Tuesday, July 16, 2013

grapefruit soda syrup

"My Heart is Heavy" by Sara Teasdale

My heart is heavy with many a song
Like ripe fruit bearing down the tree,
But I can never give you one --
My songs do not belong to me.

Yet in the evening, in the dusk
When moths go to and fro,
In the gray hour if the fruit has fallen,
Take it, no one will know.

Grapefruit Soda

It is hard to believe that it is mid-July already, meaning that we are halfway through summer, and therefore practically almost done with already. Truth to be told, this summer has turned out very different than I ever imagined, with whirlwinds of big changes and big emotions in my life.

The blessing of it all is that right now, I am in a place where nothing is happening. Where I get to decide what to do with my days. In the midst of the big changes, it has been comforting to go back to the simple things. Those things that create consistency; that let your soul have a moment of stillness and calm; that bring joy and excitement. For now, it means slow mornings with a cup of coffee and a book to read, discovering at the farmer's market, wondering into the forest to go berry picking, spending time in the kitchen using whatever you found that day. It means making the best of this summer, spending my days exploring and wandering.

Grapefruit Soda

I used to be a big diet soda drinker. Then, I started becoming sick from artificial sweeteners and gave up everything that contained those - including diet soda. I have never cared for regular sodas, not until now. This homemade soda makes a nice treat on a hot summer day, and it is perfect to bring along to a potluck or picnic.

For a more refreshing soda, I love to squeeze some grapefruit juice on the bottom of the glass before adding the sparkling water. The grapefruit syrup is sweet and can take that pop of tartness, making this drink rather irresistible.

Grapefruit Soda Syrup
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
makes about 3 cups

zest of 2 pink grapefruits
juice of 1 pink grapefruit
juice of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
a hefty pinch of salt

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the saucepan. Let steep for an hour, then strain into a bottle or an air-tight container. Refrigerate up to two weeks.

Grapefruit Soda

For homemade grapefruit soda, combine about 1 ounce (2 tbsp) of the syrup with a cup of sparkling water. Add a squeeze of grapefruit, or even lemon, if desired. Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

favourites: June 2013

Long, long way to go.

As this post is published, I am up in the air flying to the US for a two-and-a-half-week vacation. We're flying to Boston, where we are going spend four days wondering around the city and reminiscing (can't believe it's been two years since I moved back to Finland from Boston). Then we are driving to Fire Island, New York for a few days before we fly down to Florida. In Florida, we are going to be four days in Orlando, then drive down to Miami and go on a 3-day Bahamas Cruise (what!). Then we'll enjoy a couple beach days somewhere near Miami before flying back to Boston and from there back to Finland.

It has been rather a busy spring so though we have the 'where', we don't quite have the 'what' decided. Given that usually we spend time thinking about what we want to do and see on our vacations, this will be very different as we'll decide 'on the go'. Honestly, I am rather excited about this!

But for now, some favourites.

  • I just bought the first fresh strawberries of the season and honestly, I am so excited about getting to eat fresh berries once again. This Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Berries looks like a great way to use berries.
  • What to Talk about When Sharing the Gospel with Your Kids. "Sharing the Gospel with our children is more of a journey than anything else. It’s not a one-time conversation, or an event we can plan or send them to. It is about pointing them to Jesus again and again and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the work in their hearts that only He can."

Monday, June 3, 2013

simple vanilla rhubarb compote

Silence on this blog carried for longer than I thought, or wished for. There were weeks of working and studying, then doing exams and finally closing in the last few busy weeks at work. And now, I find myself in a place where I can only wonder what my future will hold. Will I be studying? Working? Doing something completely different? I feel as if all is possible, and I find that can be a rather scary thing.

Blooming apple tree

These past few days, we have been enjoying extremely warm weather here in Finland. I feel as if we really waited for spring, for a long time and suddenly, it is summer. It has been amazing to look at the nature, to see the swift changes in the nature and how those blooming flowers and trees are now adorning the scenery all around.

