What’s a Mormon scone?

Do you know what a Mormon scone is?

I didn’t, but I found out on a recent trip to Salt Lake City (SLC).

My education came from a food truck called Cook of Mormon run by Jordan Christensen.

These weren’t the Irish tea scones I know. Mormon scones (also called Utah scones) are more reminiscent of a doughnut or fry bread. Christensen makes his fried, yeasty treats the traditional Utah way — with mashed potatoes. He serves them with honey butter, peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese, banana, Nutella and maple syrup for $3 to $5 each.

Here’s a video Christensen posted on YouTube about making Utah scones:

When I stopped by the Christensen’s food truck last month in front of the Eccles Theater in downtown SLC, he said he’d had the idea for a while and when he heard the “Book of Mormon” was going to run Aug. 1-20 at Eccles, he rushed to open in time. What better place for the Cook of Mormon to be, right?

Now, Cook of Mormon’s website says it’s open Friday and Saturday nights in downtown SLC. Sometimes it roams the city. Just look for a bread truck painted with Utah and Mormon landmarks in bright colors.

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Christensen created postcard-sized punch cards for regular customers with food facts and related history. (Sheryl Jean)

Initially thought of as a fad when they emerged nearly a decade ago, food trucks have become legitimate alternatives to traditional dining. Entrepreneurs flock to them because they’re easier and less expensive to open than a restaurant, and attracted big-name chefs use them to reach new customers.

But it’s consumers, who like the fun, affordable and variety of choices, who are fueling the industry’s growth. The National Restaurant Association estimates that food trucks will generate about $2.7 billion in revenue this year, or four times the amount estimated just five years ago.

Christensen also sells other quintessential Utah dishes, such as funeral potatoes — diced potatoes with cheese, sour cream and butter topped with crushed potato chips ($4) — and bratwurst ($5).

If you’re in SLC, check it out.

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Road trip food: Make cookies from frozen dough

Who doesn’t love a road trip?

Food, however, is always a problem on long drives. There’s either not enough or too much. And although I usually pack healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, it’s hard not to pick up candy or potato chips at the first rest stop.

So, in preparation for a recent road trip, I decided to make a tasty, portable snack that I hoped could stave off a junk food binge. I also wanted to make dessert for lunch guests coming before the trip.

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This is what frozen cookie dough looks like after spending several hours in the freezer. (Sheryl Jean)

I realized I could bake some cookies and freeze the rest of the dough to make a fresh batch later.

I dug through my clipped recipe file and found a favorite: chocolate chip oatmeal walnut cookies (recipe below). Yum!

On the eve of the lunch, I made the dough, rolling it into little balls. I baked a dozen balls into cookies that night and froze the rest.

To freeze, I lined two baking sheets with parchment paper and placed as many balls of dough as I could without touching each other. I stuck them in the freezer until the dough hardened — a few hours or overnight. (It’s a slightly different process to freeze slice-and-bake or cut-out cookie dough.)

After removing the frozen dough balls, I placed them in a large plastic freezer bag, squeezing out excess air before zipping it closed. Cookie dough can keep in the freezer for up to three months.

When you’re ready to use the frozen dough, simply take as many individual balls as you want out of the bag and place them on a cookie sheet. Add an extra minute or two to the baking directions in the recipe.

Continue reading for the recipe. Continue reading Road trip food: Make cookies from frozen dough

Find your hygge in the Twin Cities

You’ve probably heard the word hygge, but aren’t really sure what it means.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are good places to find hygge — the Scandinavian phrase for coziness found in the ordinary tasks of daily life — on display.

Hygge became hot as all things Nordic became cool. It’s taken on a life of its own much like tiny houses, man buns and flannel shirts.

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Minneapolis’ trendy Askov Finlayson menswear store has a festive atmosphere. (Sheryl Jean)
Nordic roots run deep in Minnesota deep (Nordic Vikings may have visited the state in the 1300s). Many Minnesotans claim Scandinavian heritage. Some Twin Cities Sandinavian shops date to the 1950s. In 1999, chef Marcus Samuelsson opened upscale Swedish-inspired Aquavit  in Minneapolis, but it closed four years later. (I ate there.)

In the last decade or so, Scandinavian culture has surged — along with the popularity of Nordic mystery writers, the Finnish television crime drama Bordertown and bands like Sweden’s First Aid Kit. Danish restaurant Noma was named the world’s best for four of the last 10 years. You’ll find the Minnesota version of New Nordic cuisine, which embraces regional foods and artisanal production, in the Twin Cities.

Hygge is on display at this sampling of spots in Minneapolis and St. Paul:

Food:

Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis’ trendy North Loop neighborhood: Chef Paul Berglund was named Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Its Swedish-inspired menu includes butterscotch mushroom confit and toasts of duck liver pâté and lamb liver terrine. Owners Eric and Andrew Dayton, sons of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, are in the forefront of the Twin Cities’ Nordic resurgence.

Spoon and Sable, Minneapolis’ North Loop:  The restaurant, led by chef Gavin Kaysen (a James Beard Rising Star Chef in 2008) won a coveted Best New Restaurant nominee in 2015. Order white asparagus chowder with smoked lake trout, pork schnitzel or smoked whitefish.

Uptown 43, Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood: Chef/owner Erick Harcey’s late Swedish grandfather provided the inspiration for the restaurant. Harcey puts a twist on family recipes: salmon gravlax smörgås; Pyttipanna (Swedish hash) with cottage cheese and fried eggs; and Swedish meatball sandwich with lingonberry, charred cucumbers and fried onion.

The Finnish Bistro, St. Anthony Park: This small spot has a big menu. Try the Finnish oatcakes for breakfast, reindeer sausage and potato quiche for lunch and traditional Finnish beef pasty or stuffed cabbage rolls for dinner.

