51 Posts! + Giveaway

Giveaway is now closed.

It turns out my last post was my 50th! Yay! But I only got aware of it after WordPress alerted me to the fact. -.-

Anyway, I wanted to celebrate that with you, dear readers! For those of you sewing people: stay tuned, there’s a giveaway for you! For you interested in food I will give a very delicious (though equally easy) recipe at the end. Those of you who read this out of nosiness (hi soul-mates!), there is some nosying to get done as well, as I will share some holiday pictures from Sicily and Switzerland.

But beware, this is going to be lengthy and picture heavy.


First, Sewing People:

In my last post I promised to write a bit more about the outfit I wore in those pictures:

Summery Outfit

Both pieces are from patterns by Deer&Doe. The top is their (FREE!) Plantain t-shirt, while the shorts are the Chataigne, view A. At first I was a bit underwhelmed by their Plantain pattern. But as I saw more and more versions popping up, I liked it more and more and finally caved. I mean, it’s free, what could I lose?

Deer&Doe Pantain Shirt – Customised even further

Nothing, that’s what. Especially since I used a small piece of fabric from my stash (ca. 1m), that had arrived cut completely off grain, and that got even worse after washing. So making this shirt was going to be a muslin, wearability optional. I chose the size that corresponds to my current bust measurement (which is… different) and it fits really well, even throughout the shoulders (I was worried it was going too big). I didn’t put any effort in this shirt whatsoever. You can see (if looking closely) that, apart from the off-graininess, the neckband is uneven (I didn’t pin) and I didn’t finish either sleeves nor hem and just let them roll. I also tested some stenceling I wanted to try for a while. I used a stencil from Ed Roth’s Stencil 201 and some textile colours I had laying around. In the end the shirt turned out quite alright, and I already used the pattern for a different project I might or might not blog at some later point.

Now the shorts are quite something as well. I (thought I) needed shorts for our short trip to Sicily at the beginning of June. Obviously none fit, so I wanted to make some. I had bought the Chataigne shortly before finding out I was expecting. At first I thought I was going to postpone to next year, but then I stumbled upon Gigette’s version. Genius in it’s simplicity! I made view A, though (she made view B), as I had traced that. Like her, I just replaced the waistband fabric with jersey and followed the rest of the pattern quite faithfully. (One tiny thing I changed was instead of sewing the cuffs by hand, topstitching them.)

Deer&Doe Chataigne – Maternified

I cut the size that corresponded to my measurements, and I’d say they fit as they should. I wasn’t too sure about the length, so lengthened them by 5cm (which I then removed again). I was also worried if they would flatter my slightly stumpy legs and shapely thighs.

Deer&Doe Chataigne – Back view

After asking the honest opinion of my mother-in-law and sister (who are both delightfully ruthless), I’m happy with them. The fit is quite comfortable, and they don’t do too strange things in the butt area. They accommodate my belly and fit well with my wardrobe. In the end I am going to postpone another pair to next year, but this time I’ll try the non-maternity version. (There’s some more thoughts on the pattern’s review, if you are interested)

 

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY: I have accidentally bought two of this short pattern, so want to give one away. Just leave me a comment saying that you want the pattern and how I can contact you. Giveaway ends on Monday June 30 2014.

 


Now, Nosy People:

For you less text, more pictures. If you read the previous section, you know that I went to Sicily in the beginning of June. The occasion was to look at wedding locations and sample some of the restaurants. In both respects we succeeded. We looked and sampled. However, we haven’t decided on anything yet. But we got to see some nice scenery:

Sunset View From the Parco Degli Ulivi – Almost all of the Aeolian Islands were visible

But wait? Aren’t we already married? Yes we are, but we want to celebrate with family and friends next Summer. So, since we are not very good planners, we need to start now.

In food news, we got to eat the most delicious sicilian food at one of PHD’s (perfect husband and dad (soon…)) aunt’s. Seriously, I’d be happy to have her cook the wedding dinner:

Caponata Siciliana – The best!

