10 things you probably didn’t know about Iceland

Rooftops in Reykjavik

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Red barn on Dyrhólaey

Mountains

Jökulsárlón

Vatnajokull

Húsavík

Hafnarfjall

Blue Lagoon

Street art in Reykjavik

2/3 of the country resides in the capitol city area of Reykjavik. Yup, that’s right! Over 200,000 people call the metro area their home.
Prohibition lasted until 1989. Order a beer with your lunch and they’ll look at you like you’re a raging alcoholic. But come Friday and Saturday, join them for the rúntur, where people of all ages go out with the intention of getting completely shitfaced. No, really.
Glacial runoff is the main source of cold water in Iceland. No need to filter the water that comes out of faucets, because it’s some of the purest in the world.
Hot water comes from the natural hot springs. And smells like sulfur. But don’t let the funky smell fool you – the sulfur will make your skin the softest it’s ever been.
The center of the country is pretty much uninhabitable. In the earlier days, outlaws fled to the highlands to avoid the law. And few, if any, survived.
Icelanders take their swimming seriously. Every community has an outdoor, heated pool. Complete with a water slide. And if you want to indulge in their luxury, you must bathe before swimming. The pools contain no chemicals – only natural sulfur water – and Icelanders cannot stand when tourists dirty their pools.
The life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. And with state funded health care, they plan to keep it that way.
The Blue Lagoon is manmade. And is heated with water from a nearby geothermal power plant.
A majority of the world’s puffin population resides in Iceland during mating season. And I got to see them in action.
The crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. Babies are left outside, unattended in their buggies, while parents dine in restaurants or shop around the boutiques. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about taking someone’s baby.
Most facts of Iceland brought to you by Thom (pictured above), my very handsome, walking encyclopedia. See more photos of Iceland here.
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S’mores cups

S'mores cups

I live in the city. Literally, right downtown, surrounded by enormous buildings. As a result, I don’t get to enjoy traditional s’mores in the comfort of my back yard, because I don’t have a back yard. I don’t even have a front yard. In fact, the nearest patch of grass is three blocks away, and they don’t allow humans on it. So, the only other s’mores making option I have is to roast marshmallows over an open flame in my apartment. But I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.

That’s where s’mores cups come into play. The same thing you love about s’mores, minus the inevitable sticky marshmallow and melted chocolate fingers. They’re comprised of only six ingredients and come together within a matter of minutes. And chances are, they’ll make you feel a little less sad about not having a back yard.

S'mores cups

If you can’t find graham flour, you can make your own with whole wheat flour, wheat bran and wheat germ. Add 2/3 cup of wheat flour to a plastic bag. Measure out 1/3 cup of wheat bran and discard 1 1/2 teaspoons of the bran; add it to the bag. Finally, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of wheat germ and shake the bag to combine. Voilà! You now have 1 cup of graham flour.
You can bake these in any type of pan you desire. I’ve made them in a square pan, a round pan, 4″ spring form pans – the only adjustment you’ll have to make is the baking time. For an 8X8 pan I had to bake them for about 20-25 minutes.

S’MORES CUPS

2 cups graham flour
3/4 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
14 tbsp vegan butter, cold
1 cup vegan marshmallows
3/4 cup mini chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil a 12 and 6 cup muffin pan; sprinkle with flour and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sucanat and salt. Cut in the butter, using a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press 3 tablespoons of the crumble into each muffin well; tightly pack and press up the sides a bit. Bake at 350˚F for 4-5 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, quarter the marshmallows. Divide the marshmallow pieces and chocolate chunks evenly between the prepared muffin wells. Lightly sprinkle the fine crumbles over the toppings, then top with bigger crumbs (you may need to press the small crumbs together to create larger, pea-sized crumbs). Bake at 350˚F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool in pans for 30 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack. Store in an air tight container for up to five days.
Yield: 18 cups

Cedric does Iceland

Cedric at Dyrhólaey
Cedric at Goðafoss
Cedric at the Blue Lagoon
This is Cedric. Our traveling gnome. He fits perfectly into my pocket and goes where we go. He’s pretty quiet, but can be a real pain in the ass. Especially when he uses the tip of his hat to stab me in the side of the leg. Or belly flop into the Blue Lagoon, long after we’ve dried ourselves. But he’s a cheap traveling companion, so I think we’ll keep him.
More of Cedric here.

