Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ski pics accompanied by poetry

So, I've been trying to find a good way to share last weekends ski picks. Basically, there's not a lot to say other than that the conditions were great, we skinned up a bunch of powder-filled slopes in the tress and had  lots of fun on the way down. So I've decided to share my pictures along side this poem called 'Joy of Air' which I shamelessly borrowed from Duct tape then beer. Enjoy!


Vibeke and Inger-Helene 


From the youngest age, we are taught to believe 
That safety is our greatest need. 
We created Icarus and his dream of flight 
And then walled ourselves with cubicles tight.

The boys crest the windswept ridge of Kyrkjebønosi.
In dreams we soar across seasons 
Unchained by weight and reason 
Unfettered by relentless doubt. 
Awake my friend, swing the inner door out 
To find a moment without care 
Where time stops suspended by nothing more than Air.
Everyone's ready to get off the wind-packed snow and into the yummy forest.

Paddle hard, keep them straight. 
Do not waver, this is your fate. 
Embrace the point of no return 
Fear not for in failure learn.
Leave the ground beneath your feet, 
Rise up, your inner legend greet. 

Audun in full tele.
A body in motion – 
Twisting, turning, churning, yearning – 
Apex found, heaven bound.
But remember, what goes up must come down.
Spot the landing, shoulders square 
Roll the windows, feel the air. 

Vibeke immersed in pow.

Imagination creeps. 
Was the take off way too deep? 
Faster, faster, too fast now. 
Wind roars. You don’t know how 
This will end. Maybe a billowing cloud 
Of snow water, dirt and smiles proud.
Audun, Solenne and Vibeke breaking trail the second day.


So remember children old and young 
where water and snow suspended hung 
Find joy in outcomes unknown 
and only then will you have grown. 

Solenne can't help but smile as she poles the delicious fluffy powder.

Take Flight. Take flight. 
Believe in days unchecked by night 
And mid-days kissed by moonlight 
Dare to imagine, dare to care 
a dream built upon nothing more than air.


From the youngest age, we are taught to believe 
That safety is our greatest need. 
We created Icarus and his dream of flight 
And then walled ourselves with cubicles tight.

In dreams we soar across seasons 
Unchained by weight and reason 
Unfettered by relentless doubt. 
Awake my friend, swing the inner door out 
To find a moment without care 
Where time stops suspended by nothing more than Air.

Magnus digs the view

Paddle hard, keep them straight. 
Do not waver, this is your fate. 
Embrace the point of no return 
Fear not for in failure learn.
Leave the ground beneath your feet, 
Rise up, your inner legend greet. 
A body in motion – 
Twisting, turning, churning, yearning – 
Apex found, heaven bound.
But remember, what goes up must come down.


Spot the landing, shoulders square 
Roll the windows, feel the air. 
Imagination creeps. 
Was the take off way too deep? 
Faster, faster, too fast now. 
Wind roars. You don’t know how 
This will end. Maybe a billowing cloud 
Of snow water, dirt and smiles proud.


So remember children old and young 
where water and snow suspended hung 
Find joy in outcomes unknown 
and only then will you have grown. 
Take Flight. Take flight. 
Believe in days unchecked by night 
And mid-days kissed by moonlight 
Dare to imagine, dare to care 
a dream built upon nothing more than air.

The face we skied. For reference.
- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Veggie Project: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Ah, the roasted vegetable. Roasted vegetables are, to me, proof that the realm of healthy foods and yummy foods does intersect somewhere. I could (and have) eaten pans of roasted vegetables for dinner. (I've also eaten pints of ice cream for dinner, so I'm not sure I'm qualified to say anything about healthy food).

I don't feel that the vegetables in this lasagna replace meat so much as reinvent your concept of what is lasagna. So go ahead, give it a try.

 



Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Created by me, merging several sources around the inter webs.
Makes one lasagna pan, or about four generous servings. Probably could serve six with a side of bread and salad.

