Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cheese & ham puff pastry boats

In my life there is a new love: PUFF PASTRY <3

Of course I've used it before, especially during Christmas to make the traditional Finnish joulutorttu. But I recently discovered how the mighty puff pastry can literally save your day when you have some unexpected guests arriving soon and you don't have time to cook anything fancy or complicate!
Puff pastry is very handy as you just need to take it from the freezer, put something yummy on it and then in the oven for 10 minutes.

Puff pastry is great to make delicious desserts but I like to use it to prepare tasty savoury snacks: you really need only few ingredients and they taste great! So here are my Cheese & Ham puff pastry boats.

As cheese, I used a creamy garlic flavoured cheese (since my bf likes garlic) and I added some mozzarella on the top.

For some strange reason the pastries disappeared very very fast... perhaps a ghost stole them? :P

NOTE: Here frozen puff pastry is commonly sold in 500 gr packages, containing 6 sheets of pastry. So I'll be using this amount for the recipe.

Ingredients (18 boats):
  • 6 sheets (500 gr) frozen puff pastry
  • 200 gr creamy cheese
  • about 150 gr sliced ham
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ onion
  • some mozzarella (shredded)
  • 1 egg

Chop onion and bell pepper in small pieces, mix them well in a bowl with creamy cheese and ham.
Check the taste, if needed add pepper and spices up to taste. In another bowl whisk the egg.
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).
Slice each sheet vertically into 3 rectangles and flatten/spread them into squares with a rolling pin.
Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each square, fold 2 opposite corner toward the middle and press so they stick together.
Brush with the whisked egg and add shredded mozzarella on top. Bake at 225º C (437º F) for about 10-15 minutes, until the pastries have gotten a nice color.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chocolate Halloween muffins

It seems that any occasion is a good excuse to bake something, and Halloween in no exception.
Since I'm not going to dress up and trick or treating (here we don't really do that) I thought to celebrate my favorite holiday with some muffins!
So here are my Halloween Chocolate Muffins :)

I'm not very good at decorating cakes, I don't really have experience or the right tools, so the decorations of these muffins are very simple. But I don't mind, this what I was looking for and the most important thing is that they TASTE GOOD!

These are actually triple-chocolate-muffins! I used cocoa powder in the dough, pieces of Kinder Egg (is a confection manufactured by an Italian company which consists of a milk chocolate shell with a small surprise inside, very popular in Europe) on the top and I decorated them with melted milk chocolate.

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 (12 muffins):
  • 200 gr all-purpose flour
  • 60 gr cocoa powder
  • 190 gr sugar
  • 60 gr butter (melted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 ml milk
  • ½ small bag of dried instant baking yeast
  • 2 Kinder Eggs
  • about 100 gr milk chocolate
  • sugar decorations

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: flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder and yeast.
In a second bowl mix the wet ingredients: eggs, milk and melted butter. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir with a rubber spatula just enough to combine everything. If the dough is too thick add a little bit of milk.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, for about 2/3 and add some Kinder Eggs pieces on top of each muffin.
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, melt the milk chocolate with some milk and decorate the top of the muffins. Last add the sugar decorations.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dragon eggs

As Halloween approaches, it is very fun to "play" with the food and make spooky yummy treats for the whole family. Eggs in particular are a great tool to express your creativity with food!

I know that shops sell fantastic food dyes, but I don't really trust those so I tried to use natural colors instead (blueberries, beetroot, curry power and so on). I cracked the egg shells a little before dying them and only at the end I peeled the eggs. As result, I got gorgeous weird looking eggs that I named DRAGON EGGS, because of their fantasy-style appearance.

This was my first attempt to do such a thing and I was really happy by the result! The colors turned out pretty and funny (even not as intense as the food dyes, of course) and I think it's a very nice idea for Halloween.
I almost felt like an alchemist, stirring my boiling caludron full of strange colored liquids and emanating funny smells :D

First the eggs are boiled, the shell cracked and then dropped in the colored solution (plus 2 teaspoons of vinegar) for some time, depends how strong you want the color to be, I let them for about 1 hour.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bento #2: Halloween bento

Halloween has always been my favorite Holiday. Because it's funny, colorful and spooky! I just love the little ghosts, pumpkin lanterns, witches' cauldrons and vampires! :D

It would be great if Halloween was celebrated in Finland as much as it is in the USA. It would be much easier to find Halloween goodies at the normal stores. Sure, few of them sell stuff for parties but they're usually only paper plates, outfits, masks and decorations. So I had in mind to make a Halloween inspired bento but I don't have the proper cutters (you know... bat, pumpkin shaped etc.) and I didn't want to order them from the internet just to make ONE bento.

But do not despair my pretties! I didn't give up. Using as smart as possible what I had at home and with a bit of crafting, the Halloween bento is born and is SPOOOOOOOOKY!!!

