¡Madrid!

Warning: Picture-heavy post ahead

As mentioned in my last post, we went to Madrid! It was another one of PHD’s work trips, and again it was six weeks in total. We left from there three weeks ago and it was great!

We shared an apartment with the same crew as in Los Angeles, with the addition of PHD’s two descendants (one being the bean, the other PHD’s PhD student). Here’s some of us hanging out after breakfast:

Morning hangout with part of the #madrid #conferencefamily

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Unlike last time, we didn’t have any house parties, though. As you can see from the picture above, the apartment was quite small. In addition it was stuffed full of knick-knacks, which made watching the bean (who just started to crawl when we arrived) a pain in the behind. So, one of the first communal efforts was cleaning and child-proofing:

Our rental in #madrid was so dusty that we decided on an impromptu cleaning session.

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Other than that, the apartment was quite the find. It was located within short walking distance of Plaza Mayor, close to the metro station La Latina. Thus it was perfectly located to go explore the city with the bean. We mostly just went on daily walks around the neighborhood, but every now and then ventured into other areas. Here are some impressions from these walks:

Traditional vs. Modern Art

Plaza del Sol - So many people!

Plaza del Sol – So many people!

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Royal Palace – Plus some greenery

Unlike with other cities I hadn’t heard much about Madrid beforehand and thus didn’t have any expectations nor any clue what this city is like. So naturally I couldn’t be disappointed. Not that I could have been, anyway!

It was my second trip to Spain and the second city I was visiting there (the first being Sevilla, which is absolutely gorgeous!). We also went on a weekend trip to Barcelona on ascension weekend (maybe I’ll write about that as well, don’t know yet). What struck me in each of these cities was the amount of green there was. There are many parks throughout, be they small or huge. Thus, even when living in the center, as we did, the quality of life is great! The two parks that impressed me the most were the Retiro and the very new riverside park. Here are some of the things you can find in the Retiro:

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Retiro Pool – I have no idea what the monument is for

The Crystal Palace - Could be built in Rivendell

The Crystal Palace – Could be built in Rivendell

Inside The Crystal Palace - Gorgeous temporary relaxing space

Inside The Crystal Palace – Gorgeous temporary relaxing space

Statue of The Fallen Angel – Unique in the world, I was told

Of course there is plenty more to see in the park, it is absolutely huge! I retrospect, I should have spent way more time there and taken way more pictures. 😉

The other park that resonated with me a lot was the new Madrid Rio Park. To make a long story short, the highway that used to be beside the riverbank got put underground and replaced by this huge park. I think this is a freaking genius idea and should be adopted by every single city on the planet! Again, I didn’t spend nearly enough time in the park, not to speak of taking pictures, so these will have to suffice:

Futuristic Foot Bridge – Combining technology and nature in aesthetically pleasing ways

Loads Of Slides – Weeeee!

Of course I also thoroughly enjoyed eating out. After the long winter in fast and pub food city (officially known as Jyväskylä) I was craving something different. That something came in the form of tapas and pinchos, which I ate for lunch almost every day:

Today's #lunch in #madrid

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#latergram yesterday's lunch: #salmorejo in #madrid

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 Once I am back home in Finland, I want to start making tapas. I love how it allows me to eat many different things while still keeping the amount of food small. Let’s hope I can stick to that intention!

This post is already getting quite long, and I haven’t even mentioned the fabric shopping I did! I doubt I will have the time for a separate post, so I guess I will just leave that part out. Though, if you are interested in fabric shopping in Madrid, in the comments of my last post there is a very handy Google map with shop locations.

I had such a lovely time staying in Madrid, that I am sure to return (and hopefully soon!) We have more travel plans coming up, though, as PHD just got a research grant that will allow him to travel a lot in the next five years. So far, the plan includes a stay in Sydney in October and November. I would love to meet some folks there, so if you are interested, please let me know!

Living The Fabulous Life Of…

…a mathematician’s wive. Why fabulous, you may wonder? After all we have our permanent address in the rather lovely, yet unglamorous Jyväskylä (thanks to mathematics). However, if you have seen the tab at the top saying “trips” you know that we are pretty much traveling all the time (this, too, thanks to mathematics).

I am quite a traveler (thanks to having traveler parents), but this time around I was extremely nervous. After all, it was the first trip for the bean, and by airplane! (I don’t enjoy flying all that much) I was so worried that I might even have cried on the first flight. He, however, seems to fit perfectly into our jet-setting live ( 😛 ) and fell asleep immediately after boarding. We were also lucky that the flight was quite empty and we were able to let him sleep in the car seat.

