Sunday, July 29, 2012

favourites: july 2012

Black currants

  • Blueberries are getting ripe for picking here in southern Finland, and I'm planning on picking as much as I can. Which means that blueberry muffins are in order.
  • I also see a coconut crumble in my future. There seriously is no end to my love for coconut. I think those black currants pictured above would make a great filling for the crumble.
  • DIY window art with Philippians 2:15. If only I had a window I could do this on. Easy and beautiful window art that can also easily be wiped away.
  • This photo. That's what summer looks like here in Finland. I love it.
  • A post on wearing forgiveness. So often, I tend to wear my shame instead of the forgiveness I have in Christ. This was a good reminder to mindfully wear forgiveness like a crown.
  • 10 ways to be more hospitable. A post on how hospitality doesn't require a spotless house and extraordinary dishes. It's funny how I never really care whether or not the house is spotless when I visit somebody, but always feel like really tidying up when anyone comes over.
  • Sesame Street: Share It Maybe. Cookie Monster spoofs the song 'Call Me Maybe'. The best ever. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

tomato basil soup

The first bite into the vine-ripened, freshly picked tomato. The sweet freshness, the sticky juice running down your chin. That's the best thing.

Tomatoes are grown plenty here in Finland, often served in salads and sandwiches (Caprese sandwich is one of the most common ones you can find here). The tomatoes that you can buy here, they are always fresh. It is rare that they are really sweet, though, except cherry tomatoes. Given the cooler temperatures and short summer, it is understandable. As much as tomato soup is a staple in the American diet, it is rarely eaten as a main dish here. I think it is because we don't really do the grilled cheese. Tomato soup does often make a wonderful appetizer, however.

A bowl of tomato soup is usually accompanied by a slice of hearty Finnish rye bread. I have yet to decide whether I like rye bread or peasant bread better with tomato soup. Which is why I like to make big enough pot of soup, to eat it with both rye and peasant bread. A slice slathered with butter and a fried egg on top, is my absolute favourite for a heartier meal.

Tomato soup makes good use of ripened tomatoes. And if tomatoes are a touch too ripe? Perfect for soup. In my opinion, plenty of basil should always at least be served with the soup, if not in it. As tomato soup is about making the best of the summer, I find that the tomatoes should be simmered with fresh herbs. Because really, tomato soup made from fresh tomatoes and herbs is like summer, in a bowl.

Although we don't have the tomato soup and grilled cheese culture here in Finland, I think I have found the comfort with this rustic version of tomato soup. While comfort and rustic may not be exactly the key words for summer, here in Finland it has been rainy and cooler than usual, meaning that this rustic yet fresh soup has been just perfect, for lunch and for dinner.

Tomato Basil Soup
serves 6

3 tbsp butter
2 medium yellow onions, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 tbsp red lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 kg ripe tomatoes (about 10)

2 (400g) cans quality diced tomatoes
1 bouillon cube
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
3 to 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil + more for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring plenty of water to boil. Score a cross on the bottom of eat tomato. When the water boil, dunk the tomatoes into the water until the skin near the cross starts to curl. Take the tomatoes out of the water and set aside. When the tomatoes have cooled, peel the tomatoes.

Chop the peeled onions. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions start to soften; add garlic and lentils. Chop the peeled tomatoes, discarding the hard parts; add to the pot. Add the diced tomatoes with juices to the pan, along with the bouillon cube and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until the lentils have softened, 20 to 25 minutes.

Purée the soup using an immersion blender until desired consistency. (I like mine rather chunky so I pulsed only a few times. However, the canned tomatoes I used were more like purée than dice. So really, until desired consistency.) Season to taste and add the chopped fresh basil. Serve with more fresh basil if desired.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

book review: redeeming love

This book was a Christmas present from my brother a few years back, before I was saved. My brother must have searched for a Christian romance book, knowing that I love to read romance stories. This book, however, sat unread on my bookshelf until now. Not because it was Christian and I wasn't, but because I had a 5-foot long pile of books waiting to be read. I still do.

Now, all I can say is, read this as soon as you can.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a retelling of Gomer and Hosea, from the Bible. Set in the 1850's, Michael Hosea is an honest, God-fearing farmer and Angel - his Gomer - is a prostitute. Angel was sold into prostitution as a child, and now expects nothing but betrayal from men and is full of anger and hatred. When Angel meets Michael Hosea, her life is changed as Michael obeys God's calling to marry her. From there on, Angel is faced with a man who loves God and who wants her to know Jesus as well. Redeeming Love is a story of battling with fears, of redemption, of love. It is not so much the love story of Michael Hosea and Angel - rather, it tells the greatest love story of all times, that of Jesus and His love for all people.

As the author says, this was her first book as a born-again Christian and also her statement of faith. Everything in me could relate to what the characters battled with in the book. Angel and her fears and doubt; Michael Hosea and his love for Jesus and wanting to faithfully follow Jesus in all. I questioned myself and my faithfulness together with the characters, and found God's answers together with the characters.

Truth to be told, Redeeming Love shook my soul. This touching story about God's everlasting and unconditional love shook my soul. I cried, I smiled, I laughed. Most importantly, I finished the book changed. I look the world, myself, and God differently now. I have been reminded of the redemption and forgiveness I can find in Jesus.

This might just be one of the the most beautiful books I will ever read. Certainly, it is the most beautiful story I will ever know.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

wednesday writings: choosing what is good

The weather has been somewhat ridiculous here in Finland. Last week, we had a real heat wave that turned into cloudy and crazy humid weather. Right now, it is pouring and I haven't seen the sun in a few days. I'm starting feel a bit cheated; because isn't summer supposed to consist of sunny days and ice cream. And yet, as I am starting to feel a little gloomy, I am reminded of what I have in God. How in Him, I always have light instead of darkness.

Your name alone has power to raise us
Your light will shine when all else fades
Our eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You, God?

(Matt Redman - Holy)

Because really, just as I have been reminded, my worst day with God is still so much better than my best day without Him.

So today, I choose to focus on what is good. Instead of looking at the weather, hoping for more. Instead of looking at my life, hoping for more. I choose to focus on what I have, what I know for sure I have: light, love, life. I choose to walk His way, praying to be more faithful in my walk. I choose to be not as the world is, but instead let His light shine on me and change me, conform me to His image (Romans 8:29).

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." -- Philippians 4:8
Yes, I will still hope for better weather and some sunshine. I still want to eat ice cream, feeling the sunlight on my face. But instead of grumbling and complaining, I'm going to make sure that today, I give thanks to God and praise Him for knowing that I am able to look at His glorious face, shining like the sun. Because sometimes we need the rain and gray weather to see just how precious the sunshine is.
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
(Laura Story - Blessings)