In these days of, well, waiting for my future to shape up, I have found it easier to focus on the small things of the everyday life. Because really, when you are in a place where you can only trust God to have control over your life. It is better to concentrate on the things that are in the here and now, instead of dwelling on and worrying over things that are out of your hands. So I have been focusing on those moments that can easily slip by unnoticed; the simple blessings of the everyday life. A warm breeze on my face, wonderfully fragrant flowers (lilacs and lilies of the valley right now), those quiet and still moments with a cup of coffee in my hands in the morning, a word of encouragement, an unexpected act of kindness and love. The list is endless, really, which makes it all the more better.

Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

The recipe I have for you today is a very simple one. Partly because I feel like it fits this season through and through. Partly because it allows me to ease back into blogging rather nicely. Mostly because many good things in life are very simple, as is with this compote.

For this compote, rhubarb is stewed with some vanilla and brown sugar to hit both the sweet and tart notes. This compote isn't much of a looker but it sure is delicious. The tartness of the rhubarb pops in at first, then gives way to the sweetness enhanced by the vanilla and that hint of caramel from the brown sugar. I have been adding spoonfuls of this rhubarb compote to bowls of plain yoghurt and honestly, I can't get enough. It is also great with vanilla ice cream. (Just sayin'.)

Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

Simple Vanilla Rhubarb Compote
makes about 1 cup

This makes a somewhat small batch but that is a good thing, as this compote stays well for about a week or so. I find I go through the batch rather quickly, adding spoonfuls to plain yoghurt and ice cream. 

250g rhubarb, peeled and diced
80g granulated sugar
40g brown sugar
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

In a saucepan, combine the diced rhubarb, sugars, water, and vanilla bean paste. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Cook until the rhubarb is soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Refrigerate in an air-tight conditioner.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

thyme for spring (or, 17 recipes that use thyme)


My birthday was last Friday and one of the things I got was a huge thyme plant. I use thyme in just about everything I cook, and can't stop looking at this beautiful plant hanging out on my dining table. (Having moved a few weeks ago, my apartment is still mainly filled with boxes and one thing I am desperately lacking is a side table or two.) Because my love for this earthy thyme is only growing day by day, I figured I'd share this beautiful herb and some uses for it I found from around the web.

Thyme is a very aromatic, earthy-flavoured herb that works well with many things, from vegetables to meat. I find thyme works really well in soups and stews, though it often is a part of a combination of herbs, more in a supporting role than a lead. I also love seasoning my ground beef with thyme, especially when it comes to Bolognese sauce or meatballs. Thyme is rather hardy, making it able to withstand long cooking times and should be added in the beginning of the cooking process. It can be used both fresh and dried.

Thyme works well with different meats, chicken and fish as well as in soups and stews, especially if they are tomato-based. Thyme goes well with pretty much all vegetables (mushrooms, onions and tomatoes especially) and beans. Like I said, I use thyme in just about everything I cook. In case of dessert, I find thyme pairs well with citrus fruits and honey.

Uses for thyme

The earthy flavour of thyme works really great in soups, such as cauliflower soup with sharp cheddar and thyme, the classic French onion souproasted tomato and thyme soup, or roasted tomato & carrot soup with mozzarella-thyme croutons.  For some heartier main course ideas, how about trying this lemon thyme chicken or Boeuf Bourguignon.

If you are looking for a side dish, some great options with thyme are parsnip gratin with gruyere and thymeroasted carrots with thymecrusted butternut squash with thyme and garlic and thyme quinoa patties. These lemon and thyme rolls would be a great accompaniment for a soup.

Not only is thyme great in savoury dishes but also in sweets: try lemon, honey & thyme sorbetblackberry thyme buttermilk sconesstone fruit in lemon thyme syrup with creme fraiche or peach tart with thyme sugar. This apple thyme cake with caramel sauce and these thyme lemon tartlets are definitely on my to-make-soon list.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

chickpea and kale soup

Chickpea and Kale Soup

Behind the silence on this blog, I have moved. Into a new (well, new-to-me) apartment (well, studio); on my own for the first time. These past few weeks have been spent packing and unpacking, working and sleeping, learning new routines and what it means to live alone, running errands and doing things I never even thought of before. The day before moving, I went back to work from my study break with five more hours a week on my contract.

It has been busy, to say the least.

