Tuesday, September 25, 2012

brussels sprouts sauté

Brussels sprouts and I, we didn't start off exactly on the right foot. The first time I tasted Brussels sprouts, I was five and in the hospital. Brussels sprouts were served for lunch. They were boiled, and that was it. Boiled, with no spices whatsoever. For a 5-year-old, those Brussels sprouts were the embodiment of everything bad and stinky.

Those Brussels sprouts are one of the very few memories I have from the time spent in the hospital, and I think that in itself speaks of how horrendous the Brussels sprouts must have been. I am sure, though, that I am not the only one with bad memories or horror stories of Brussels sprouts from the childhood.

I have grown up since then, though, and growing up sometimes means giving things and people a second chance. And honestly, I am glad I did that with Brussels sprouts. When prepared the right way - which clearly is not boiled with no spices - Brussels sprouts are actually quite tasty and make a great side dish.

I found that with the trusty combination of butter and fresh thyme, those Brussels sprouts turned into a tasty side dish great for the autumn time. Quickly sautéing the Brussels sprouts leaves them still slightly crunchy, which is what I prefer. Turning up the heat for the last minute and getting a touch of colour to those Brussels sprouts also deepens the flavours, and I recommend doing just that.

Brussels Sprouts Sauté
serves 4 as a side

2 tbsp butter
1 small onion
1 tbsp chopped, fresh thyme
600g Brussels sprouts
salt to taste

Wash the Brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any loose or discoloured outer leaves. Stand the Brussels sprouts on their trimmed ends and thinly slice them into 3 or 4 slices.

Peel and slice the onion. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion, Brussels sprouts, and thyme. Sauté until the Brussels sprouts turn bright green and start to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-high and sauté the Brussels sprouts for a minute or so, until some browning starts to occur. Take off the heat and salt to taste.

Friday, September 21, 2012

five minute friday: wide

Never have I known other arms that are open so wide. Never have I known other arms that would be wide open, always and in all situations. Never have I known other arms that are so wide open, ready to cradle me with love.

It is the beauty of the Lord. To love so fully, to forgive so readily. I can be where I am, and I know He is waiting for me, arms wide open. I know that whenever I seek Him, whenever I look to Him, His arms are wide open for me.

It has been a broken week. I have wanted to cry more than in a long, long time. And yet I can find peace in His arms. His arms have been wide open for me, all the time. Whether I have been crying, in pain, laughing, rejoicing - He is there for me. He is the One who saves, the One who loves. The beginning and the end. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is always there for me.

It is the safest place I know, in His arms. His love is so wide, ready to look past my sins and failures. His love is so wide, ready to accept me as I am and to help me to become more like Him. His love is wide, and His arms are open wide. I am invited.

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

peanut butter & honey granola + raspberry compote

Before the year in the States, I don't think I ever actually had tasted peanut butter. When I moved to the States, I didn't quite understand the hype about peanut butter; why people would eat it straight from the jar by the spoonfuls. And I certainly didn't understand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. To me, they seemed more like dessert than lunch.

Then, well, I lived in the States for a year. I, too, started to eat peanut butter by the spoonfuls (Peanut Butter & Co. is my favourite brand). The peanut butters sold here in Finland aren't quite as good, though, and so I have given up on eating it by the spoonfuls. This is not to say that they would actually taste bad. It's just different enough for me to not want to eat it as it is. Instead, I use peanut butter in cooking and baking when the craving for it comes.

All this is to say that peanut butter makes great sandwiches. Not only are they delicious but they also keep in the room temperature for a while. The Scandinavian sandwiches - which consist of deli ham and cheese, and sometimes gravlax and/or eggs - do not. I'm not really a fan of PB&J, though. I prefer my peanut butter sandwich with a sliced banana and sometimes honey if I want it sweeter.

Now, on to the granola. Fragrant honey and flavourful peanut butter combine wonderfully in this granola, making it a grown-up and somewhat more sophisticated version of the loved sandwich. It is fitting for breakfast or as a snack, even lunch. Some chocolate chips could turn this either into a very indulgent breakfast or a healthy dessert.

My favourite way to eat this is to top some plain Greek yoghurt with this granola and squeeze a little honey on top to enhance the flavour. However, as I started to think about peanut butter & jelly sandwiches while making this granola, I found myself craving the said sandwich. I, then, made a quick and easy raspberry compote from frozen raspberries to turn the sandwich into a yoghurt concoction of sorts. In case you are craving for a peanut butter & jelly sandwich as well, the recipe for the raspberry compote is also provided and highly recommended.

