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.