Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Riisipuuro - Finnish rice pudding

This Christmas was a bit different than all the others. It was more simple and more quiet.
We wanted to celebrate with both Finnish food at Christmas Eve and Italian food on the 25th.

So on the 24th, the morning started with the traditional Finnish Christmas breakfast: riisipuuro, aka rice porridge (or rice pudding) cooked in milk, of which you will find the recipe below. It's usually served with some butter (like in the photo) or sprinkled with cinnamon. I prefer the butter version :P

During the day I baked more Christmas tarts, but used apple jam instead of the traditional plum jam.

The dinner was a big meal! For only two people, it was an impressive amount of food. So much that not all of it would fit in the picture (and on the table)...

So we had ham, 3 different kinds of salmon, karelian pies, mushroom salad, turnip and carrot casseroles (not in pic), boiled potatoes (not in pic), cream sauce (not in pic), lihahyytelö (meat in gelatin), then different types of chocolate for dessert.

After dinner we had warm glögi, which is mulled wine. And we opened our presents! :)

So here's the recipe for the riisipuuro.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):
  • 2 dl water
  • 2 dl rice for porridge
  • 1 liter milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Bring water to boil in a pot and add the rice. Let it boil for few minutes until the rice has absorbed a little the water, then pour the milk.
Cook at low flame covered with lid stirring from time to time for about 40 minutes. Add salt up to taste.
Serve warm with a knob of butter or cinnamon powder.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Flower Shaped Joulutorttu

The traditional and most baked Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Tart) is the one I showed you in my previous post: star shaped!

However, there are variations to this type of pastry and one of them is the flower shape.

To make the tarts flower shaped the puff pastry must be cut in a different way, like shown in the image below. You make four L shaped cuts like this:

The four outer corners are then folded towards the center of the pastry, this time ABOVE the jam. And when you take your tarts from the oven they will look like beautiful flowers! :)

I will write the directions again, even though it's really simple to make these.

Ingredients (10 pastries):
  • 500 gr (5 sheets) frozen puff pastry
  • plum jam
  • 1 egg
  • icing sugar to decorate

Take the frozen puff pastry sheets from the freezer, place them on a sheet of oven parchment and let them be at room temperature for about 15 minutes (or follow the package's instructions).
Cut the pastry into squares about 10x10cm in size. With a sharp knife, make four L shaped cuts in the sheet. Place a teaspoon of jam in the middle of the tarts.
Fold the four outer corner towards the center and press down gently to hold them together.
Brush the top of the pastries with lightly beaten egg. Bake at 225º C (437º F) for about 12-15 minutes, until the pastries have gotten a nice color.
Let your flower shaped Joulutorttu cool down then sprinkle with icing sugar. Enjoy :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bento #4: Christmas Bento

Jingle bells, jingle bells, Jingle all the way...

Even though nowadays highly commercialized, Christmas is still a very nice Holiday and I like it very much. I enjoy choosing good presents for my family and friends, usually things that I know they will appreciate and actually use, to wrap them up in colorful paper (I am terrible at this though!) and also, of course, receive presents as well.

We don't have Christmas decorations at home, except one candle that we light in the evening, so I had the idea to create a Christmas Bento!

To make a Christmas themed bento without the proper cutters and decorations (you know, gingerbread, tree, reindeer shaped) is quite challenging... But I made it anyway!

And it IS a Christmas bento, because:
1) In the bento there's a mini Finnish Christmas tart
2) Under the box there's pretty Christmasy wrapping paper
3) Santa was behind the camera, he's a bento freak!

So, the bento contains salad, bunny shaped hard boiled egg (I know, it is more an Easter thing...), tortilla wraps filled with ham, belle pepper & cucumber sticks, Winnie the Pooh sauce container with some chili sauce and a mini Finnish Christmas Tart (you can find the recipe here: link).

Happy bento making!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coffee Chocolate Muffins

Today December 6th is Finland Independence Day, a very special day when a big fancy party is held at the President's Castle in Helsinki and the Finnish President shakes the hand of thousands of honorable guests.

Besides watching the big event on TV, Finns usually prepare special meals and food to celebrate. Well... we aren't cooking anything special today, so I thought that it would be a great opportunity to BAKE SOMETHING!

This past year I have been baking muffins very often, I love muffins, they are so easy and quick to make! This is the recipe for Coffee Chocolate Muffins :)
They are among the best muffins I've ever made. I chose coffee because Finns are really fond of it, almost as much as Italians, and I added cocoa powder to make them even more yummy!

These muffins are made with yogurt. In this case coffee flavoured yogurt of course! I often use yogurt in my muffins because I think that it makes them very moist and gives them a nice fluffy spongy texture.
And if you fear that they are full of fat, you'll be happy to know that I don't use any butter, but instead only a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil :)

The Coffee Chocolate Muffins are lovely enjoyed as they are, but I decorated them with melted white chocolate and white-blue sugar sprinkles to celebrate Finnish Independence Day.

HINT: If you like, you can add some liquor to the batter. I added brandy, and it taste delicious.

I'm using an instant baking yeast, very popular in Italy, that can be added directly to the dough. Feel free to substitute it with the yeast commonly used in your Country!