Peanut Butter & Honey Granola
makes 3 cups without any add-ins

1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey *
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt **

3 cups rolled oats
2 to 3 tbsp ground flaxseeds (optional)

Possible add-ins: 1/2 cup dry-roasted (or honey-roasted) peanuts; 1/2 cup dried fruit like raisins or banana chips; 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 130C (275F). In a small saucepan, combine the oil, peanut butter, honey, cinnamon, and salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat until liquid and runny. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the rolled oats and flaxseeds, if using. Stir until everything is coated with peanut butter, then pour the mixture on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 40 minutes, flipping once or twice while baking, until the granola is golden and crunchy.

Let the granola cool to room temperature. Add any of the add-ins, if desired. Store in an airtight container.

* This amount of honey results in a slightly sweetened granola, which is what I prefer. If you like your granola sweeter, I recommend adding up to 1/4 cup brown sugar. However, I like to just squeeze more honey on top of the granola if I happen to want it sweeter.

** The peanut butter I used was slightly salted and I found the 1/2 tsp of salt was the perfect amount for my granola. The amount of salt might need adjustment depending on whether or not your peanut butter is salted and how you like your granola.

Raspberry Compote
makes 1 cup

2 cups frozen raspberries
2  to 4 tbsp sugar, to taste
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp potato starch

Slowly thaw the frozen raspberries in a saucepan over medium heat. When the raspberries are starting to get thawed, after about 3 to 5 minutes, add in the sugar and vanilla. When the raspberries are starting to get mushy, add in the potato starch and mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then take off the heat. Let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating. The compote will get thicker after cooling down and refrigerating.

This recipe makes a thick compote. For a runnier compote, I recommend adding only 1/2 tsp potato starch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

curried carrot coconut soup

Potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, onions. They are all rather delightful, these root vegetables. They are rustic, homey and above all, comforting. Available through the year and making it even in the harsh conditions, root vegetables are a winner in my book. They are often also taken for granted; overlooked. Now, more than ever, I think it is time to start paying attention to these beautiful gems of the nature. Maybe it is because I come from a country of long and harsh winters. Root vegetables are what has kept this nation alive for centuries. (Just kidding. Kind of. Some credit also goes to rye bread.)

Soups, stews, curries. Mashed or whole. Grated, sliced, diced. Raw, roasted, boiled, even pickled. Appetizer, side, or a main. Even dessert in some cases. Are you as amazed as I am?

When the weather take a turn for the chillier temperatures, I start making soups and curries out of root vegetables. In the wintertime, there is always a bag of carrots lying around in case a quick and warming dinner is in order. I love how easy carrots are in that regard. Combined with some pantry staples such as lentils, coconut milk, and spices, they quickly will turn into a healthy, comforting dinner.

I love the combination of creamy coconut milk and the warming spices; the way they balance each other out and result in a delicious soup. This is the soup for those evenings when all you want is to curl up in a blanket with some soup and a cup of tea, and read a book or watch a movie you've meant to watch for a few weeks nows.

And, hopefully, you will stop and smile when you sip down the soup. Smile and start, though maybe slowly, being more aware and appreciate more those beautiful (in this case, orange) root vegetables that are waiting to be used.

Curried Carrot Coconut Soup
serves 6

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 kg carrots

2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
a pinch of ground chili pepper or red pepper flakes

100g red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 litre vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk, divided

Peel and dice the onion and carrots. Peel and mince the garlic cloves. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic; sauté for a few minutes. Add the spices, and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the lentils and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, over medium-low heat, until the carrots are tender and the lentils are falling apart, about 25 minutes.

Purée the soup using an immersion blender (or a blender) and thin the soup to the consistency of your liking with the coconut milk. (I used about a cup.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon what is left of the coconut milk on top of the individual servings.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

brown soda bread

Saturday mornings are quiet in this household. I am the first one to wake up, and usually at least an hour goes by before anyone else - including the dog - rouses. That hour is spent writing - my journal, blog, e-mails - and reading. It is the time to ponder whatever might be heavy on my heart, or being thankful if nothing is. It's the quietness and stillness that draws my heart to be at peace those mornings.

But it is not just that time of quietness that makes Saturday mornings so precious. No, what happens next is also important.