Marinated Zucchini – Garlic, olive oil, vinegar and parsley

Melanzane a Bocca di Lupo – Probably the tastiest eggplant recipe ever!

Unfortunately I forgot to ask the recipes for any of these. I was busy eating. Don’t judge, okay? But I will share another really tasty Sicilian eggplant recipe at the end of the post.

Apart from viewing and eating, we did some driving in an original 1972 Fiat 500. Or at least we tried to:

The Joys of Vintage Cars – Fiat 500

Unfortunately it was rather cold, so the shorts I made were of no use. I could live with that, but we weren’t even able to swim in the sea… 😦 And then, when the weather started to be more characteristic, I left for Switzerland. Which was uncharacteristically hot. But I was totally fine with that, as I got to experience some new outdoor restaurants, like this one:

Frau Gerold’s Garten – Mixture between urban farming, hipster hangout and beer garden

I love these types of alternative city spaces and wish there’d be something similar here in Jyväskylä. Ah well, maybe I’ll find some this summer (seein as I wasn’t here in Summer before).

Apart from visiting friends in all corners of the German speaking Switzerland, I mostly hung out with my mamma at home. I mean, I grew up in a busy (in Summer) tourist town. There must be a reason so many people want to visit, right? I guess I know which one it is:

The Jungfrau – Half hidden behind the trees

Yep, this is the view from my balcony. Not half bad. On holidays that is. I prefer flat countryside for everyday living. Good for me I’m back in Finland now!


 

Finally, the Recipe!

Today’s recipe is a Sicilian classic:

Penne alla Norma

Pasta Alla Norma

Ingredients (for 4 people)

350g pasta (penne or rigatoni are best)

ca. 500g eggplant (aubergine)

1 small onion, diced

1 can (450g) pelati (canned tomatoes) or 500g ripe fresh tomatoes, diced

100g ricotta fornata (can be replaced with ricotta salata or a little parmesan or pecorino), grated

salt to taste

Preparation

Wash the eggplant, slice it in thick slices, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Wash and squeeze the eggplants thoroughly, then fry in a little olive oil until golden brown, let dry on some kitchen paper and cut in strips. In the meantime sauté the onion lightly in a little olive oil, add the tomatoes and salt to taste and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package. When the pasta is ready, add all the prepared ingredients and sprinkle the ricotta on top. Eat immediately.


 

And that’s it for now. Longest post I ever wrote, but covered all of my three main topics. See you again when I announce the giveaway winner!

Summer Switch

Apparently someone found the switch to turn on Summer. On Friday last week I was still wearing my guilty coat and rainboots, it was raining and under 10°C. Then BAM! on Monday it was sunny all day (which currently lasts 18.5 hours) and 31°C! I’m not complaining, though! Together with the weather the plants changed:

Suddenly the Grass is Green!

This is a house close to the city center. I love how it contrasts with the green! And green there is plenty to be had:

Juicy Green!

It’s so nice to see this colour after the long grey and brown period we had. But that’s not all, there are even some trees in bloom:

Flowers!

Aaaah, if it stays this way, I am extremely happy to be here this Summer. But let’s not get my hopes up too high, on Tuesday it’s supposed to get to 10°C again. 😦 But until then I’m enjoying with all my might! Today we’ll have a BBQ, and I prepared some traditional Swiss BBQ side: potatoe salad! It’s not a BBQ if there’s no potatoe salad (even if the Finns don’t seem to be aware of this fact).

Potatoes Salad – Closeup

Preparing this is easy, if a bit time consuming. Basically you boil, peel and slice the potatoes, add broth, mayonese, mustard, spring onions, white vinegar (I use wine vinegar) and salt (if needed), mix well and let stand for a while to let the flavours get absorbed into the potatoes. Yum!

Sorry, gotta run, there’s a tomatoe salad still to be made!

P.S: my outfit is self-made, will blog later.