Shops:

Askov Finlayson, Minneapolis’ North Loop: The trendy shop, named for two northern Minnesota towns, sells some Nordic menswear and accessories. Eric and Andrew Dayton are the owners. It sells clothing emblazoned with “North,” a label created by the brothers to highlight Minnesota’s ruggedness, hygge and coolness that’s taken off. Hip eyeglass outlet Warby Parker occupies the rear corner.

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Fjallraven opened its St. Paul, Minn., store in fall 2015. (Sheryl Jean)
Fjällräven, St. Paul, Uptown Minneapolis, Mall of America: The Swedish outerwear retailer is probably best known in the U.S. for its square backpacks, but it offers much more. Fjallraven blends function with design, bold colors and quality fabrics. The St. Paul store is the newest of three in the Twin Cities. (Photos at top and at right.)

The Foundry Home Goods, Minneapolis’ North Loop: The warm, bright shop oozes hygge. It sells Swedish soap and bath accessories, Nordic wooden products, but also products from Canada and Japan.

Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts, Minneapolis: Beyond selling Nordic items, it offers classes from cooking to traditional crafts and even making a troll mask.

Sandeen’s Scandinavian Gifts, Art & Needlecraft, St. Paul: Dating to the mid-1950s, this shop sells items such as imported crystal, trolls, ceramics, table linens, cookware, jewelry, Swedish Dala Horses and Rosemåling (traditional folk art) supplies.

Want to learn more about visiting the Twin Cities? Read this article I just wrote for The Dallas Morning News.

Remember airline food? It’s back for free on some longer Delta flights

Starting today, Californians will be among the first travelers to taste Delta Air Lines’ complimentary meals in the economy class on 12 longer U.S. routes.

Meals are first being rolled out to economy passengers on flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Los Angeles or San Francisco airports. Then on April 24, Delta will offer free food on 10 other routes, including Seattle, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

Delta’s food leans toward fresh and healthy. For breakfast, passengers can choose between a honey maple breakfast sandwich, a breakfast medley or a fruit and cheese plate. For lunch, there’s a mesquite-smoked turkey combo, a whole grain veggie wrap (main photo above courtesy of Delta Air Lines) or a fruit and cheese plate. Passengers also will get snacks.

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Starting March 1, a complimentary fruit and cheese plate will be offered to economy-class passengers on some longer Delta flights. (Courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
Most airlines, including Atlanta-based Delta, stopped serving free meals in economy class by 2010. Delta says its change is part of a multi-million dollar investment in its in-flight customer experience, including upgraded snacks, better blankets, new food-for-purchase options and free in-flight entertainment.

When the airline tested the meal service on some flights late last year, its customer satisfaction scores spiked.

There are other reasons, too. Now that the airline industry is quite healthy again, carriers are re-investing some of their profits in products and services designed to retain existing customers and attract new customers in a hyper-competitive market. Free food is a way for Delta to distinguish itself from the competition .

Remaining questions include whether Delta’s free food tastes good and whether that matters to most travelers.

How to stay healthy while traveling

When I arrived home last week after an extended trip, my snuggest pair of jeans still fit.

While I don’t suggest losing weight as a holiday goal, I advocate staying healthy and active while traveling.

One of the great joys of travel is trying new things, whether it be food, drink or experiences. And people are apt to splurge while on holiday. So, go ahead and enjoy that German Schnitzel or trifle, just balance it with some vegetables in between.

The winter holidays bring special challenges because most of us eat more — and perhaps richer — food than we usually do. It’s important to stay active while spending quality time with family and friends. Take group walks before eating dinner and after dessert. Plan group outings, such as hiking, ice skating or sledding.

The fruit option for breakfast on a recent Qantas Airways flight from Sydney, Australia, to San Francisco. (Sheryl Jean)

Here are some of my tips to help you stay healthy while traveling any time of the year:

Stay hydrated: Drink as much liquid — preferably water — as possible to stay hydrated o a plane and on the ground. It’s good for your skin and aids in digestion. Avoid caffeine.

Make smart in-flight food choices: Bring or buy healthier food, such as fruit, salad or hummus, on U.S. flights. On international flights, choose fruit instead of the egg-sausage breakfast and skip dessert. Avoid salt and salty snacks, which will help your body retain water.

Continue reading How to stay healthy while traveling

Is it crayfish or lobster in Kaikoura, New Zealand?

Crayfish and whitebait fritters, and a half crayfish at Kaikoura Seafood BBQ. Fritters are served as a sandwich or on top of rice with salad. (Sheryl Jean)

This post is a homage to the people of Kaikoura, which suffered a 7.5-magnitude earthquake about two weeks after my visit. I was writing this blog post in the wee hours of the morning  the earthquake and tsunami occurred.

The little beach town of Kaikoura is known for whale watching, swimming with dolphins and fur seals, but it’s also the crayfish capital of New Zealand.

Kaikoura means “eat crayfish” in the native Maori language. However, these crayfish aren’t the small critters you find in New Orleans, but what Americans call lobster.

New Zealand salt-water crayfish is a spiny rock lobster. It has a sweeter, more subtle flavor.

Drive or walk down Kaikoura’s Beach Road to nearly the end and you’ll see a road-side trailer called Kaikoura Seafood BBQ. Stop!

The snow-capped mountains descend straight to the South Pacific Ocean in Kaikoura.

You’ll find crayfish sizzling on the grill as well as fritters (like pancakes) filled with crayfish, whitebait (another local delicacy) or other ingredients. It cost $15US for a half crayfish to $27US for a whole one, but prices elsewhere can be twice as much.

Sit to eat at a table facing spectacular powdered sugar-coated mountains descending straight to the South Pacific Ocean.

Another road-side trailer option is Nins Bin, about 12 miles north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1.