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.