning from Amber and working alongside fellow bloggers, all intent on baking our hearts out. Our King Arthur Flour hosts, Julia and Natasha were kind, supportive and took especially good care of us.

The following day was spent at a commercial kitchen in downtown Seattle, prepping our meal to take along with the bread and pies to the Union Gospel Mission that evening. Chicken, macaroni and cheese, vegetables and salad were prepped then loaded for the short journey across town.

Upon arriving at the Union Gospel Mission we were given a tour by the director of the facility and began setting up for serving our meal.  The work done at the Union Gospel Mission is truly wonderful, and they do a phenomenal job of providing a safe, nurturing environment for moms and kids. It was a privilege to see the staff there, in action and to meet the residents and learn a bit about them and their families.

While at the mission I was reminded frequently about how easily hardships can and do befall many of us, the loss of a job, a sick family member or an abusive home situation. Whatever the reason or however it happens there are needs, all around.

Throughout the weekend we were encouraged to think about ways that we could continue to Bake for Good in our own communities. How often,  it's through the simple ways that we can provide that extra bit of comfort, care and support. 

I strongly encourage you to think of ways you can Bake for Good in your community.  It doesn't take much.  You can reach out to a neighbor who you know to be struggling or if you don't know of anyone immediately in need in your neighborhood, contact your community soup kitchen, or food bank.  I know of several programs in my own town that are in constant need of donated baked goods and meals etc.

After we had finished serving and cleaning up we headed back to our hotel and said our goodbyes.  I was struck by how quickly the weekend went and while physically tired, on an emotional level I felt rejuvenated and inspired. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other local area bloggers and participate in such a worthwhile event. It was a great reminder that small acts of kindness and comfort can and do have a big impact. No act is too small and everyone no matter what their resources; money or time, can give and make a difference.

The great ladies I met and had the privilege to serve with: 
Melissa from Lulu the Baker
Megan from Not Martha
Jenny from Jenny on the Spot
Megan from Country Cleaver

Throughout the course of the weekend, I thought repeatedly of my grandmothers and the way they cooked and baked for others. This Swedish cardamom braid similar to one my maternal grandmother would often make came to mind, and I thought it would be a perfect recipe for me to share with you.

The recipe for the bread loaves we created to take to the mission (above), can be found here, at King Arthur Flour. Head on over and check out their wonderful recipes and products.

Swedish Cardamom Braid
Makes 3 loaves

2 packages or 4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
 1/2 C. warm water, 105 degrees F.
1 1/2 C. whole milk ( you can also use evaporated)
1 C. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 T. freshly ground cardamom
4 eggs, at room temp
7 or 8  cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 C. melted butter at room temp.

Glaze and topping:
1 egg, beaten
1 T. light cream or milk
1/4 C. Swedish Pearl Sugar
1/2 C. sliced almonds, if desired

In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast and the warm water.  Let sit for 5 minutes while you heat the milk.

In a small saucepan heat the milk over low heat.  Heat to 105 degrees F. Use an instant read thermometer for this.  If the milk goes over 115 degrees F.  Allow it to cool down below 115 degrees or less before adding it to the yeast.

Once heated, add it to the yeast and water mixture, along with the sugar, salt and cardamom. Mixing on low with a paddle attachment. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them.  Slowly add small amount of the warm milk and sugar mixture to the eggs until about 1/4 of it has been incorporated.  Add the egg, mixture back into the mixing bowl, and mix on low.

Add 3 cups of the flour, and mix until the dough is smooth.  Pour in the melted butter and combine thoroughly.   Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough hook and empty the dough onto a lightly floured board and let it sit for 15 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel.

Once rested, knead the dough gently for 5 minutes.  Place in a lightly oiled, clean mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  Set it in a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Once double, remove it from the bowl and portion the dough into 3 evenly weighted pieces. Take one of the pieces and divide it into 3 evenly sized and weighted pieces.
Roll each piece into a long strand, on a lightly floured board. Each strand should be 17 inches or so in diameter.

Once rolled to the proper length, braid the three pieces together, pinching the ends together and tucking them under.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Repeat with the other two portions of dough.

Let braids rest for 1 hour or until they have risen and are light.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. or 325 degrees F. if using a convection oven.