Spring is finally making its way here, though, the warmth of the sun melting all the coldness away. After months of all hues of gray, the sudden brightness is sure to refresh and recreate. In the wake of the life that seems to be stirring up, a craving for lightness is grasping a tighter hold, making itself noticed. The nights still remain cold and I am reluctant to completely let go of the comfort of that a bowl of hot soup brings. So this soup was made, to tide over the business and the days of undecided weather.

Chickpea and Kale Soup 3
This is simple yet flavourful soup is sure to satisfy. A spin-off on the minestrone I often make, this soup is both light and somewhat hearty, thanks to the kale and chickpeas. To make this a meal on its own, you could add a cup of small pasta or elbow macaroni when adding the kale and chickpeas and cook until the pasta is done, about 10 minutes. Serving this soup with some good whole grain bread is highly recommended.

Chickpea and Kale Soup
serves 4

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 to 3 medium carrots
2 to 3 celery stalks

1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 (400g) can diced tomatoes
3 to 4 cups vegetable stock

1 (400g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 cups chopped kale
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Peel and dice the onion and carrots. Peel and mince the garlic. Wash and dice the celery stalks. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Sauté until the onion starts softening; add the spices, diced tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, stirring once in a while.

After the 25 minutes, add the chickpeas and kale. Simmer until the soup is heated through and the kale has wilted, about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

citrusy raspberry cornmeal cake

Citrusy Raspberry Cornmeal Cake

March came with a hefty snow storm. The icy roads became even more slippery and the shoveling continues. Evenings are spent with a blanket wrapped around the shoulders, a mug of tea in hand, fighting the chills while dreaming of the snow melting away. Yet there is something good even in this: a snow storm in March calls for baked goods, something cozy and sweet to drive away the blues settling in.

In my opinion? Nothing fights the blues as well as a cozy cake, bursting bright with juicy berries and citrus fruit.

Citrusy Raspberry Cornmeal Cake 3

These cozy everyday cakes have stolen my heart. Now, it is not likely that I would turn down any kind of cake, let alone a fancy one. But there is something in these cakes, fit for any - and every - time of the day. Usually they aren't anything special to look at; nothing to make them stand apart. Yet when given the chance, they take their place, providing that easy and sweet moment of time that is meant to be enjoyed.

Another thing that I love about everyday cakes is their easiness. Best times with only one bowl and a spoon, these cakes are delicious as they are, stripped bare. Yet they can be fancied up easily, with a simple frosting or maybe whipped cream, without having to put hours into it. Honestly, what's not to love about that?

Citrusy Raspberry Cornmeal Cake 2

This cake, I can't help but love. The slightly coarse texture from the cornmeal makes the cake really interesting. Raspberries and that hint of citrus fruits provide a burst of brightness. For serving, crème fraîche is mixed with lemon curd to enhance the citrus flavour while the slight tang brings everything together.

Originally, I wanted to make this cake with a clear taste of lemon on the background but as it happened, I forgot to buy lemons. We had a grapefruit, though, so that's what I used and ended up loving it. Whether you use lemon or grapefruit or even orange for that matter, it will be delicious.

Citrusy Raspberry Cornmeal Cake with Lemon Curd Crème Fraîche
adapted from bleubird blog
makes one 9-inch cake

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 to 2 tbsp lemon curd
1/2 tsp grapefruit or lemon zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup sour cream
2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the lemon curd, zest and vanilla.

Set aside about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture. Stir in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture to the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the sour cream, then the other half of the flour mixture until just combined. Combine the raspberries with the 1/4 cup of the flour mixture; fold in to the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it cool to room temperature before serving. Serve with a good dollop of lemon curd crème fraîche.

Lemon Curd Crème Fraîche: mix 1 cup of crème fraîche with 4 to 5 tbsp of lemon curd.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

favourites: february 2013

Break from studying.

It has been really warm and nicely sunny the past few days, making me sure that spring is here. That said, the weather forecast is promising a cold weekend with freezing nights and I already see bowls of soup and cups of warm beverages being enjoyed. Still, the hope of spring is here to stay.

  • This black tea cake with honey buttercream would be perfect with that cup of tea in the afternoon. Or maybe with a cup of coffee so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds, coffee and tea.
  • These Vanilla Lemon Swirl Bars will definitely be in my near future. They look oh so amazing and I just happen to have a jar of lemon curd waiting to be used.
  • How to dry a bottle. I love bottles, especially the cheap but good-looking ones from IKEA, and here's a great way to dry a bottle after washing it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

cowboy cookies

When life gets too hectic, what do you do?