Still no Sewing – But a Recipe

While my tiredness has passed and my “cutting table” is finally rid of the mess, I still haven’t brought myself to use it. But instead, since I do cook almost every day, I thought I’d share another recipe with you. And also with me, because I tend to forget how I make this and have to painfully dig out the memory with an intense hypnosis session… (Hahahaha! Just kidding!)

Anyway, this recipe involves one of my favourite vegetables: Swiss chard. It is, according to Wikipedia, extremely healthy and full of all the good things like vitamins, minerals, fibres and even protein. I like it because of it’s mild but erathy taste. One of my Grandma’s used to grow it in her garden, and hence we had it often at her place. She only used the stems of it, though. So for a long time I thought the leaves were not edible. Turns out I was very wrong. Not only are they edible, they’re equally delicious as the stems, but a bit stronger in taste. The only drawback of this great veggie is that it’s highly seasonal (Spring). And that I havent seen it in supermarkets here (doesn’t mean much, though, as I wasn’t here last spring, also the fact that it has a Finnish name (lehtimangoldi) gives me hope).  So why am I publishing the recipe now? Well, because I can! 😀

And because I just found the picture from last time I made it:

Swiss Chard Gratin

I know, I know. Another Gratin. I just love this stuff! The recipe is based on one I found in the Swiss cookbook “Vielseitige Gemüseküche” by Betty Bossi. The book doesn’t have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), so I guess it’s only available in Switzerland. Which is a pity, because, let me tell you, Betty Bossi is a (fictional) cooking goddess. She single-handedly changed the cooking habits of Swiss people. Unfortunately most of the cookbooks are only available in German or French. Which is why I don’t feel too bad in publishing this recipe here (plus, it’s and adaptation, so there!). If you understand either French or German, or both, I suggest getting one of her books (or check out the website, there are also free recipes). If not, there is one available in English: The Swiss Cook Book (Amazon link).

Swiss Chard Potato Gratin
Serves 3-4, depending on hunger levels

Ingredients
250ml (1 cup) of water
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1kg Swiss chard, leaves removed and sliced in thin slices, stems peeled and cut in 5cm pieces
500g potatoes, peeled and cut in slices
50g smoked tofu (or bacon) diced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter or oil
180g sour cream
Salt, pepper and ground muscat to taste
2 Tbsp grated cheese (Greyerz is best, but use whatever you like that melts nicely and has a bit of a taste)

Preparation
Preheat oven to 220°C, grease a casserole dish. Then bring water, salt and lemon juice to a boil in a small pot. Add chard stems and potatoes and let simmer for about 15 minutes, until slightly soft, then drain. Meanwhile, sauté the onions and tofu (or bacon) in the butter in a large pan for about 1 minute. Add chard leaves, stir and contiue to sauté until they start to wilt. Season with salt, pepper and ground muscat. Add the sour cream and bring to a boil. Add the softened chard stems and potatoes to the casserole dish, cover with the chard leaves mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese and gratinate in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the cheese has turned golden brown. Serve still hot.

P.S: yes, I’m still supposed to be working on my thesis. D’oh!

I Host the Lazy Way…

… after all I’m lazylinchen…

As I’ve written in my last post, we’ve had guests over quite frequently lately. I love having people over, as then I have unsuspecting test subjects the occasion to try new recipes. Sometimes, however, I feel like taking the lazy route, which has happened quite often lately, I have to admit. This might be due to my low energy levels at the moment. Or the fact that I like to spend time actually socialising instead of being the cook in the kitchen just listening to the conversation. (I flatter myself with thinking it’s the latter…) Therefore I love to have social foods like Fondue or Raclette, which require minimum cooking, but make a great impression. So that’s what we did the first several times we had people over after coming back home. However, we soon ran out of the 3kg of cheese I had brought back from Switzerland. Also, I got a bit sick of molten cheese. Then PB reminded me that we could make one of his favourite dishes:

Crepes/Galettes with Spinach Filling

What he calles crepes, what I call omelettes, and what we probably should call galettes. I loved the idea, as they are quite easy to prepare beforehand. And it’s also easy to cater to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. It’s also perfect for surprise guests, as I usually have everything that is needed at home. Somehow, it also seems to impress most guests, even if they are super simple to make. So quadruple win!