Combine the egg and milk in a small dish and brush evenly over the tops of the braids.

Sprinkle the pearl sugar and almonds on top and bake for 20 -25 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to finish cooling.

Eat the day you bake them or wrap them in plastic and freeze.

**Recipe adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas and The Great Scandinavian Baking Book


Asparagus with Poached Eggs & Bulgur

I know now and really have always known that the best food is really the simplest and most easily prepared, but sometimes I run across recipes that remind me in a new way how true this really is. The current trend to top pizza, salads, soups, etc. with a poached or fried egg is in my humble opinion nothing short of genius. Simple, healthy and protein packed, there couldn't be an easier way to give a light meal a little more heft. 

In reality, I'm sure it's nothing new, but there does seem to be quite a few recipes lately featuring the golden, molten egg atop some seriously gorgeous food.  I've taken to adding poached eggs to most of my lunches lately as a way to add a little extra protein and to help stave off the inevitable hangry episode that happens around 4 pm most afternoons. 

That lunch to dinnertime stretch is the worst for me, and I find myself many times going a bit nuts in the kitchen, snacking on crackers, candy and really anything else I can get my hands on. It's not a pretty sight. A 40ish year old woman with a Pirate Booty crumb encrusted face and a wild look in her eye is an animal you don't want to tangle with.

I was going to share this recipe with you after Easter with the suggestion that it would help you use up any leftover Easter eggs, or asparagus you might have lying around, but really who doesn't always have eggs on hand, and if you don't have any asparagus in your fridge right now, you might want to go fix that. I've used bulgur, because that's what I had in my cupboard, but couscous or quinoa would be equally good. 

The great folks at Ariadne Pure, (a local, Kirkland company that imports olive oils, vinegar and other fantastic products from Greece) recently sent me this bottle of pure grape syrup, or for those of you in the know, grape must. Must is the first press of the grapes, usually skins, seeds and fruit pulp. This first press is very sweet and is thickened to be used on desserts, ice cream and salads.  The flavor is grape, but more than that. It's complex and utterly delicious. You must, Must.  Sorry. That was bad.  It's late and I'm loopy.

For this recipe, I dressed the asparagus lightly with some garlic infused olive oil, white wine vinegar and some grape syrup. The slightly sweet and savory combination was fantastic. If you can't get your hands on grape must, though I'd strongly encourage you to try, you could substitute with some balsamic vinegar glaze or even a light touch of honey. A perfect remedy for heading off the hangry.

Asparagus, Poached Eggs + Bulgur
Serves 2

1/2 C. wheat bulgur ( I used the quick cook variety from Trader Joes)
1 C. water
6-8 stalks asparagus, trimmed
1 T. white vinegar
1-2 eggs
garlic infused olive oil
2-3 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. pure grape syrup (or grape must)
2 T. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper and cracked red pepper

In a small saucepan, bring 1 C. of water to a boil. Add the bulgur and a dash of salt. Cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.
Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork and set aside.

Fill a small saute pan halfway with water.  Bring to a boil and add the asparagus.  Simmer on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the asparagus is fork tender.  While boiling fill a pie plate with ice water.  Once the asparagus is cooked, immediately transfer it to the ice water.  Let sit for 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Empty the sauce pan of the asparagus water and add fresh.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and add 1 T. white vinegar. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and slowly add them to the barely simmering water. Swirl the pan a bit so the eggs avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Use a small spoon, to coax the egg whites to remain near the egg yolk.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the white is completely set, but the yolk remains slightly runny.

Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and carefully set the egg(s) onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

Place the bulgur onto the serving plate and lightly dress it and the asparagus with the garlic olive oil, the grape syrup, white wine vinegar and the Parmesan cheese.  

Gently place the asparagus over the top, then add the poached eggs.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cracked red pepper.  Serve immediately.

**The Pure Grape Syrup used in this recipe was gracious provided by Ariadne Pure.  All opinions expressed are my own. You can order their products by heading to their site, and clicking on the affiliate links there to purchase.


Caraway and Cardamom Poached Rhubarb

The brilliant pinkish-red hue of Spring rhubarb, while glorious and welcome, has somewhat taken me by surprise this year.  It's a happy surprise and signals to some latent part of my brain that Spring has indeed arrived. 