Iceland

66˚ North

Soaking up the salty air, breathtaking scenery and 17+ hours of daylight, in Iceland. Unfortunately – being the lousy person that I am – posts have not been scheduled. But I’ll be back with this recipe sometime after 29 May.
Eat well, travel often.

Raw banana nut bread

Raw banana nut bread

I’ve been making a lot of raw food lately. Partly because it’s easier on my digestive system, but mostly because my oven has decided to heat up to 500˚F any time it’s switched to BAKE. Which poses a problem when you’re a baker. And when you live on the top floor of a brick warehouse, with 20 foot ceilings. This place gets so hot I could probably instruct a bikram class in here. You know, if I was into torturing myself more than I do already.
Anyway, be sure you use very ripe bananas. If you use anything else, your “bread” will not have a strong banana flavor, nor will it be as sweet. I added oat groats to give it a better texture, but if you’d prefer to add additional nuts, knock yourself out. This would be delicious topped with some cashew cream and drizzled with a little date syrup, but usually I’m too lazy to jazz things up.
And yes, a new oven is being delivered sometime in the near future. Hurrah!

RAW BANANA NUT BREAD

2 cups raw almonds
1 1/4 cup raw walnuts, divided
1/2 cup oat groats
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
4-6 medjool dates
2 medium bananas, very ripe

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the almonds, 1 cup of the walnut pieces, oat groats, cinnamon and salt into a fine meal; about 1-2 minutes. Add the dates and bananas; blend until the mixture forms a dough. Remove the S blade from the mixing bowl and mix in the remaining 1/4 cup of walnut pieces with a wooden spoon. Press dough into a loaf pan (or any size pan, really) then cover with plastic and freeze until ready to eat.
Yield: 8 2″ cubes

Baked fries

Baked fries

Thom and I have been making these fries for quite some time. Since we got together, actually. Which means we’ve been making these fries for damn near five years. Back then we didn’t know much. We’d slice the potatoes really thin – to imitate actual fries – and they’d always turn out terrible; some would be underdone, some would be burnt to a crisp. But we’d eat them anyway. And secretly wish we’d gone out for fries, instead.

Over the years we’ve learned that the fries bake best when the potatoes are sliced into thin wedges (as opposed to strings) and spread out evenly over a baking sheet lined with foil. Over the years we’ve learned a lot of things, but this is one of my favorites. It takes me back to those long, humid nights in Bloomington where we started our life together. Oh, to be 19 and in love.* I can honestly say it’s not nearly as great as being 24 and in love. Am I making you want to puke?

*Ahem, no making fun of my white hair. Or orange skin.

Baked fries

These fries are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and perfectly seasoned with thyme. Sometimes we’ll season them with rosemary or Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning, but usually I’m in the mood for thyme. Dried rosemary tends to poke me in the mouth, which inevitably pisses me off – and Tony Cachere’s gives me a runny nose, which (also) inevitably pisses me off. Nothing like eating a couple of fries while your philtrum channels snot into your mouth, right?
Did I mention these fries are 100 billion times healthier for you than the deep fried alternative? Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration. But they are healthier. They’re also delicious. And go perfectly with a runny egg on top (if you’re Thom) – or plunged into ketchup and mustard (if you’re me).

BAKED FRIES (GF)

3 large russet potatoes
4 tsp canola oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with cooking oil; set aside. Scrub the potatoes and remove any eyes or dark spots. Using a sharp knife, cut each of the potatoes in half, lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/4″ thick slices. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with oil and thyme. Spread out on the prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400˚F for 25-30 minutes; flip fries after 15 minutes. Serve immideately.
Yield: 4-6 servings