Up first, the base, also known as galettes/crepes:

Galettes/Crepes – Nicely piled

Galettes / Salty Crepes
Recipe is for one person, just multiply for the needed amount

Ingredients
50g flour
1 egg
0.5dl milk
0.5dl water
1 pinch of salt

Preparation
Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately first, then mix together. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Heat a little bit of oil or butter in a pan on medium heat. Pour a little of the dough (I use one scoop of a soup ladle per crepe) in the pan and let it spread evenly throughout. Cook until top is dry enough to turn and underside is golden brown, then turn (I use a ladle, but if you’re brave, flip it in the air like you just don’t care (I know, I rolled my eyes at myself, but couldn’t resist…)). Pile on a plate and keep warm in the oven at 50°C. You can also prepare a day or so beforehand and then re-warm it in the oven half an hour before the guests arrive.

I know it’s super basic, but hey, I said it’s the lazy way! But what’s making this guest-appropriate are the fillings. You’re free to use any salty or sweet creamy filling you can think of: tomato sauce, cheesy sauce bechamel, sauce bolognaise etc. for the salty, or nutella, apple sauce, jam etc. for the sweet. Of course shredded cheese, fried bacon strips/cubes, sliced mushrooms etc. and fruits like cubed pineapple or bananana* also work really well. My favourite is a spinach filling inspired by Aloo Palak or Palak Paneer. I say inspired, because it’s not quite as exotic and doesn’t require many spices. Basicall all you need is

Ingredients
1 onion, diced
frozen spinach (I use 100g per person)
1 tsp garam masala
cream (optional)

Preparation
Heat a bit of oil or butter in a saucepan, saute the onion until transparent, add the garam masala and spinach, cover and let cook on low heat until all the spinach is unfrozen and hot. Add the cream if desired and let everything get hot. Tastes best with grated cheese rolled in the crepes/galettes/omelette.

That’s it. I’m almost embarassed to admit my lazyness in hosting. But then again, this is one of PB’s favourite dishes we talk about, so it’s got to be worth something. So if you visit me and I cook this, don’t be offended at my lazyness, now that you know my secret. Instead, think that PB considers you special enough to be served one of his favourite dishes. 😉

*Of course a tip of the hat to one of my favourite fictional characters Nanny Ogg: “Nanny Ogg knew how to start spelling ‘banana’, but didn’t know how you stopped.” ― Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

It’s Pumpkin Season (even in Finland)!

Pumpkin Gratin / Casserole

As long promised, this is going to be a recipe post. Once again it’s one of my favourite recipes. It’s made even more special with the fact that the main ingredient (pumpkin) is only available for a short time of the year. Last year I didn’t have ANY! 😦

While there were pumpkins in the supermarket, they seemed to me to be decorative, rather than edible. I was convinced they don’t exist here (I’m rather prejudiced about this country’s agricultural produce. Prejudice is never good, but it’s like Christmas every time I get proven wrong!) So when I saw this big and rather less than stellar looking pumpkin (ergo it cannot be decorative, and therefore HAS to be edible), I immediately had to buy it! Poor PB had to suffer the consequences and carry it home. 😉

Then I let it sit in my kitchen for a week, drawing out the anticipation for this dish. Also: My Mamma makes it with bacon, so I had to think what to replace that with. But then I just forged ahead and made it with smoked tofu (I tend to use this to achieve that smoked flavour that I love about bacon. Tofu or smoked paprika). It was as delicious as the original and PB and I kinda fought over the last bits (Me: “I’d like some leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.” PB: “Why do you always get to eat the leftovers? I want some too!” So we settled for PB having lunch at home the next day and we shared).