Ingredients (16 muffins):
  • 250 gr all-purpose flour
  • 200 gr sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • small pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanillin
  • ½ small bag of dried instant baking yeast
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 200 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil or rapeseed oil)
  • 200 gr coffee flavoured yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon brandy or other liquor (optional)

Preheat the oven at 180º C (356º F).  Either line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, or you can butter or spray them with a non stick vegetable spray.
In a bowl mix the dry ingredients: sifted flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, instant coffee, salt, yeast and baking soda.
In a second bowl whisk the egg, then add milk always stirring. Add then oil and yogurt (and liquor if you want). Mix well.
Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir with a rubber spatula just enough to combine everything.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, for about 2/3. Bake about 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool for five minutes and then remove muffins from the pan.
When they've cooled down, you can decorate them with icing sugar or melted chocolate & sprinkles.
Enjoy! :)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Joulutorttu – Finnish Christmas Jam Tarts

If there's something that I love about the Finnish Christmas, besides the snowy landscapes and the cozy atmosphere, it certainly is Joulutorttu.

Joulutorttu are star-shaped pastry tarts with a plum jam filling. They are very easy to prepare with the frozen puff pastry sheets and, even though they are traditionally filled with plum jam, you can use any type of jam of your choice! They are delicious :)

I love these tarts so much that I make them for every occasion, not only for Christmas (like Easter, Midsummer etc.), I just change the jam XD

Ingredients (10 pastries):
  • 500 gr (5 sheets) frozen puff pastry
  • plum jam
  • 1 egg
  • icing sugar to decorate

Take the frozen puff pastry sheets from the freezer, place them on a sheet of oven parchment and let them be at room temperature for about 15 minutes (or follow the package's instructions).

Cut the pastry into squares about 10x10cm in size.

Make diagonal about 3 cm cuts in each corner, leaving the middle of the square uncut for the jam. As you can see from the photo I didn't cut them exactly in the corner but a bit on the side, this way the tarts edges will less likely get burned in the oven.

Fold 4 of the edges towards the center of the tart and press down gently to hold them together.

Brush the top of the pastries with lightly beaten egg.

Place a teaspoon of jam in the middle of the tarts.

Bake at 225º C (437º F) for about 12-15 minutes, until the pastries have gotten a nice color.

Let the Joulutorttu cool down then sprinkle with icing sugar. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chicken in white wine sauce and goat cheese

This is one of those dishes that are really effortless to cook and are amazingly tasty!

This is in fact a variation of a popular Italian dish, called "Scaloppine".
Scaloppine are thin slices of meat (veal, pork, chicken or lamb) first covered in flour and then cooked in pan with different kinds of liquor: the most common ones are Scaloppine al Marsala (with Marsala wine), Scaloppine al vino bianco (with white wine, like in this recipe), Scaloppine al Brandy. They can be made also with non-alcoholic ingredients like Scaloppine al pomodoro (with tomatoes) or Scaloppine al limone (with lemon juice).

Because the meat is covered in flour it remains very tender and moist and adding a slice of goat cheese on top just makes them so mouthwatering!!

Ingredients (serves 3):
  • 500-600 gr chicken breasts (thin slices)
  • 180 gr goat cheese
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • flour
  • salt
  • ½ glass dry white wine

Take the meat out from the fridge to room temperature about 20-30 minutes before cooking.
If the chicken breasts are too thick, slice them in 2 parts so they will cook better (and faster). Slice the goat cheese into 1 cm thick slices.
Coat the chicken on both sides with the flour, tapping on their surface so the flour sticks onto it. Warm up some oil in a nonstick pan, place the chicken breasts and cook them until both sides get a nice golden color. Add some salt, but not much as the goat cheese is already salty.
Turn the heat to low, pour the wine and let it cook for a minute swirling the pan around a little. Plate the chicken breasts. Place the goat cheese slices in a warm pan until they start to melt, place one slice on top of each chicken breast.
OR:  put one slice of cheese on top of each chicken breast. Turn the flame off (or to minimum), cover the pan with a lid and wait until the cheese is a bit melted.
Serve immediately, with some mashed potatoes or cooked vegetables. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Limoncello Cookies

Limoncello is one of the best and most known Italian liquors.
It's a lemon liquor and it's originally from South Italy, especially from Naples area, Sicily and Sardinia where the lemon trees grow plenty. The lemons from those regions are big, fresh and amazingly tasty!
Limoncello is usually served very cold in small glasses at the end the meal, after coffee.

We always buy a bottle whenever we go to Milan, as there is dirty cheap compared to here! Since I don't really like liquors (except maybe Baileys, because it is creamy) I decided to bake cookies with our Limoncello.

My Limoncello cookies turned out LOVELY! They are very tasty, soft and they have this wonderful lemon flavour and smell that pervades the whole kitchen!

They are also so pretty looking, so they're perfect for a party :)

NOTE: If you don't find original Limoncello in your area, you can substitute it with another lemon flavored liquor or even with normal lemon juice.