I have an ability to make my life rather busy at times. Somehow it all builds up, unnoticed. In the midst the daily routines, you start new projects, help a friend or a family member, find a new hobby, work on that never-ending to-do list or on your New Year's resolutions. Suddenly, you find yourself staring at your calendar with that to-do list in hand, wondering where to fit in everything that needs to be done this week - or today.

Eventually there will be a time when you have to sit down, to schedule your life all over. Something needs to be cut out, set aside for a moment or two until you can catch up on your life again. Or if you are in denial, you try to continue to make it through. I have tried that as well.

Texas Cowboy Cookies

But when life gets hectic? I start baking.

It should not make sense to me, that out of all things I can do I always go back to baking. Yet it somehow does. Though baking takes time and energy, both of which I lack at times, the result is worth it. And these cookies are somehow perfect for this situation. They are everything at once and first, it is difficult to get a clear picture on exactly what they are trying to be. Sweet and crunchy, yet also slightly chewy in the center. Packed with all the good stuff; chocolate, coconut, oats. It doesn't take long for everything to fall into its place and suddenly, these cookies were just that thing that was missing.

And it doesn't hurt that these cookies are huge.

Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies
adapted from a cup of mascarpone
makes about 1 1/2 to 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

170g (3/4 cup) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional) *

Preheat oven to 175C (350F).

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, beat together the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in the sugars and beat for a couple minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, rolled oats, coconut and nuts, if using.

Drop 1/4 cup of dough on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches between the cookies. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, then turn the baking tray around (front to back) and bake for another 8 to 9 minutes, until the edges have slightly browned.

* Note: Because of nut allergies in our family, I didn't add nuts to these cookies. The original recipe calls for pecans, though I think walnuts would also be delicious.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

sour cream banana bread

When we lived in the States, I used to babysit for a Finnish-American family with three sweet under 4-year-olds. Let me tell you, all of those kids absolutely loved bananas. There would always be a huge bunch of them sitting on the kitchen counter and the kids would munch on them whenever given one. Sometimes, though, it happened that a few of those bananas went brown. Those times, the mom would bake banana bread that, in my opinion, was the best of them all.

Somehow, though, I never got the recipe. Since moving back to Finland, I have been making banana bread every now and then, trying different recipes to find the right one, like hers. Finally, a few months back, a friend of mine had baked banana bread and to my surprise, it tasted very much like the banana bread I had been craving for so long.

Banana Bread

Bananas in this household usually get brown and baked into something. I buy bananas every now and then, usually for running fuel, or sometimes Grandma gives me a bunch. Often I manage to eat only one or two before they are sitting forgotten in a corner, getting brown. Yet, I find it difficult to feel bad about this because brown, spotty bananas mean delicious baked goods. And those baked goods are made without guilt because hey, those bananas really needed to be used.

This banana bread is sweet with a hint of caramel, thanks to the brown sugar and vanilla. The spices come through just so, deepening the sweetness and the flavour of the bananas. It is somewhat dense, yet with a soft, tender crumb. You can skip the crumb topping if you want more of a breakfast-like banana bread; for me, this (like all banana breads) falls into the dessert category and the crumb topping is more than welcome.

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Sour Cream Banana Bread
adapted from Allrecipes
makes 1 (9x5-inch) loaf and a few muffins OR 2 smaller (7x4-inch) loaves

I halved the original recipe as it is rare that I would have 6 very ripe bananas at the same time. If at any point you do have, though, I'd suggest making the whole recipe (that is, doubling this recipe), yielding three (9x5-inch) loaves, and freezing one or two.

2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

90g (6 tbsp) butter
3/4 to 1 cup white sugar (depending how sweet you like)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
225g sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
a good pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of cloves

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
40g cold salted butter

Preheat oven to 160C (325F). In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp white sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Grease a loaf pan (or pans) and dust it with the cinnamon sugar.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).

In a small bowl, rub together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and cold butter until the mixture resembles sand. Sprinkle the crumb on the top. Bake the 9x5-inch loaf for about 1 hour 15 minutes, 7x4-inch loaf for about 1 hour and muffins for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Sweet bunch of roses (3/365)

I have been busy and feeling under the weather this week, and therefore there is no planned post. So here is a peek into what my life is like right now, or parts of it, at least.