Ingredients:

  • Around 10 lasagna noodles, cooked if they're the kind that needs to be pre-cooked. I usually use the kind that cooks in the oven - less fuss!
  • Two jars of your favourite tomato sauce, or about 1 liter of sauce.
  • Vegetables for roasting. I usually do 1 onion, 1 bell pepper and 1/2 zucchini. Eggplant would also do very well in this dish.
  • A big handful of fresh spinach, or a few cubes of thawed frozen spinach
  • 200 grams feta cheese (the kind that comes in a big block, not small cubes in oil)
  • 300 grams ricotta cheese (can be found at up-scale grocery stores)
  • 2 - 3 cloves of garlic, depending upon your taste
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Parmesan and regular white cheese, to taste for topping
Directions

Preheat your oven to 200 C. Slice your vegetables and put them in a baking dish (I use the same dish for the vegetables and then the lasagna). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and coat with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until soft but not burned. If you're in a real hurry you could skip roasting the vegetables, but this really brings out their flavor.

Mmmmroasted veggies
In the meantime, pour the excess water off the feta and ricotta cheeses and place them in a bowl or blender. Add the garlic and spinach, and blend (hand mixers and blenders both do the job well) until smooth. The sauce should have the consistency of guacamole.
Green goo. It's yummy, I swear!

When the vegetables are done roasting, turn the oven down to 180 C. Next assemble the lasagna. Start with a layer of half of the roasted veggies with one jar of sauce:

 
Next do a layer of noodles, and then spread out the green cheese sauce on top of the noodles with a spatula. I like to do all of the green cheese sauce in one layer, you get a nice coherent layer, but you could potentially divided it up more.


Then do another layer of noodles, followed by a second layer of veggies and tomato sauce. This time, save about 1 dl of sauce to use on the final topping.


Do a final layer of noodles, and spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on top. Finally, sprinkle with the desired amount of white and parmesan cheese.

 
Bake for 40 minutes, or until crispy and brown and delicious on top.

This dish does well on its own, but is also great served with a side of green salad and garlic bread.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Friday, January 24, 2014

Karma Strikes Back: Hemsedal

So, the prophecy I made in this post about skiing powder for the rest of the season has so far turned out to be true. The last two weekends I've been in Hemsedal, and (especially last weekend) I've been skiing pow.

 
Let me explain about Hemsedal. Although Oslo is a great city in many ways (big but not too big, great groomed cross-country skiing in the forest in the winter, great mountain biking in the summer, the Opera house, etc) it is, by Norway standards, really far away from the mountains. Hemsedal is the nearest ski area of any size, and the result of this is that everyone in Oslo who likes to go goes there nearly every weekend in the season. It's a three and a half hour drive each way (oh, the CO2 footprint!), and if you leave Friday afternoon you get to sit in traffic with the rest of Oslo.
 
We solved the traffic problem two weekends ago by leaving at 6 am from Oslo. We clicked into our skis and bought lift passes by 10. The conditions that weekend were pretty good, there was some harder snow under but 10 - 20 cm of powder on top which kept it fun.
 
We skied a couple of laps in 'Gummiskogen', the forest on the backside of Hemsedal which, for some reason is name the Rubber Forest.
 
Audun in the rubber forest. Photo: AP
Then we had a nice hike up to 'Reidarskaret'.
Headed up from the lift, skis on pack

 

AP surveys the terrain
We meant to hit a fairly gentle sloping couloir, but we entered it wrong and so ended up skiing a steeper face. Luckily the snow was great, although most of the powder sluffed down with us on the first run - I'm not sure it would have been as great a second time around!
 
Me in full tele
Audun and AP celebrated with synchronised jumping...
 
Synchronized drop!
 
...which almost failed hilariously in the landing....
 
 
... but somehow turned out fine!
 
 
The next weekend there was an absolutely enormous amount of snow. It snow basically the whole weekend, so we mostly skied in the trees. Unfortunately, I misplaced my camera and have no (!!) pictures. It's ok, they would make you too jealous anyway. 
 