I'm using an instant baking yeast, very popular in Italy, that can be added directly to the dough. Feel free to substitute it with the yeast commonly used in your Country!

Ingredients (makes about 30 cookies):
  • 250 gr all-purpose flour
  • 50 gr butter
  • 1 egg
  • 50 ml Limoncello liquor
  • 1 lemon (juice and zest)
  • 90 gr sugar
  • ½ small bag of dried instant baking yeast (1 or 2 teaspoons)
  • more sugar for the coating

Cut the butter into small pieces and leave it at room temperature for about 15 minutes before baking, so it will be easier to handle.
Wash the lemon and scrap the zest. Squeeze half lemon for the juice.
In a bowl mix together flour, yeast, sugar, butter, lemon zest and egg. Add Limoncello and lemon juice little by little to the mixture.
Keep mixing at first with the spatula and later with your hands when the dough becomes harder. Add a tablespoon more of flour if needed, the dough must be soft but not sticky.
Wrap the dough in plastic film and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Preheat the oven at 170º C (338º F).
From the dough shape small balls (golf ball size), cover the cookies with sugar and place them on the baking sheet. Remember to leave room between them as they will grow!
Bake for about 10-15 minutes. Check their color: when the cookies get a little golden color, they are ready!
Remove from the oven and let them cool down. Serve with a cup of coffee or with a small glass of cold Limoncello.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blueberry yogurt smoothie

Now that I have a small blender so I can finally make all sorts of different foods that I couldn't make before, like this smoothie.
I've never made a smoothie before, it's quite fun and healthy too, especially if you use low fat ingredients and fruits.
In the future I want to try out other types of smoothies like for example with strawberries and bananas.

For this one I used the ingredients I almost always have at home: white fat-free yogurt and blueberries. The smoothie came out very soft and tasty!

Please note how the 3 blueberries in the photo look like Mickey Mouse's head :P

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 2 tablespoons blueberries
  • about 400 gr white fat-free yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Put all the ingredients in the blender and ...well, blend :D

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bento #3: Teddybear bento

Hello everyone!

Here's another of my bentos... this time I used an animal shaped bento box, which is a bit more tricky to fill properly (and nicely) than the regular boxes but it turned out quite pretty :)

I was able to fill this bento with all sorts of foods so, as you can see, it's very very FULL!

The bento contains: simple noodles, salad, sliced chicken cutlet, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, boiled baby carrots and veggie mix in the cup and clementine.

As for the box I used this cute 2 tier teddybear bento. It's adorable!

Happy bento making!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Creamy tortellini with ham & mushrooms

For some odd reason here in Finland I don't eat tortellini and ravioli as often as I used to do in Italy.
Perhaps because here they are more expensive or just because it doesn't come to mind...

I bought these tortellini from a popular convenience store (Lidl) because they were on sale! Sales are always a good excuse to buy stuff :D

So here's a very simple and tasty sauce to eat your tortellini with!

NOTE: These tortellini were filled with ham but also differently filled ones are just fine.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 250 gr tortellini
  • 250 ml cooking cream
  • 150 gr diced ham
  • 4 or 5 medium size champignons mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Chop garlic finely, wash and slice the mushrooms. Saute chopped garlic in a saucepan with oil over medium heat then add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min.
Add the ham slices, cook for few minutes stirring. Pour the cooking cream, stir, and let cook at low heat until the cream gets thicker. Add salt and pepper up to taste.
When the water boils, drop in it the tortellini and cook until al dente. Mix the tortellini with the sauce and serve with parmesan cheese.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wonderland at the Autumn Open Market

Sometimes SOMETHING happens even in this small town in the middle of nowhere... and since it happens only a couple of times a year (three, if we are very lucky) it feels almost imperative to go!
Of course I am talking about the open market :)

The open market comes always twice a year, in March and in November, and both times there are a couple of things we always buy: licorice and smoked salmon. Lots of them! Because at the market they are good and especially cheap.

But beside those, when I see something new and interesting I can't control my urge to spend more money. So this happened when I spotted a brand new stand of British fudge, never seen it before here, with all kinds of wonderfully colored fudge chunks!

Overwhelmed by the excitement - hey I found something new and a bit more interesting than the usual ham and cheese!! - I purchased 10 pieces of fudge: they smelled and looked awesome...
Too bad they didn't taste quite as good. It was a real disappointment. Even though we got 10 different flavors, all the fudges tasted almost identical!  They were way too sweet and sugary, and the texture too was awful, it was like eating soap!
I don't know if all the British fudge taste as bad as this, or we were especially unlucky with our purchase... but one thing is sure, they won't fool me again.

The other new thing we got was this wonderful smoked Gouda cheese! I can honestly say that it tastes delicious :)

And here some more photos of the open market and our shopping:

Lörtsy, a thin, half-moon shaped pie originally invented in Savonlinna, eastern Finland.
These were filled with rice and minced meat.

Many packages of lovely smoked salmon.

A stand with more traditional Finnish pastries and pies. YUMM!

Lots and lots of licorice. At the open market is commonly sold in meters, as you can see it's available in many different flavours! My bf is addicted to these, so he always buys about 30 meters of licorice :D
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