Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Perfect Cheese Straws, My Trip to Norway (part 1), and a Giveaway

The sweet team at Cup of Jo asked me to guest blog during their month of easy-peasy appetizer features, and when I thought about fantastic-tasting treats to whet the appetite, puff pastry inevitably entered my brain. Especially because the results are SO good without a huge amount of effort (unless you made that puff pastry yourself…next week).

This version is seasoned with cayenne and nutmeg and finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. YUM. I made a quick harissa mayonnaise for dipping, but these cheese straws are just as good all by themselves. Full recipe and more drool-worthy images, here.

With only a few tools needed and many options for toppings, making these cheese straws is a cinch. Let the party begin!

As detailed in this story's title, there's also a giveaway going on. Please scroll down for more news on that….

You may or may not know that I just returned from a breath-taking trip through Norway. And, a way-too-brief stop-off in Amsterdam. Seriously, you cannot imagine the intense beauty of the landscapes in Norway until you have seen them for yourself. Now I can knowledgeably mark the must return to points when I have more time to get lost and explore, as well as offer solid recommendations should you find yourself going that way!

I've been quite busy since the return. Sorting the gajillion images will take time, but here is a first glimpse -

this quiet, mesmerizing abode, on the coast in Aurland

first night's stay during my solo tour, in Voss
hairpin turns along a fjord hike in Aurland

rainy day means a gorgeous still life at the Oslo bric-a-brac market

beautiful spent fern stems

I fell in love with the austere wildness of Finse. At 1222 meters above sea level, it's the highest elevation in all of Norway

from a train window, passing through Finse
later in the trip...see that little red cottage off to the left? that's the same as the above from the train window
long blown grasses, wet with raindrops 
wild tundra blueberries, juicy and sweet
a kind of chanterelles, chosen by Ilse at the market for that night's dinner
Reviewing these brings me back a little. How wonderful it all was. I plan on writing about each aspect of the adventure, so stay tuned for more photos and their stories…

And now for the giveaway. Which is actually THREE giveaways, so everyone has a greater likelihood of winning something! :D

The folks at GIR gifted me a variety of their just-released and not-yet-released (!) kitchen tools, and I am pairing them with a few latest yummy books sent my way. The ladle and handy spatula speak for themselves, but the geometric-patterned lid in the center is new and super cool. It makes cellophane or other means to seal a bowl or other container unnecessary, creating its own vacuum to preserve and store food. And comes in all kinds of cool sizes. I'm using a few right now and I'm liking the results.

Mason Jar Salads is great for anyone on the go who doesn't feel like compromising on real food's flavor and nutrients. Great tips, attractive and delicious mixes to add to your repertoire, there's a lot to love here.

100 Days of Real Food brings kids to the proverbial table, sharing whole food recipes which score points with both kids and adults alike. Lisa also guides readers on how to source real foods - for seasonality, too - at your local grocery.

Camille Styles is hot off the presses - today is the launch, in fact! In her self-titled book, find inspiration page-after-page, with beautiful photography of food, home, garden, and more.

Which set speaks to you?

In order to win, please follow me on Instagram if you're not already, and leave a comment below telling me 1. What foods from my blog inspire you most (whether you've made them or not isn't as important, but I would love to know that too!) and, 2. Which set here you'd like, should you win! If you tag me in comments on Twitter or share on Facebook, your name will be added again for each extra mention. Thanks!

To be eligible, you must live in the US and add your comments by 11:59 EST, Monday November 17th.

I cannot wait to send these goodies to new homes!

It is wonderful having you join me along the adventure. Stay tuned - my newest story with Anthology arrives Friday, and a there's a bunch of work in print to share. And Norway. More divine and wild Norway….. xo


  1. Hi Melina! I just found you via Cup of Jo and am your newest follower on Instagram :) I've been working my way through your archives, including your work in Anthology and Food52. Wow - I am feeling inspired - and hungry! Already can't wait to make your Savory Shrimp with Chickpeas, Green Olives, and Preserved Lemon. And that Panzanella has my mouth watering. Your photography just makes every dish into a stunner! That being said, I would absolutely Love to win either Camilla Styles or Mason Jar Salads. I actually just picked up a copy of Lisa Leake's book today :) Thank you for the chance to win!

    1. Hi Katie, welcome!! Thanks for taking the time to visit my archives *which probably are not so well-organized*. You have great fast - both that shrimp dish and the panzanella are amazing. :) I've made a note of your preferred gift should you win (and does your link take me to an email contact to notify you, if so?) Good luck!!

    2. Oh, thanks for your response! Just in case, my email address is just katiedekoster Thank you for checking :)

  2. I love your still life photography - the colors are so earthy and real! I have already raised my family so in all honesty i don't cook and bake as much any more. When i do, i want it to be simple and not time consuming. I will keep an eye out for recipes of this nature on your blog. The book that would appeal to me the most would be the "100 days of real food." Good luck on all of your endeavors! And thank you for this opportunity.

    1. Aw thank you so much! I really love creating still lifes. I hear you on not wanting kitchen effort to be time consuming. There are a variety of salads which are extremely flavorful and not too much effort, as well as the food created with Food52. Links in the sidebar with those labels may lead you to something delicious….And please make sure I have a way to reach you -email address is ideal- should you win. Thanks again, and good luck!!

    2. Hey you won the book you requested! Please email me your address! info[at]melinaphotos dot com.


  3. Just a little correction: the highest elevation in Norway is the mountain Galdhøpiggen at 2469 meters above sea level (there are in total 291 peaks above 2000 meters in Norway), whereas Finse has the highest TRAIN STATION in Norway at 1222 meters above sea level.

    1. Karen, thank you for the correction! I kept wondering if I had that exact or not. Much appreciate the clarification. ;-)

  4. I think the desserts inspire me -- I wish I had your talent. The fig-bourbon vanilla-almond brittle-pistachio honey-gingersnap ice cream cake looks divine!
    AND I would like the middle set, the Mason Jar Salads
    I follow you on Instagram as cezovski9
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

    1. Hi Carolsue! Desserts are such fun, aren't they? You know I didn't always have the skills I do now. It's a constant learning process, and thankfully, I get a lot of encouragement. We all start wherever we are and just figure sh*t out as we go along. Which often isn't so pretty!

      That cake IS divine. Do it. :) Thank you for the follow and for including your email. Good luck!!

  5. Any chance that winners will be posted? I've been so curious about these books since seeing them mentioned here :)

    1. Hi Katie!
      I promise it is happening today. With all the projects (and their deadlines!) I have had to delay in getting things squared away. But, look forward to the results by tomorrow :D

    2. Hi Katie!

      You won the Camille Styles book!! I'm emailing you now to get your address…. :)