READING for the university entrance exams coming in May.  I just started this week and so far, I am exhausted and overwhelmed. I'm hoping it will get easier soon. Other than that, I am pretty much reading just my Bible because there's too much going on in my head right now. This post about fear has been on my mind a lot lately, as well.

THINKING ABOUT limits in my life. Mostly because I feel like I have been pushing myself too far and still it feels like not enough. And, well, there is only so much I can do. I have also been thinking about how what I believe about God affects my experiencing Him. He is Almighty, He can do anything and everything. But if I don't believe He can do something when He tells me He will? Well, that's a thought right there. Putting faith into action, is what I am getting at here.

LOOKING FORWARD TO a trip to the US in June. Nothing has been set or booked yet but I am looking into what there is to do and to see in Orlando. Also, I am looking forward to banana bread. There are four large bananas browning on our kitchen counter, which means I'll be making banana bread this weekend.

LOVING the snow, which honestly surprises me. Usually in February, I am getting pretty fed up with the cold and snow but right now it is so beautiful outside. I have also been loving our Saturday breakfasts lately. Last Saturday, it was crepes. This Saturday, who knows.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

favourites: january 2013


January is many things: wintery, snow-filled, cold, still dark. January also often holds the most beautiful winter days when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. In the mornings, my favourite is always that moment when the sun is just about to rise and there is a golden hue coming from behind the hills and trees. Many evenings, the sky takes on a purple hue; sometimes, it is burning with orange and red. So though I am starting to be done with the cold and the darkness, I have been able to delight in beauty.

  • I had never even heard of budino but this Meyer Lemon Budino looks like the perfect dessert for these winter days. I mean, a dessert that combines pudding, cheesecake and sponge cake? Exactly.
  • This post about how moms can help grow relationships with non-moms. So true.
  • A great post on the seemingly perfect lives that bloggers are sharing, and how it's important to notice that there is no such thing as 100% perfect.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

cauliflower red lentil stew

A sunny Monday makes a happy Monday. (21/365)

Though I am trying to convince myself that I don't like winter, the sunny winter days that I have been enjoying lately are telling me otherwise. Vibrant blue sky during the day, piles of pure white snow glimmering in the sunlight, frosty tree tops, starry sky in the night - it is all so very beautiful. After the darkness of the past month or two, I am soaking up every moment of light and cherishing the warmth of the sun on my cheeks. Though my nose still gets bright red and my fingers frozen numb whenever I am outside, the days are finally getting longer and lightness is once again taking its place.

It is cold, though. Very much so. The past Saturday was the coldest this winter, the temperatures around -10F here. It isn't quite as bad anymore but there are days when the cold seems to be set in my bones. Those days, I'll take all the warmth I can find, from many layers of clothes to bowls of soup and mugs of tea.

cauliflower red lentil stew

I have been making this stew for a couple years now, and it is a family favourite. This is the stick-to-your-ribs kind of stew; hearty yet healthy, and spicy just the right way. Though I love this thick stew, it could also easily be turned into a soup by adding more stock. Whichever way, this is a wonderful meal to power you through the cold days.

The last time I made this was last winter, a few days after Christmas. A snow storm was passing through Finland so I made a pot of this stew for dinner, to warm us up. Many households in the area had lost electricity because of the storm and we were practically waiting to lose ours. Just as I turned off the stove, the stew ready, the power went out. That evening, we ate our dinner by candlelight, then camped close together on the couch.

Cauliflower Red Lentil Stew
adapted from Food52
serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 cups red lentils, picked over
warm water

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander

2 to 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

+ plenty of fresh cilantro to serve

Measure the lentils into a bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of warm water; set aside.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion. When the onion starts to soften, add garlic, ginger, and spices; sauté for 1 minute. Pour the red lentils with the water into the pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil; turn down the heat to medium low. Add the sliced carrots and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, stir in the cauliflower florets. Add more water, if needed. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The more you stir, the more the cauliflower florets are going to break down, though.

