What is a Lingonberry?

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Until about 2 weeks ago I had never been to an Ikea store.  My oldest grandson and I were looking for something to do and, surprisingly, he suggested we go.  I had always thought of Ikea as a store that sold inexpensive-some-assembly-required furniture.  I was in for a big surprise that was quite delightful! Well worth the hour and a half drive to get there!

Just to note in case you’re not familiar with IKEA it is a Swedish-founded and Dutch-based multinational group that does design and sell assembly required furniture as well as other home furnishings and offers complete kitchen design products.  In addition their stores feature Swedish food products. Their prices are very reasonable and I found the quality of everything to be good.

We ate lunch in their cafe which is conveniently located in the middle of the store. He suggested the Swedish meatballs and I was not disappointed! The entire meal was delicious and nicely served on real plates with real utensils and an actual glass for my drink.  My only debate was if it should be considered “pre-fab”, but I decided not to consider that question.  Just eat and enjoy.

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Along with the entree and sides there was a helping of lingonberry sauce; I had never heard of lingonberries and expected it to taste like cranberry sauce as it looked identical.  But it was totally different with a mildly sweet taste that was the perfect complement to the meal. So as we shopped I picked up a jar of their lingonberry jam even though I rarely eat anything with jelly or jam.  Why not give this a try for something different?  And, the nutritional information wasn’t bad at all.

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So what is a lingonberry? The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardners Association defines it as

A close relative of the cranberry and the blueberry, lingonberries (Vaccinum vitis-idaea var. minimus), usually known as the lowbush or mountain cranberry, do grow wild in the cooler regions of the United States.  

The lingonberry grows as a shiny leaved, short spreading, evergreen shrub, quite similar to the lowbush blueberry, although the branches of the plant are more tender and less woody.

picture from Wikipedia of the species found in North America

 

The New Comfort Food

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I like to cook when I have the time and when the food is going to be eaten and appreciated; I find it very satisfying to prepare and serve a meal that people enjoy eating. Even after all the cooking and baking of Thanksgiving and Christmas I’m finding that January is making me want to continue – maybe it’s the cold weather or maybe I’m just hungry!

Recently I discovered spaghetti squash when it was served to me as a side dish.  I loved the taste and appreciated the fact that it is a very suitable alternative to pasta (which I dearly love). When I saw the recipe titled Tuscan Spaghetti Squash I knew it was time to try something new. The squash does take a little time to prepare, but it is not difficult (see below).  The sauce was made with whipping cream and parmesan cheese, how easy is that! All my favorite ingredients came together with the spaghetti squash: tomatoes, spinach, and garlic. And, yes, there’s bacon in there, too, but I did reduce the amount the recipe called for to keep this recipe within a healthy spectrum. The only thing missing is basil because my plant did not survive the New Year’s Day artic blast. My new comfort food!

Quick tip to prepare the spaghetti squash:

Choose a squash that has firm flesh and no soft spots or cracks and has the stem attached. Wash and place in a microwavable dish:  microwave for 2 minutes, turn, and cook another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until flesh is beginning to soften.  Cut in half vertically and scoop out the seeds (like a pumpkin). Coat with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until tender (strings should lift out with a fork).

Cool until it can be handled and use a fork to lift out the spaghetti like strings.