But where’s the freaking recipe?! Give it to me already! I imagine you yelling at the screen, grabbing it ferociously (I have a weird and lively imagination). So without much more ado, there you go:

Pumkin Gratin (from my Mamma)
(Should theoretically serve 4, but we usually eat all of this in 3)

Ingredients
1Tbsp butter or oil
100g smoked tofu, cut in small cubes
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1kg pumpkin, skinned and cut into big cubes
1Tbsp white wine vinegar
3dl vegetable broth

1Tbsp butter
2Tbsp flour
1.5dl cooking liquid
1 cup (around 180g-200g) créme fraîche
dill (the recipe asks for fresh, but I used dried), to taste
salt and ground nutmeg, to taste
1Tbsp Parmesan

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Prepare an ovenproof casserole dish.

Sauté the tofu, onions and garlic in the butter for about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, vinegar and broth and let simmer for 10-20 minutes (depending on the type of pumpkin and the size of the cubes) until pumpkin is just soft.

Add the pumpkin to the casserole, keeping the cooking liquid apart.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and roast (is that the right word?) for about 1 minute. Add the cooking liquid and let the butter/flour mixture dissolve completely. Remove from heat, add the remaining ingredients, except Parmesan, stir well, and pour over the pumpkin in the casserole.

Now sprinkle the Parmesan over the whole thing and bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until cheese is golden brown.

I usually eat it with bread or all by itself, but I think rice or potatoes might also fit.

P.S: I had an “accident”, publishing this post too early. Sorry if you receive this twice, or if you received this as a one sentence update…

Quick Post Containing Carrots

Well, I must like that vegetable. I already posted a carrot recipe, but here’s another one. This time it’s for the sweet tooth. (It seems there is an abundance of sweet stuff on here. It’s true, I like sweets!)

Carrot Mini-Muffins - With cream cheese frosting

Carrot Mini-Muffins – With lime cream cheese frosting

This particular recipe is a traditional cake from the Swiss canton (or region, if you want) of Aargau. It’s a bit of a neglected canton, and truth be told, I don’t know too much about it.  I know that it’s the canton which one of my grandmothers grew up in and that Aargauer Rüeblichueche is one of the most delicious (and thankfully simple) cakes to make and eat!

I was feeling the need for a little bit of Swiss comfort food lately, which coincided with a BBQ party we hosted about 2 weeks ago. I decided to make muffins and mini-muffins instead of a whole cake, as it is easier to handle in a house party setting. The party, as well as the muffins, were a big success.

The dough is enough for either a 24cm springform, about 20 muffins or I don’t know how many mini-muffins (I only had trays enough for 24 and had leftover dough for 12 regular muffins)

Ingredients for Cake/Muffins

5 eggs, separated
150g sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 Tbs warm water
1/2 lemon, just the peel
250g carrots, shredded
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of ground cloves
250g ground almonds
75g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preparation

Prepare springform or muffin tray. Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat egg yolks with sugar, salt and water until lightly coloured and fluffy. Mix in lemon peel and shredded carrots. Slowly fold in remaining ingredients. Fill in springform or muffin tray and bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 45-55 minutes (springform), or 20 minutes (regular muffins), or 15 minutes (mini-muffins).

For the traditional frosting, the cake should still be warm. For the cream cheese frosting, the cake should be completely cooled.

Traditional Frosting

This frosting is rather liquid, and therefore not suited (I think) for muffins. It adds, however, a nice freshness to the cake, which is why I include it here.

Ingredients

200g powdered (icing) sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
1-2 Tbs water

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle or brush over the still warm cake. Let cool completely before serving, as the frosting will need some time to set.

Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

I thought the muffins needed a bit of additional decoration, which is why I made this pipeable frosting. I mostly followed this recipe. I wanted it to be less sweet, though, so drastically reduced the powdered sugar.