Salt to taste and serve with plenty of fresh cilantro.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

coffee pudding with lemon cream

Coffee pudding with lemon cream

Coffee is an important part of my grandparents' lives. Having lived through the Second World War and the Winter War, they both know what it is like to be without, to live on the bare necessities of life. My grandfather fought in the war, but he doesn't talk about it. My grandmother is more than willing to talk about her past; filtered and chosen versions, though, I'm sure.

Because of the war, they both went through years of coffee substitute. It seems at times as if they need coffee just to be reminded of what isn't anymore; that it is long since the war. Nowadays, as soon as 2pm rolls around, a pot of coffee is brewed and served with something sweet, usually homemade. To skip the coffee in the afternoon is unheard of.

Many times I have been sitting at their small, round kitchen table. A glass of juice - or nowadays, a cup of steaming coffee in my hand, waiting for Grandma to finish going through the cupboards for all the sweets they have. Pastries or a pie, cookies, ice cream, chocolate. There would always be something; usually quite the spread of goods. If there were ready cut pieces, the biggest one would be given to me. If there were only two pieces left for the three of us, my grandparents would share a piece to give me a whole one. Once we all had something on our plates, Grandma would start talking - about anything and everything. Stories of their neighbours, of their lives, of whatever had happened to them that week. The constant flow of her talking would not stop until one of us would get up from the table, finished long ago but not wanting to leave.

Coffee pudding with lemon cream

Coffee is slowly making its way into my life, as well. The last year of high school, I drank a lot of coffee just to stay awake to study for my finals. Nowadays, I drink coffee more for the pleasure of it than for the caffeine. It is a slow but sure process for me, to fall for coffee more and more every day. Most of my favourite moments involve coffee: a steaming cup of coffee in the morning when reading my Bible, the occasional indulgent latté in the afternoon when writing or reading.

Not only does coffee go well with sweets, it often is great in desserts. A shot of espresso in brownies - or pretty much anything made of chocolate - makes them all the more better. As it turns out, coffee also makes a great pudding. Paired with sweetened vanilla lemon cream, this pudding is packed with flavour. Though the days are longer, I still feel like a little extra energy is needed at times and this is just the dessert for those days.

Coffee Pudding with Lemon Cream
adapted from The First Mess
serves 4 to 6

* I have made this with cream and coconut milk, and I love it both ways. Using coconut milk doesn't impart coconut flavour. Rather, it just makes this pudding an easy, from-the-pantry dessert.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup milk) OR coconut milk *
1/2 cup espresso or strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
a good pinch of salt

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt; make sure there are no lumps. In a saucepan, bring cream and coffee to a boil, stirring constantly. Once boiling, vigorously whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Let it boil for 1 minute, than take off the heat. Spoon into serving cups and sprinkle sugar on top to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Vanilla Lemon Cream

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tbsp sugar
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar

In a bowl, whip the cream, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until soft peaks start forming. Spoon a dollop of cream on top of the pudding and enjoy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

do not stand at my grave and weep

One beautiful Monday. (7/365)

I have been carrying a poem with me these past few weeks. It's a favourite of many, I assume, and it is a favourite of mine. There are a couple different versions of this poem and different claims of authorship have been made, though it is now generally attributed to Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Friday, January 11, 2013

homemade yoghurt

Homemade Yoghurt

Our family has never been one of the extreme homemaking kind. Surely, and thankfully, we have never eaten much prepared foods and eating out has been somewhat of a rarer thing. (Eating out is not a thing in our culture like it is in the States.) Cakes would occasionally be baked, and there were a few years of making ice cream with our ice cream maker. However, there also were the canned pasta sauces and pre-made meatballs because corners needed to be cut. With two busy parents, there wasn't time to bake bread or make everything from scratch. Nonetheless, we were always served homey and healthy meals, even though there was the occasional shortcut or two.

What started, I believe, as a part of expanding my views, I now rather enjoy the process of making things myself. It is the discovering through the processes that keeps me hooked, and what makes it worth the time and effort put into the making. When baking something, there is always a little freedom to adapt the recipe to my taste. Brown sugar instead of white, a hefty dash of cinnamon, rolled oats sprinkled on top, fresh herbs kneaded into the dough. Whether sweet or savoury, there is room for adaptation. When cooking something, there is rather much freedom, to add and to omit. Don't like something? Leave it out. Love something? Try adding it.

