Easy as Pie

A pizza pie, that is.  We used to mostly just eat pizza at a pizzeria or out of a delivery box, but now with so many more options for ready-made crust, it’s become one of our favorite things to make at home.  Before we discovered the refrigerated dough from Fresh and Easy, making pizza at home was this time-intensive process of making the dough, waiting for it to rise, and doing all this work before even getting to the fun part, which is putting on the toppings.  It was always worth the effort, but one of those things we just didn’t do very often because of the time involved.

But now, skipping all those dough-preparation steps gets us to the part we like faster—putting on the toppings—which is probably why pizza has been on the menu every week for the past month.  We’ve tried both the whole wheat and regular versions, and I think the regular dough comes out a bit crispier and crunchier (a good thing when making a thin crust pizza).

However, even though this pizza is easy, it’s not without challenges.  After letting the dough sit out for about 20 minutes before rolling out onto a pizza pan or stone, we face our first dilemma: deciding which toppings to use.  Our problem is that we always put on too much.  I’m convinced that my beautiful thin crust can’t stand up to the mountain of toppings always covering it, but it seems to be working out ok.  We bake the pizza longer than the suggested time of 10-15 minutes (about 20 minutes total) to get the crispy crust we like.  So, for about 10 minutes of work and some waiting time, we’ve got a simple, delicious dinner.

After topping with tomato sauce and cheese, the last pizza included: turkey pepperoni, spicy pork sausage, red onions, black olives, red bell peppers, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts.  You could hardly see the cheese underneath!  Jan says you can’t have too much of a good thing, but I think our next challenge will be pizza topping editing—paring down to fewer ingredients to get the best balance of flavors.  I’m always impressed by different and unusual combinations of toppings, but it’s hard to get out of our “combination” routine.  What other favorite pizza topping combinations should we try next?

Nypon Soppa, or Swedish Rose Hip Soup

Nypon soppa is a Swedish dessert soup/drink made with rose hips and typically topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or vanilla sauce (vaniljsås).  It’s a dish that brings me instantly back to childhood, when my mom and I could whip up a batch in an instant thanks to the boxes of mix my aunt would send us from Sweden.

The ingredients in nypon soppa are minimal, and yet the fragrant smell of the rose hips can immediately conjure up an image of an abundantly green Swedish forest in summer, full of wild-growing fruits.  With melting ice cream on top, the perfect spoonful combines both the hot floral soup with cool, creamy vanilla.

Wikipedia photo

Key among nypon soppa’s few ingredients are rose hips, which are the fruit of the rose plant that form after the flower has bloomed.  The seeds inside are used to grow a new rose plant, but whole rose hips including the seeds are also used in a variety of other applications including herbal remedies, teas, desserts and drinks. (see Wikipedia entry on rose hips)

Ekströms is a leading brand that makes both instant and premixed refrigerated versions of nypon soppa. (Think the Scandinavian version of instant Jell-O pudding, as far as ease and popularity.)  Every so often I see the box version (in which you just add hot water) at IKEA, but it’s been a while, and I’m guessing probably not one of their top-selling items.

To those who didn’t grow up eating it, it may both sound strange and taste stranger on the first sip.  Jan thought the mixture tasted like pure herbal tea when he first tried it, though an increase in the ice cream-to-soup ratio quickly upped the dish’s standing in his mind.

Many years ago, when my mom and I had run out of box mixes, we successfully recreated a close relative of nypon soppa that was my childhood favorite: kräm.  Kräm is a thicker version (more like a pudding than a soup), more often made with strawberries or raspberries, heated, and topped with ice cold milk.  We made the pudding with fresh strawberries, sugar, and potato starch.  However, since potato starch isn’t always easy to find, we decided that corn starch could probably be used in its place.

Back to the present day and missing the familiar taste of nypon soppa, my dad set out to devise his own recipe.  Once the rose hips were sourced, it couldn’t get much simpler: add water, sugar and cornstarch, and then cook until thickened.

Rose hips can be purchased at Whole Foods, and more economically on Amazon.com.  You can by the flakes or the powder, as both have been made from dried rose hips.  With the flakes, you will have to grind them yourself, but you will be rewarded with a fresher taste (just like grinding your own spices).

At a recent family dinner, my dad prepared nypon soppa for both sides of the family (except for Jan, all of Jan’s side had never had it before).  After one bite, my father-in-law was quickly reminded of picking rose hips in the Czech Republic many years before. Despite the taste being different from the usual dessert, he gave it his full approval, as did everyone else.

Nypon soppa

Print recipe

  • 1 quart water
  • 3 tablespoons rose hip powder
  • 6 tablespoons corn starch
  • 6 tablespoons sugar


  1. Grind rose hips into a fine powder using a spice grinder and measure out 3 tablespoons.
  2. Combine ground rose hips with sugar and starch.
  3. Pour into a saucepan that has been filled with cold water and stir until dissolved.
  4. Heat over low to medium heat until mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Pour into bowls and serve hot, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Cornbread and Chili

With gray skies outside and only a few days of sunshine peeking through every so often, it’s been a couple of weeks for stews, soups, and chili.  Since everyone seems to have their favorite winning chili cook-off recipe, I’m starting out with cornbread, since for me, chili without cornbread is like a hamburger without a bun, apple pie without vanilla ice cream, cereal without milk; it just won’t do.