We just returned from a really lovely week over the mountains in Idaho, (where Spring comes a bit later) skiing and visiting family; the boys had their Spring break from school and no sooner had we arrived home than I realized everything had grown, bloomed and sprouted in the week we were gone.  My ancient rhubarb plants had literally exploded from the ground. Tall, red stalks standing proud with their large green leaves waving in the wind. I was pretty giddy about the whole thing.

Rhubarb grows around here like a weed.  There is really little if anything that needs to be done to it.  It's the gift that keeps on giving and despite my sometimes black thumb and getting periodically trampled by Scout our 95 lb. German Shepherd, it thrives and grows larger and larger each year. 

A real gardener, I am not, I just play pretend at it frankly, but I suppose I should do the real gardener thing and divide the plants.  That would require foresight and planning though and decidedly those are not my strengths.

My strengths do however lie in the kitchen so I quickly cut a few stalks and headed inside to create this really easy and deliciously complex poached rhubarb.  This recipe is a definite nod to my roots and reminds me a bit of my grandma's Fruktsuppe, a warm fruit soup we usually had for dessert when the rhubarb or berries were in season.  In the winter she made fruit soup with dried apricots, plums and tapioca, and while good, I prefer the spring and summer versions more.

Cardamom and caraway, give this dish a layered, delicious flavor that will surprise you and make you wonder why you've never combined them before. Serve over thick, Greek Yogurt and top with sliced toasted almonds, you could serve this for dessert (vanilla ice cream would be amazing too) or for breakfast. Which is exactly what I did after I shot these photos. Perks of food blogging and all.

*** Special thanks to Red Envelope for the gift of the gorgeous red measuring spoons shown above. You can get your own here.

Serves 6

1 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 4 inch pieces
4 T. sugar or sweetener of your choice
2 C. water
1/4 tsp. caraway seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp. cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Place the rhubarb in a large skillet in one layer if possible. If not possible, poach the rhubarb in batches.  Pour the water over the top, add the sugar and spices and simmer over very low heat.  Do not allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil.  Simmer the rhubarb until soft, about 3-4 minutes only if you want it to retain it's shape.

Remove the rhubarb from the poaching liquid carefully with tongs and place on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Bring the liquid to a boil and allow to reduce to 1/2 a cup.  Serve along side the rhubarb and pour over the top, spices and toasted nuts when ready to serve. I prefer to eat the the rhubarb warm over yogurt with the sauce drizzled on top.  Feel free to serve it cold if you wish.


Scoop Adventures Peanut Butter + Jelly Ice Cream

Warmer days have finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and with it my desire to drown myself in delicious ice cream.  If I'm really being honest I have to admit that I want to drown myself in ice cream everyday, even on the coldest most bitter weather days. But to make myself feel better about the pint of this ice cream that I just devoured, I'm blaming it on the weather.  After a pretty crummy winter I think we all need some ice cream to celebrate the arrival of Spring right?

I certainly think if you go to the extra effort to make homemade ice cream you really don't need any excuses to eat it and in fact if you have the willpower to resist it, well, I applaud you (even though I think that you might be a bit touched in the head).

This recipe comes from the new book Scoop Adventures from Lindsay Clendaniel, a fantastic book that features ice cream recipes from some of the most wonderful ice cream parlors around the country. One of our own fantastic ice cream shops, Full Tilt Ice cream and their Mayan Chocolate ice cream is featured but this recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly ice cream comes from the Inspirations from Ice Cream Travels section.        

 Its a beautiful book with some truly mouthwatering recipes.  One of my particular faves is this Rosemary Walnut Ice Cream  from Vegetarian Ventures. A few extra recipes that I'm pretty sure you'll love, Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Covered Pretzel, Apple Butter Rummy Pecan and a gorgeous Sour Cherry. Gah, so, so good.  Some fantastic recipes and ice cream parlors are featured in this book, you must consider picking it up to find your state's ice creamery and give the recipes a go. 

For this recipe I used the best strawberry jam I could find, but you can certainly use whatever jam or jelly suits your fancy.  Blackberry or rhubarb would be awesome substitutions. I also deviated slightly from the recipe by including about 1/4 C. of extra peanut butter swirled throughout the ice cream as I have a serious peanut butter addiction and can never, never have enough of it in my ice cream. Also, chopped peanuts for a topper are pretty much necessary.