There have been loaves of bread kneaded, bowls of cake and muffin batter stirred, big batches of granola baked. All this to experiment, to explore, to discover.

Homemade Yoghurt

Making yoghurt is something more than just experimenting, though. It is a step deeper into the paths of homemade things. To me, it has always been one of the extremes, like pasta, what with all the yoghurt makers and right temperatures. Then I found Jamie Oliver's recipe for homemade yoghurt and gave it a try. As it turns out, making yoghurt is much easier than I would have thoughts.

Discovering, is what all this making at home is about.

Homemade Yoghurt

Homemade Yoghurt
from The Naked Chef Takes Off

1 litre whole milk
200 ml plain yoghurt (with active cultures)

In a thick-bottomed pot, heat the milk until boiling, stirring all the time. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool until it is lukewarm, about 40 minutes. Whisk in the yoghurt, cover, and leave to room temperature for about 8 hours. The yoghurt you use as the base will affect the consistency, as different yoghurts react a little differently.

Refrigerate in an airtight container. The yoghurt will keep for about a week.

Friday, January 4, 2013

ricotta cheesecake

Ricotta Cheesecake

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions.

New Year's resolutions have always felt somewhat silly to me. To make a list of resolutions, resolving - firmly determined - to accomplish a whole list of challenging items, only to notice a month or two later that maybe you bit off more than you could chew. It is not unspoken of to accomplish every single resolution but more often than not, it won't happen. At least not many years in a row. Unless you are a Superman of sorts.

Right there is also the reason I am not one to make a list of resolutions. As someone who is rather afraid of failure, it seems too much for me to make a list and set myself up for failure. Not that I don't face failure in my everyday life, because I do. More than I would like. Yet with a list of resolutions - a list for which I am accountable only to myself - the pressure to exceed myself is too much. So there are no New Year's resolutions, not for me.

Ricotta Cheesecake

Though there are no resolutions, there is a hope. A dream, a goal. You see, I love making lists, of anything and everything. One afternoon with a cup of coffee in my hand, I set to make a list of what I would hope for the coming year. A couple things made it on the list. Things that aren't for this year but for life. Things that resonate with my heart; with who I am and who I wish to be. Things that are somewhat vague, to make sure there is no pressure but only honest desire.

I want to grow closer to the Lord. I want to learn more about Him and be all the more amazed every day; to walk with Him in all things; to trust Him in and with all.

I want to express myself more and better. Specifically with my actions - to do everything with love - but also through writing and photography.

Both of these are rather, well, undecided matter as in there is no specific place to arrive at. There is no time limit, no hurry to accomplish these on time. There is just this desire for these two to happen, a desire to make these two happen.

Ricotta Cheesecake

Because there are no New Year's resolutions, there is cheesecake.

Cheesecake has long been one of my favorite desserts. Even more so after eating at Cheesecake Factory a couple times when we lived in the States. Yet, this is my first 'real', baked cheesecake. Honestly, I have been somewhat terrified of baking something that contains a few pounds of cream cheese. Yet it was inevitable that at some point, a cheesecake would be made.

Plain cheesecake with strawberry sauce is somewhat of a classic, and a good one at that. This cheesecake does not, however, contain those two pounds of cream cheese as some has been replaced with ricotta cheese. It still does contain almost a pound and a half of cream cheese because some things should not be altered.

Ricotta Cheesecake
adapted from Glorian Ruoka&Viini

175g graham crackers or digestive cookies
75g butter, melted

600g cream cheese
250g ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 175C. Line the inside bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Wrap aluminium foil around the bottom and sides of the outside of the pan. Crush the cookies and mix with the melted butter. Press on the bottom of the springform pan. Refrigerate the crust while making the filling.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese can ricotta until smooth. Add the sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt; beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Pour into the springform pan and smooth the top if needed.

Place the springform pan into a baking pan with high sides and place the baking pan into the oven on the lower rack. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is set but still a little jiggly in the center, about 1 hour. Chill the cheesecake in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

For a quick strawberry sauce, thaw some frozen strawberries with a little sugar in a pot. Purée with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add a splash of vanilla extract to bring out the flavor of the strawberries.