After an hour or so, my Dad wakes up. I brew a pot of coffee and prepare breakfast while he's out walking the dog. Then, we share the morning's newspaper and discuss the things we read. If there is something major going on in our lives, we discuss that as well. It's just the two of us, because nobody else is awake. And I think it's safe to say that we both treasure those moments where it's just a father and a daughter. He teaches me what he thinks is important for me to know; explains things that I'm too impatient to learn about myself (politics and economics, to name a few); discusses matters he would like me to have an opinion about (and he's okay if I am of different opinion).

This brown soda bread is perfect for those silent Saturday mornings. It is simple yet delectable, especially with a smear of butter and raspberry jam on top. It pairs well with a cup of coffee (or tea), and it's hearty enough to make a good breakfast. This soda bread is only slightly sweet, yet sweet enough to pair well with jam and salty butter. And as I have noticed, this bread is perfect any other time of the day as well.

I have made this bread a few times. The first time I used just whole wheat and all-purpose flour. The second time I ended up subbing some spelt flour for all-purpose because we ran out of all-purpose flour.  Either way, it's delicious.

Brown Soda Bread
adapted from Sweet Amandine
makes one loaf

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose
1/4 cup spelt flour
3 tbsp instant oats
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

30g butter, cut into small cubes
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 210C. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, making sure that the brown sugar is evenly distributed. Rub the cubed butter in with your fingers until it resembles a fine meal. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk in, and stir until just combined. Be careful not to stir too much, or you'll end up with a tough dough.

Transfer the dough into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool down slightly before slicing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

wednesday writings: Proverbs 16:3

It is so very easy to go about our day and forget there are others, as well. I mean, it's my life, right? So why should I be thinking about anyone or anything else than me?

Going through the Proverbs with She Reads Truth has made me think and ponder; about myself and about God. How I am nothing and He is everything. How He is the perfect example of all good and righteous; and how I am not. Yet these thoughts do not come out of condemnation and conviction. I am learning to let go of myself in order to become more like Him. In essence, I am learning to love Him more every day.

"It is the sinner basking in the full light of God's holy, redeeming love, in the experience of that indwelling divine compassion of Christ, who cannot be but humble. Not to be occupied with your sin but to be fully occupied with God brings deliverance from self."
Andrew Murray in Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness

Had everything gone in my life as I wanted it to, my life would be, without doubt, a mess. Instead, God has been guiding me through the highs and lows with His perfect plan for my life in mind. It is so much better to give everything to Him, and let Him guide me onwards. The Lord has such good things in store for all of us who wish to follow Him, and He pours outs His blessings on those who walk in His ways. He is always there, arms wide open, willing to guide us and love us through everything.

This verse from Proverbs 16 has been in my mind the past few days. If only I would remember to give Him everything, as He will surely be there with me. So far, I can say with an honest heart that God has given me all the good things in my life. He has lead me to those places and situations. So from now on, I'll do my best to commit everything to the Lord.

Monday, September 3, 2012

quick and easy applesauce

The cool mornings are speaking of summer slowly turning to autumn. This is definitely my favourite time of the year. No matter where you look, the nature will amaze you with its astonishing beauty. The changing temperatures bring the changing colours with them. Forests will go from green to shades of yellow and red. Bright flowers will give way for the earthly hues of autumn.

"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower."
 - Albert Camus

While the mornings have been cool here in Finland, the days have so far still been pleasantly warm. It is a little confusing, actually, the need to pull on a jacket in the morning only having to take it off later on. It's as if, this year, we are given plenty of time to adapt to the change of the seasons and all the necessary preparations. For me, applesauce belongs to the category of "autumn preparations".

As soon as apples are in season, I start making applesauce. I love to top my bowl of oatmeal with a big spoonful of chunky applesauce - preferably one infused with cinnamon. Applesauce makes such a great topping for yogurt, oatmeal, and ice cream, and it's great on its own as a snack as well. I like mine slightly sweetened, but this recipe can easily be adjusted according to your preferences.

Quick and Easy Applesauce
makes about 1 cup, depending on the size of the apples

4 to 5 medium apples, peeled* and thinly sliced**
1/4 cup water
2 to 4 tbsp sugar or maple syrup (or to taste)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Combine the apples, water and sugar in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the apples are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure the apples get evenly cooked. Towards the end of the cooking, add cinnamon or vanilla to taste, if desired.

* You can just as well leave the peels on the apples; in that case, I recommend using organic apples. I love to leave the peels on with red apples, as that will result in nice, pink apple sauce. Of course, leaving the peels on means chunkier, more textured apple sauce.

** If you like your apple sauce truly chunky, try cutting one of the apples a little thicker. Thinly slicing the apples means that the apple sauce won't be completely smooth but it isn't exactly chunky either.