If you've never made homemade ice cream before, don't be afraid.  There are many affordable options for ice cream makers and they are so, so easy to use. This one is one of my favorites. Warmer days (and you) definitely deserve homemade ice cream.

Recipe from Scoop Adventures by Lindsay Clendaniel (Page Street Publishing March; 2014)      
Printed with permission

makes 1 generous quart (940 ml)

1 1/2 C. (355ml) whole milk, divided
1 T. (9g) cornstarch
1/2 C. (90g) unsalted natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 (414 ml) heavy cream
2/3 C. (133g) sugar
3/4 C. (177ml) grape or strawberry jam

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, combine 2 T. (30 ml) of the milk with the cornstarch. Whisk and set aside. Whisk the peanut butter and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream and sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring the milk mixture to a low boil. Cook until sugar dissolves, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. 

Pour into the bowl with the peanut butter and whisk until smooth. Set the bowl in the ice water bath to cool, 20 minutes. Whisking occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once chilled, pour the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and burn according to the manufacturers instructions. Spoon a small layer of jam into a freezer safe container and lightly spoon a layer of ice cream on top. Continue to alternate layers of jam and ice cream until the container is full, gently swirling with a spoon (careful not to muddy the ice cream). Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.


Perfect Small Bites: Wine, Cheese and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate

Some of my most favorite and fun meals include small bites of really luscious foods. There's something kind of decadent and a bit festive about pulling together a meal that includes a little bit of everything. Often times, at the end of a long day or after an exhausting week, when I'm too tired to cook and company is calling I immediately think about what's amazing that I can pull together fast.

Invariably those choices center around bread, cheese, wine and chocolate.  The 4 major food groups. I may for good measure throw in some fruit, both fresh and dried, but really I'd just do that to round out all the other amazingness. Nuts are always a good option too, and if they happen to be some sweet and spicy pecans, all the better.

Lately I've become a fan of thinly sliced Watermelon radishes on crusty bread with butter and large flaky sea salt, so that is also a definite must. And the cheese? Well, nothing short of truffle flecked creamy white cheddar will do.

The chocolate is obviously pretty important too. Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate is a premium, intense, slow melting dark chocolate that has a really gorgeous mouth feel. It goes so well with so many kinds of food and it's a wonderful choice to pair with sweet and savory small bites.  We are serious chocolate consumers in our house.  Even the one picky family member who is not that fond of sweets has a ginormous chocolate weakness.  So needless to say any small bite or appetizer meal we have will most likely end in chocolate.

If you'd like tips on how to create your own chocolate party or help putting your own small bite meal together I strongly encourage you to head on over to Ghirardelli (click on the link above) and get some great ideas. There you can find recipes, and download tasting and party planning guides.

Do you have a favorite food to pair with chocolate? I'm hard pressed to think of a food that doesn't benefit from a little chocolate treatment.  Onions maybe or pickles might not be so great, but really who am I to judge?  

Ghirardelli and a whole lot of other folks would love it if you'd share with them a photo that represents your perfect pairing of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate and your favorite complementary food.  You can do that simply by uploading a photo of your perfect pairing to your Instagram account and using the hashtag #IntenseDark.  No Instagram account?  Head to the Ghirardelli Photo Upload Page, and upload your photo there.

Having a few of these luscious foods, or your own particular favorite foods, and the Ghirardelli chocolate on hand, stocked in your panty makes for a lovely no stress option for feeding friends and family on the fly. Easy, delicious and minimal effort is definitely where it's at. 

Before heading on over to the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate page, share with me your favorite food to pair with chocolate.  Leave me a comment in the comments section below. I'd love to hear!

Thank you to Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate for sponsoring this post. All opinions stated are my own.


The Knotty Norwegian Cocktail

I realize it's been awhile since I've shared with you a Norwegian/Scandinavian recipe and for that I'm sorry.  I know I promised a plethora of recipes, but as with most things, life got a bit in the way.  I aim to fulfill my promises though and I couldn't think of a better way to remedy the situation than with a cocktail. This one's definitely worth the wait.