So where were we heading this time? If you read my blog recently, you know it was to the city that is widely considered one of the most glamorous cities in the world:

Paris!

Yes, it is true that the architecture (at least in the center), shopping and fashion is great here. Even the children are fashionable! But if you have ever spent more than 10 minutes in the metro, you know what I’m talking about when I say: “Paris stinks!” I might also have declared a few times that I don’t like Paris much. (I’m a country chick, so it was just too much (noise, filth, people…) for me). However, I actually liked our stay this time around! A lot of the enjoyment had to do with our accommodation:

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Entrance to Our Apartment Building

The place is in the 5th neighborhood (where the Quartier Latin is) and was found and paid for by the institution in which PHD was attending a research trimester. It is a convenient 15 minutes walk from said institute.

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View From The Bedroom Window

It felt like a secret garden in the middle of the city. We also got to know some lovely neighbours pretty much immediately after arrival. Two of them are a Finnish/French couple with a boy who is only 2 months older than our bean!

The weather was gorgeous and balmy 12-18º C most of the six weeks we spent there. Needless to say it was also day for a lot longer than back home in Finland, so I often took the opportunity and went for a walk in the very close by Jardin des Plantes:

Gogeous Autumn Weather – Soaking up all that sun!

On other occasions I would take a stroll along the Rue Mouffetard (5 minutes walking distance from our temporary home). I forgot to take a picture (D’oh!), but here is one from Wikipedia:

Rue Mouffetard – Full of scrumptious food places

I very often had lunch at the famous “Au P’tit Grec” (to avoid the huge daily queue I usually went at around 11am or 2pm), or took a quiche from “La Maison des Tartes” for dinner. Even though there was a kitchen in our apartment, I very seldom cooked. There were just too many restaurants and take-aways, as well as bakeries, that I had to try. I mean, look at these delicacies:

Cheese! – Cue Wallace and Gromit

Or these pieces of art:

French Confectionery – NamNamNam!

Not to speak of the cafés:

Parisian Breakfast – En famille

I ate so well during these 6 weeks that it was quite the clunker to come back to the Finnish supermarkets and their limited Winter selection. 😦

On the up side, I now cook again, which is something I really enjoy! We are already back since the beginning of December, and I have found a new enthusiasm for cooking, very probably thanks to the things I got to see and eat in Paris.

So that’s it from Paris. It only took me 1 month to write this post… -.- So, even if I can’t make up a snazzy ending to this post, that’s it for now! Have a good one!

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

Totally Off Season Recipe – Lemon Muffins

I haven’t posted anything food wise in a while. Also, the days are getting shorter and I need a reminder that the sun will come back again for longer periods than now.

The following muffins I made about two weeks after we arrived here. PB had brought some lemons from his uncle’s garden in Sicily. They were innocently sitting around looking delicious until I decided to chop them up and use them in a dessert:

Lemon Muffins With Cheese Filling

The recipe is from the book I mentioned in the blackcurrant muffin post. Originally the recipe called for limes, but hey, lemons are close enough! I got into a bit of a problem for the filling, though, as it required ricotta. We didn’t find any in any of the supermarkets we went to. Then we started asking around. It seemed that ricotta was an unknown thing for Finns. PB started to worry a little, as he likes ricotta quite a lot with pasta and as a replacement for mascarpone in tiramisu. So for these muffins I used (low fat) Philadelphia instead (couldn’t find the normal one).

(Side note: full fat milk products are not all that common here. It seems that fat is really scary. Evidence? The full fat (meaning around 3.5%) milk is packaged in really red tetra packs.)

The result of the switching out of ingredients? Delicious! I think I might even like this version better, as the filling is creamier than the ricotta usually is. Oh, and to end the tale of the ricotta: last weekend we found some in the supermarket a bit outside town. And promptly I made tiramisu. But that’s for another post.

So, long story short, here’s the muffins recipe:

Ingredients
1 lemon
125g Philadelphia or similar cheese
150g sugar
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
100g light brown sugar
200g natural yogurt
90ml sunflower oil

Preparation
Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
Grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze the juice. Mix the cheese, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Beat the remaining lemon juice and sugar with the rest of the ingredients until smooth. Add the dry ingredients until the mixture is creamy.
Spoon half the batter into the muffin pan. Add the cheese mixture to each cup of the pan. Cover with remaining batter.
Bake until well risen and springy to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let cool before eating, as the cheese filling is very hot.

Blackcurrant… Muffins!