I’ve tried a variety of cornbread recipes ranging from the one on the cornmeal package to the recipes from several books, and it’s one of the simplest breads to make.  There are no critical times for resting dough, babying yeast, and too-early opening of the oven door, and therefore, perfect for me. Cornbread’s straightforward ingredients and process make it generally foolproof.  Its simplicity has provided the perfect jumping off point for experimentation, especially when I’m missing an ingredient or two.  One day I ran out of all purpose flour and substituted some whole wheat flour and a little more corn meal.  No problem!  It tasted great, and we enjoyed more rustic-looking bread, as the color was earthier, instead of the usual bright yellow.

Another time I ran out of sugar, and I used honey instead to another successful result, of course, with the distinctive flavor of honey.  I’ve been curious to make it with fresh corn kernels, but haven’t since Jan has voted against it—that may go over OK at Sweet Tomatoes, but he wants his cornbread smooth.

My current recipe is a result of several experiments, with the understanding that there will be more experimentation in the future, depending on what my pantry may be missing that day.


Print recipe


  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 8”x8” pan with butter.
  3. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl.
  4. In a separate small bowl, combine the wet ingredients, then add to dry ingredients.
  5. Bake 25 minutes until golden.

Snow-Capped Macaroons and Mountains

Ever since I made the German chocolate cupcakes for our Noktoberfest party (see post Lederhosen and Lebkuchen), I’ve had an abundance of sweetened shredded coconut in my pantry. Since I’m not usually a fan of coconut and the shredded coconut isn’t a regular pantry staple at our house, I’ve been looking for something else to make with all the leftover coconut besides simply making the German chocolate cupcakes again (which was tempting since they were pretty tasty).

And then I came across these Snow-Capped Macaroons on The Bitten Word made from this Food Network Magazine recipe. The cookies looked simple and delicious, and I already had the coconut so I was ready to go.

Too much coconut

Besides, I was inspired by all the snow we were getting in the Sierras and knew it would mean even more great skiing in the days to come. Jan and I already had a few good cross-country and downhill ski days in, and with all the new snow, I knew there would be plenty more in the future. Making cookies that resembled the snowy peaks seemed like the perfect way to welcome more snow.

To make the cookies, I beat egg whites until frothy, added sugar, chopped almonds, vanilla, salt, and the shredded coconut. Atop my new favorite kitchen tool the Silpat mats, I used a tablespoon to measure out the cookie mounds. Then, after dampening my fingers with water, I formed the mounds into little cones.

I baked the cookies until they started to turn golden brown at the edges. After cooling, I used a double-boiler to make the chocolate glaze, and slowly dripped the glaze over the tops of the cookies. Lastly, I substituted the recipe’s sugar crystals for decorating, and instead used some sea salt crystals sparingly (the reason for this was twofold: I didn’t have sugar crystals and didn’t want to go to the store, and secondly, I tasted the cookie and glaze and thought adding even more sugar would make the cookie overly sweet. Thinking back to a holiday potluck I attended in which one person made surprisingly tasty bars with only Lay’s potato chips and white chocolate chips, I thought these cookies could also benefit from the salty/sweet combination. As I was experimenting, I left half the cookies plan with no salt/decoration, and did the other half topped with a few sea salt crystals. I used friends and family to taste-test the cookies side by side for the next few days, with the salt-topped cookies the clear winner over the plain ones.)

Mountains of snow!

Chewy but with a firm but flexible chocolate crust on the outside, the cookies tasted as good as they looked. Jan described them as tasting like a Mounds candy bar, so I was pleased.

The next day, I took some of the cookies in my backpack for another cross-country skiing adventure. Jan and I departed from the Tamarack Ridge Trailhead, about 10 miles north of Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest. Because the snow was fresh, deep and powdery, it wasn’t long before the groomed trail ended, and then after that, not even the snowmobiles could traverse the trails. So, about mid-thigh deep in snow, we made the path that looped back to the trailhead ourselves, and it was certainly a workout. But being out in the forest, hearing only the sounds of snow crunching under our ski poles, the beauty and serenity we were able to experience was worth the work. When I remembered it was time for a snack, the Snow-Capped Macaroons were just the thing to keep us going for the rest of the miles.

Skiing snack time

Snow-capped macaroons

Print recipe



  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup sliced almond slivers
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut


  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Sea salt crystals, for decorating


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F degrees.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  3. Lightly beat egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy. Stir in sugar, almonds, vanilla and salt, then fold in coconut.
  4. Use a tablespoon to drop batter into mounds 1 inch apart. Dampen hands with water to form into pointed mounds.
  5. Bake until edges are golden brown and the edges look dry, about 16-20 minutes.
  6. let cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a baking rack to cool completely.
  7. Make the glaze by using a double-boiler to melt chocolate, corn syrup and butter together.
  8. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the tops of the macaroons, so that it drips down the sides in several directions.
  9. Sprinkle the tops sparingly with sea salt crystals.
  10. Refrigerate until the glaze sets, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container up to one week. Makes 36 cookies.