This recipe is not necessarily Scandinavian in origin, but it includes ingredients that feature prominently in Scandinavian cuisine.  Caraway scented aquavit and cucumber are at the heart of this luscious cocktail and pair so amazingly together you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.  No lie. But first a little history..

I grew up in the working class Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, to Swedish and Norwegian parents who from an early age instilled in me a sense of pride and cultural identity.  Our neighborhood block was made up of old retired fishermen, painters, Boeing employees and families with last names that ended in -son and -sen.  Each Spring our elementary school all marched in the Norwegian Constitution Day (May 17th, Syttende Mai) Parade, waving flags and dressed in our folk costume finest. Looking back the time seems ephemeral, gilded in the happy memories of childhood.  Happy times but unknowingly to us, transient ones.

The Ballard of today is much different than the Ballard of my childhood.  Many of the old Scandinavians are gone, the multitude of shops selling Rullepolse and Pinekjott have shuttered their doors.  The vibe is definitely less fisherman and now definitely more hipster. But despite mourning the loss of the old ways, I am grateful.

All things must change and I have to say that I'm very encouraged and heartened to see Ballard flourish under a different set of circumstances, with fresh ideas and energy. A new generation is seeing the value of the community, the beauty of the architecture and the landscape that is unique to the Pacific Northwest.

One of the greatest things to come from this change is the flourishing restaurant and distillery scene. Some of the city's finest restaurants reside in Ballard and a burgeoning number of distilleries are now calling Ballard and it's environs home.

Despite no longer living in Ballard, my husband works there and we make frequent trips to enjoy restaurants, the beach and the farmers market on Sunday, so I like to think I still have a pulse on what's going on. I recently stumbled across the Old Ballard Liquor Company online through some Norwegian friends and was immediately intrigued.  We take our Aquavit seriously around here and when a new one comes on the scene it becomes a must try and by extension a must buy.  I have no less than 3 bottles of various kinds of Aquavit in my freezer. I can't believe I just admitted to that but well, yeah.

For the uninitiated, Aquavit is typically a grain neutral or potato based spirit similar to vodka infused with spices that best complement Nordic cuisine. Light notes of caraway, anise, dill, fennel and coriander often feature prominently and Swedes, Danes and Norwegians all have their various and favorite recipes.  We usually drink it straight, from the freezer in small stemmed shot glasses with copious amounts of cured salmon, crisp bread, dill and marinated cucumbers.

To know that the Old Ballard Liquor Co. is carrying on the tradition of making Aquavit, in Ballard thrills me to no end. Until recently you could only purchase Aquavit produced in Scandinavia or you could make your own. Most liquor stores carry some variety of Aquavit. If you live in the Seattle area, definitely check out the distillery in Ballard and or check with your local liquor store to see if they carry it. A little while back the Old Ballard Liquor Co. posted this recipe on their Facebook page and I begged them to let me share it with you.  They graciously agreed.

Light and slightly sweet, the lime and cucumber flavors are a perfect counterpoint to the aquavit's lightly savory caraway flavor and just work, on so many levels.  It's a lip smacker.  Be careful though, they go down easily and can pack a punch. Top it with a generous splash of Dry Cucumber Soda and you're golden. Serve on a Spring day, outside with the best smoked fish you can get your hands on, some marinated cucumbers or if you're desperate like me, standing in the kitchen in your yoga pants at 4 pm on a Wednesday. Bliss.

The Knotty Norwegian
Serves 3
 6 oz. Riktig Aquavit
1 lime, sliced in half
3 oz. simple syrup
1 bottle Dry Cucumber Soda
lime wedges
cucumber ribbons and rounds

In a large shaker combine a handful of ice, the aquavit, lime and simple syrup. With the handle of a wooden spoon or a muddle, smash the lime until pulverized and it's released it's juices.  Evenly strain the liquid into 3 small cocktail glasses.  Top each glass with the Cucumber soda, extra lime wedges and cucumber ribbons (peel a cucumber lengthwise with a vegetable peeler) and rounds.

Serve immediately.

This post is in no way sponsored by Old Ballard Liquor Co. or Dry Soda.  No compensation or product was received for this post, I just love their stuff!