I almost didn’t post anything this week either (sorry for not writing a blogpost last week), as nothing much out of the ordinary happened neither last nor this week. Last weekend we kind of just chilled out and didn’t do much in terms of settling, sewing or cooking. Which doesn’t mean at all that it’s boring around here, far from it in fact. Last Saturday we had some friends over with their kids to watch Mary Poppins (in Finnish with Finnish subtitles), which was a lot of fun!

We also had a visitor from Switzerland! Unfortunately she only stayed two nights. Fortunately we will have visitors from all over Europe almost every week this semester, as PB is organising a research seminar, and most of his academic guests are staying with us. This weeks guest already arrived last Friday, so we tried to do something nice with him during the weekend. Not to be too braggy, but I think we succeeded.

This is greatly thanks to our Finnish friends (mentioned above) who helped us getting a car for the weekend. We then took our lovely guets and PB’s PhD student to the natural reserve I wrote about in the last post. We found the same kind of mushrooms as the last time, but unfortunately the funghi porcini were too old. The winter mushrooms (as luimupupu told me they’re called), however, were delicious. Here are some pictures of the reserve:

Berries Are Still Everywhere!

The Wooden Path Through the Swamp

That was pretty much what we did on Saturday. On Sunday we picked some berries in the backyard, and heres what we did with some of them:

Blackcurrant Muffins

The recipe is a modification of the blueberry muffin recipe from “Muffins: Just Great Recipes” by Carla Bardi (Amazone link), easily the most used book in my library.  So here’s my variation:

Ingredients
250g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g white chocolate, broken into pieces
200ml milk
2 large eggs
100g sugar
90g butter
250g blackcurrants

Preparation
Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Melt the chocolate with the milk. Beat the eggs, sugar, butter, and melted chocolate mixture in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients. Carefully stir in the blackcurrants. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until well risen and springy to the touch, about 20 minutes. Muffins taste best when still warm.

Some More Bye Bye Food

By popular demand IRL, I’m putting up these two recipes. Again, they are very easy and fast(ish) to make. The first one is a dish that helped win over my PB’s heart:

Hummus!

This truly is easy and fast, with very good results. It’s slightly adapted from a recipe I found on the recipe database of Betty Bossi.

Ingredients for a smallish bowl
1 can chickpeas (ca. 450g), drained, 3/4 of the liquid saved
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Cumin powder to taste
1 clove of garlic
Salt

Preparation
Place all the ingredients in a blender, blend well. A stick blender works best.

The next one was an extension of the winning over of PB:

Babaganush / Mutabal

So, I know this as babaganush, but in the cookbook I got this recipe from it’s called mutabal. Sometimes it’s also known as aubergine / eggplant caviar. It’s not as fast as the hummus above, but equally easy.

Ingredients for a smallish bowl
1 big aubergine / eggplant (ca. 500g)
1 small clove garlic, squeezed
4 tablespoons (ca. 70g) sesame butter (or tahini)
150g natural yoghurt (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
Salt
Cumin powder to taste

Preparation
Heat oven to 230°C. Cut the aubergine / eggplant in half lengthwise, place in the oven (cut side facing up) for about 45 minutes (until peel is brown / black). Scoop the flesh with a sharp spoon into a blender. Blend well with the other ingredients. A stick blender works best.

The cookbook I got this from is “Safran & Kardamoom” by Rita Henss. It contains beautiful photos and graphics. I got it as a birthday present in 2009, and it’s been on display on my bookshelf ever since. Thanks, Heidi, for the great present!

Saying Goodbye With Sweets

So in the last few weeks I’ve had alot of goodbye parties, both at home and at work. Of course I tried to make sweet stuff, because I love baking and making sweets. But, because I’m a bit stressed about the Move, I didn’t want to do too elaborate things. So for most of the parties I made my favourite sweet treats. Here are pictures of two of them:

15 Minutes Lemon Meringue Pies from The Stone Soup

The nice thing about these is that they seem very elaborate, but in reality are extremely easy and fast to make. The full recipe can be found over at The Stone Soup. The author of the blog has a lot of nice and simple recipes, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

Marbled Brownies – before they’re cut

All right, I admit, these are not that fast and easy to make. I made them so many times, though, that I don’t consider them to be difficult anymore. Also, they helped me get a room in a shared flat once, so whenever I make them I remember that year I lived with “my two boys”, so it’s definitely worth the time for me. I already packed the cookbooks, so the recipe will follow in a few weeks after I unpacked.

So, enough procrastination: back to packing!