The conditions were the kind were you feel kind of invincible, because falling down is like landing on a soft mattress. Except for the places were the powder is so deep you basically get buried and have to dig yourself out. Yes, that happened.
 
To more pow in your (and my!) future.
 
- the Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Veggie Project: Gado Gado

Although I've lived in Norway for more than half my life now, some parts of me are still very American. Take my love of peanut butter, for example. This week's vegetarian dish is somewhat exotic. Gado gado is an Indonesian salad with peanut sauce - and possibly one of my favorite dishes.

One of the great things about gado gado is how easily it can be varied. You don't have to have a lot of specific ingredients, and you can really just use whatever vegetables you have lying around. It can also be served hot or cold, whatever's easiest. So here goes:

Gado gado
Adapted from Mollie Katzen's immortal Moosewood Cookbook - seriously, get one now

Base: Cooked rice (in the version pictured I use a wild and brown rice mix) or noodles. Cook enough for the number of people you want to feed, so about 1-1.5 dl of dry rice per person.

Brown and wild rice mix for gado gado

Toppings:

  • An assortment of steamed or sautéed vegetables. In the version pictured, I used green beans, carrots, cabbage and onions. I steamed everything but the cabbage, which I sautéed in oil. Broccoli, zucchini and spinach are all good.
  • Boiled eggs, peeled and chopped. Make about 1/2-1 egg per person.
  • Extra firm tofu, diced and sautéed in neutral oil with some salt, pepper and chilli.
Sautéed, spiced tofu
 
Peanut sauce:

Makes enough for about four portions of gado gado
  • 2 dl of peanut butter (both chunky and smooth work fine, I like to get organic peanut butter without sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon of each fresh garlic and ginger, or half the amount if using dried.
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (less if there's sugar in the peanut butter you're using)
  • 2-3 dl of hot water, depending on how thick you like the sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar (white wine vinegar also works)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Crushed red pepper, a pinch or more if you like it spicy
  1. Blend all the ingredients except the water in a blender or with a hand mixer.
  2. Add water and continue mixing until desired consistency is reached. Should be around the consistency of a smoothie or slightly thinner.
Putting it all together:
  1. Put rice or noodles on a plate.
  2. Pile with veggies, tofu and eggs.
Brown rice with veggies, tofu and eggs...
3. Drizzle with peanut sauce, and enjoy!
 
AND peanut sauce!
- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Veggie Project: Falafels

This is the first post in my new weekly series of vegetarian recipes. The introduction, in case you missed it, can be read here.

I've heard the sentiment 'I just don't like beans' countless times. I agree that a humble can of beans can seem very boring and unappetising. By the magic is in the cooking, in spices and oils. So today I present the fast-food of vegetarianism, the first step on the way to a full-on chickpea addiction: the falafel. It's deep-fried, crispy, and just a little bit spicy.



Falafels (enough for 2 people with large appetites, aka Audun and I, or probably 3 regular people)

(Based on this recipe)

  •  One can of chickpeas (around 400 grams)
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (if you use fresh parsley, then double the amount)
  • 3 - 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed with the flat of a knife
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)
  • Neutral oil for frying
Open and drain the can of chickpeas, and then rinse them in a colander. This helps remove any funky 'can' taste. Many people swear by cooking their own chickpeas, but this is time consuming and I'm, frankly, all about fast cooking.
 
Next, put all the ingredients (except the oil) in a food processor and process until the mixture turns into a paste. There should still be some chunks in there, it shouldn't be completely puréed. A hand blender will also do the job.

In a frying pan, add about a 1 cm of neutral oil (the oil should reach about half way up the falafel balls), and heat to medium high. Now make little balls of the falafel dough, about the size of a golf ball, and squash them a bit flat. Frying for a couple minutes on each side or until golden brown. Placed the falafels on a plate covered in a paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Mmmmm crispy fried falafels

Serve with pita bread, lettuce, tomato and a dressing (I really like tzatziki , but tahini is also commonly used). To eat, cut open the pita, add 2-3 falafel balls, and add salad and dressing as desired.