Ingredients

225g cream cheese
65g powdered (icing) sugar
2 limes, zest and juice

Preparation

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Pipe onto completely cooled muffins, using your preferred nozzle or just a knife.

That’s it for now. I will write again shortly about my last week’s trip to the East coast. But one last picture that perfectly embodies the party we ate those muffins at:

Mustaches! - We still find them stuck to stuff around the house

Mustaches! – We still find them stuck to stuff around the house

We Went to Lappland! – And I Made Bread

PB and I went on a short trip to Lappland for Valentine’s day.

Obligatory Photo With Reindeer

Obligatory Photo With Reindeer

Our intent was to see the Aurora Borealis, but it was overcast for the whole three days, so no luck. (Even though we paid a lot of money for a safari. Well, next time we might just rent a car for the same amount and just drive somewhere on our own.) We went to Rovaniemi by overnight train. It was extremely comfortable and very quiet, to my surprise! (I’m used to Italian overnight trains, though) We even had our own bathroom with shower! Now that we know how easy it is to get to Lappland we will probably just check the weather forecast a week or so ahead and go search for northern lights without much planning.

So here are some pictures of what we did. We decided to do the touristy stuff full on, to get it over with.

PB at the Polar Circle - In Santa Claus village (typical tourist ripp off place)

PB at the Polar Circle in Santa Claus Village

Arctic Museum - Very nice building and mostly interesting exhibitions

Arctic Museum – Very nice building!

Channelling Japanese? - Not so much, just being silly, really

View on the Kemijoki? Ounasjoki? – I don’t know, they meet here

Danger, Danger!

Detail View of Ounasjoki or Kemijoki – It’s not as stable as the Jyväsjärvi, it seems

Snow Shoe Hike

Snow Shoe Hike – Not as exhausting as I feared

Some Trees at the Hike - You can interpret all sorts of things into these

Some Trees at the Hike – You can interpret all sorts of things into these

That was what we did in 2 days. The 3rd I spent in bed as I had underestimated the cold and got sick. Silly, I know. However, we still had a fabulous Valentine’s holiday, as we got to spend time together, just the two of us.

Apart from being away for this trip, we’ve had a “steady stream of visitors” as one of our Finnish friends put it. This might sound like a complaint, but I love to host people (one of my secret dreams is to one day run a guesthouse, like Corthna Lodge in Skull, Ireland, where I used to work). Also because I get to perform culinary experimets on them. Mwahahahaha!

Most of the stuff I tried came out great, but I’m still in the process of refining, so I will reveal the experiments’ outcomes some time later. However, upon popular (well, just 1) request, below there’s a recipe for bread.

I started making bread just recently, even though I took a course in 2008, when I was in a “I need to cook everything from scratch” phase. I re-discovered the recipes from that course when unpacking my cookbooks. On a side note, here’s where they reside now:

The Kitchen Bookshelf - I found it in the common room in the basement

The Kitchen Bookshelf – I found it in the common room in the basement

This is opposite the stove etc. In the background you can see the living room.

Anyway, bread (this will take you to a silly song on youtube, be warned!). While many things in Finland are really great, bread is not one of them (I’m not talking about the delicious black and rye breads, through). It isn’t easy to find a bread with a crunchy crust. So I gave it a try again and have been rather pleased with the outcome, so here is my simple bread recipe:

Ingredients
500g flour (I use Sunnuntai rouheinen sämpyläjauho at the moment)
15g salt
15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast)
300ml water (room temperature)

Preparation
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Only for fresh yeast: dissolve the yeast in the water. Otherwise stir dry yeast in flour. Add water to flour from the center and knead until smooth “like a baby’s butt” (teacher’s words…). Let rest at room temperature covered with a wet towel for 1 hour (dough should approximately double in size). Knead very shortly to get rid of big bubbles and form bread, cutting some diagonal slits in the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a preheated 220°C oven. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom with your knuckles.

I am usually too eager to eat it, so no pictures, sorry!