Bonus recipe: Homemade pita bread

I'll often go for the quick solution of store-bought pita bread and tzatziki , but both of these can be made at home. I haven't quite nailed down the perfect tzatziki yet, I'll be sure to share it when I do! But if you have time around an hour before you want to eat, freshly baked pita breads are a surprisingly easy an delicious addition.

Fresh pita bread. Recipe based on the cookbook 'Cappelens Nye Kokebok'.
For 6 pita breads, which is enough for the amount of falafels you've made above.
  • 6-7 grams dry yeast (one half of a packet) *
  • 1.5 dl water, 40 - 45 C
  • 1/2 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 dl (240 grams) white flour (you could try a whole wheat mix)
Mix together  flour, salt, and yeast in a baking bowl. In a measuring cup, measure the warm water and mix in the oil. Pour the water and oil over the flour mixture, and work into a dough using first a wooden spoon and then your hands. Cover and let rise for about an hour.
 
Preheat the oven to 275 C, and put a clean baking sheet in the oven to preheat it as well. 
 
When the dough has risen, knead it and divide it into six roughly equal-sized balls. Roll out each ball into approximately 1 cm thick rounds. Bake the breads directly on the baking sheet without oil for 5-8 minutes, or until they are slightly golden brown. 
 
*A note on yeast: these measurements and the following directions apply to Norwegian yeast. Depending on what country your in, you may need a different amount of yeast, and you may need to activate dry yeasts differently.
 

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Veggie Project

Since September 2012, I have been mostly vegetarian. I was fully vegetarian for a little more than a month, before I morphed into what I am now. I guess the technical term is 'flexitarian'. I don't, as a rule, buy meat at the store. I'll eat meat when I'm served it as a guest, or when I go out to eat. I haven't talked about it here; I haven't made any grandiose statements about saving the planet or animal cruelty or anything. But now I'm going to take just 5 minutes to tell you why I think cooking vegetarian food is a great idea.

Between you and me, I actually love meat. But as far as I can see, cutting a portion of meat from your diet has a number of positive effects. Here's a good, old fashioned list:

1. Save the planet: Vegetarian diets have a much lower carbon footprint than meat-heavy diets. Unfortunately I fly quite a bit, so really all the not-owning-a-car and vegetarianism in the world won't cancel that footprint, but at least I feel like I'm being slightly more proactive about global warming.
The carbon footprint of various foods. Graph shamelessness taken from Environmental Working Group
2. Plants = sustainable: Animals eat plants, so it takes a greater mass of plant to grow meat. By eating plants directly, we can feed more people on the planet. I believe if the quality of living for the average human being on the planet is to rise, everyone needs to cut back on their meat consumption.

The sustainability of the food groups. Image from this interesting article.

3. Discover great new foods: As a meat eater, shopping is really easy. You get your meat, your potatoes/pasta/rice, maybe some veggies, and voilà! As a vegetarian I'm forced to think more outside of the box, explore new tastes, and cook with more vegetables.

4. It's actually cheaper: When I bought meat, it was generally the most expensive item on my shopping bill (this applies in France and Norway, haven't tested thoroughly in other countries).

5. Healthy! More creative meals means more veggies, and more variety. Variety + veggies = healthy.

6. Savour meat more: Nowadays I will often splurge on high-quality meat if I'm going to eat it at all. By cutting back on meat, it tastes even better when you do go for the filet mignon.


But Molly, I don't have time to dream up vegetarian recipes and cook them! you say. Well, this is where my blog comes in. In the past nearly year and a half of vegetarian cooking, I've stumbled across quite a few good recipes. So from now on, I'll make an effort to post a vegetarian recipe on the blog every week. So I render your argument invalid. Most of them will be dinner-type meals, because that's the hardest meal to make vegetarian. (Between you and me, the occasional chocolate cake may appear).

Mmmmcake. My mother's Buche de Noël, or Yule Log, undergoing frosting this Christmas.
All of the recipes are Audun-approved. This means that my meat-loving boyfriend has labeled them as yummy. This is the only seal of approval I need. Come back tomorrow for the first vegetarian dish!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In search of snow

The ski season thus far has been disappointing. In Trondheim and Oslo, the ground is bare. On New Year's Eve we got out for 14 km of cross-country skiing around the cabin in Oppdal. The conditions were a little icy but mostly ok. Higher up in the mountains, we could see rocks exposed by warm weather and wind. Only a very few lifts were open at Oppdal Ski Resort.

Audun on a cloudy, late December day near Skarvatnet

Vibeke was on slow mountain skis and worked hard to keep up with Audun and I on skate skis.

After New Year's, Vibeke and I had a long weekend to kill before we needed to be back in Oslo. So we meet up with Vibeke's friend Marit, and proceeded to drive all through the night to Voss, where rumour had it there was snow. We pulled in to the area were we had booked a cabin at 2:30 am. It took us over an hour to find the cabin, which was not marked with anything distinguishing it from the one hundred other identical cabins around it.

We didn't hit the slopes until noon the next day. This was not, surprisingly, due to lack of sleep, but rather to indecision as to were the skiing would be best. We ended up rendezvousing with Anette, a local Vossing who showed us around the slopes of Myrdalen ski resort. 
Anette and Vibeke love snow!
It wasn't exactly a powder day. There was good snow coverage, but it was older snow, wind-packed in some places and crusted over in others. I had borrowed skis from my parents, since I pessimistically left my tele skis in Oslo. They were longer and skinner than I'm used to (Icelantic Nomads will spoil you on every condition except hardpack!), so they were a little harder to handle on the tough conditions. Nonetheless,  I enjoyed my first (real) turns of the season.

Marit in action
The next day, we headed out to test the backcountry skiing. Our original goal was Finnbunuten, a mountain behind the lifts at Myrkdalen. We drove further up the valley around the side to approach the mountain from a different angle, but were stopped a little ways from where we planned to park by a closed road. So we strapped our skis to our pack and hoofed it up the icy switchbacks of the road.

The fun way to get up hills. Not.
When we arrived at the upper valley and strapped on our skis, the wind picked up. As we skinned up the hill towards the ridge that goes to the top of Finnbunuten, the visibility decreased and the wind grew stronger and stronger.

In Norway, there are a set of traditional rules about how to behave in the mountains ("Fjellvettreglene"). One of them is "Det er ingen skam å snu", which means "there's no shame in turning back. Realizing that the conditions were against us, we followed just this rule.

Descending in low visibility. 
Tucking out the road

The wind was supposed to drop the next day, and we picked another peak, a classic in the area called Horndalsnuten. The weather was against us again. We followed a tractor road up from Skiple in Raundal. The forest around us was devoid of snow, and the moss seemed extra bright and green. "This isn't winter!" I thought.

Marit in orange and Vibeke in blue, headed up the tractor road
It was at about this point that it started to rain.
Is this your idea of fun?
The snow grew wetter and wetter. Further up on the mountain, above tree line, the conditions were probably better. But the mountain was shrouded in fog, and such low visibility means difficult navigation and challenging skiing downhill as well. After finding a seemingly abandoned car...

Posing on a car
... we turned again, and this time decided to head home.

Cool old bridge across a river. Don't worry, Mom, there's a new bridge next to it.
Back in Oslo, there's still absolutely no snow, to the point that Audun and I got our road bikes out on Sunday and took a spin around Maridalen. Road bikes. In January. This is completely unheard of in Norway. At least it was beautiful.
Pretty light on Maridalsvatnet

Success! In road biking. At the medieval church ruin in Maridalen
If skiing karma exists, and I like to believe it does, then I must have earned a lot last weekend. So I expect to be skiing pow for the rest of the season. (Do you hear me, weather gods?)

- The Wild Bazilchuk