This is the bento I made for last year's Halloween. I hope I will have the time to make one this year too, even though I am planning to bake some Halloween muffins as well :)

The idea was to use just one container this time but since I really wanted to use a black bento box because it highlights other colors and of course looks more halloweenish, this 2 tier box was my only choice :3

In this box there are: ghost and bat chicken nuggets, two cheese&olives skewers with skull pics, cucumber stars, a spooky hard boiled egg ghost, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and broccoli.

In the second tier there is: a clementine Jack o' Lantern, gummy worms, candies and licorice skulls.

The nugget ghostie says "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"!!!

The clementine works really well as pumpkin, right? :D

This bento was very fun to make and to eat!

Happy bento making! Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Orange slices with yogurt, cinnamon & honey

I found this recipe in a local food magazine last year. It's very simple and has plenty of vitamin C, so I decided to try it out. Instead of the full fat yogurt of the original recipe, I used a fat free yogurt, to make it even healthier!

Isn't it pretty? It's very fresh and tasty, even though in my opinion it doesn't really need the honey as the oranges are sweet enough. This recipe is good as snack or as dessert :)

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 1 or 2 oranges
  • 200 gr fat free plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 spoon liquid honey

Peel the orange carefully removing the white skin as well. Cut it into thin slices.
Arrange them on a plate, pour on them the yogurt. Add the cinnamon and honey. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jam heart pie

My baking skills have improved!
Sadly I can't bake as often as I would like to, but when I have the chance I try to make always something new and interesting.

This jam pie was something I've never tried before, it was a nice yummy surprise. This pie is sooo soft and delicious :)

As you can see the jam in not mixed into the dough! I dropped it on top of the dough in big spoonfuls. This way in the oven the jam sinks a little while the pie rises all around it.

HINT: You can drop the jam in smaller more evenly distributed chunks if you prefer!

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!

  • 200 gr all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 gr sugar
  • 150 gr yogurt (I used vanilla yogurt)
  • jam (I used raspberry jam)
  • 75 ml vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil or rapeseed oil)
  • ½ small bag of dried instant baking yeast (1 or 2 teaspoons)
  • powdered sugar for decoration

Whisk the eggs and the sugar together. Add the yogurt and the oil, mix.
Add sifted flour and yeast, mixing until well combined.
Grease a pie plate with some butter and spread some flour on it. Pour the mixture in the plate and drop spoonfuls of jam on top of it.
Bake in pre-heated oven at 180º C (356º F) for about 20-25 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, then the pie is ready.
Let it cool down and decorate with powdered sugar.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Spicy pasta with tuna and zucchini

Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable that tastes good in many different dishes like pasta, risotto, soups and works well as side dish too. That's why I use it often!

This is a recipe that I learnt from my mom in Italy, and it's still one of our favorites! One good side of this dish is that it is very light and healthy: zucchini and tuna are both low in calories, zucchini contains 95% of water, helps the digestion process and gives many other benefits. So, in short, HURRAY FOR ZUCCHINI!

The other good side is that, like almost all my recipes, it's really easy to cook :)

In the original recipe you should use zucchini flowers, which taste wonderful deep fried. But around here I can't seem to find the flowers, so I always use the normal zucchini instead.

Ingredients (serves 3):
  • 300 gr short pasta
  • 1 medium size zucchini
  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 onion
  • chili (fresh or in flakes)
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Wash and slice the zucchini in thin rings or strips. Finely chop the onion and saute it in a saucepan with oil over medium heat. When it becomes soft add the zucchini and stir. Let it cook for about 5-10 minutes stirring from time to time, add salt, pepper and chili up to taste.
Add then the tuna and mix well. If the sauce is too dry add some warm water.
When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Mix the pasta with the sauce and serve with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shrimps & saffron risotto

One of our favorite risottos is without doubt this one: risotto with shrimps and saffron!

I love saffron, it is probably my favorite spice and I use it often in my dishes: risotto, pasta, main course etc. It's good paired with chicken, with fish and with veggies too!

NOTE: In this recipe I use frozen precooked shrimps. If you find fresh ones, you can use those instead.

Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 400 gr risotto rice 
  • about 180 gr frozen shrimps
  • 1 fish bouillon cube
  • ½-1 teaspoon saffron powder
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt & pepper 
  • chopped fresh parsley

Defrost the shrimps following the package's instructions.
Boil the water and drop in it the bouillon cube. In a saucepan saute the chopped garlic for few minutes, add the shrimps and stir. Add pepper and cook until the shrimps are cooked, then turn off the heat.
In a big pot heat some oil over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and saute until it gets soft.
Add the rice and stir for a couple of minute, until lightly toasted (it will look translucent). Stir constantly so the rice will not stick and burn.
Add enough broth that it covers all the rice and stir. Pour the saffron powder in a bit of broth, mix with a teaspoon and add it to the risotto.
When the rice has absorbed almost all the broth, add a ladle of stock. Keep adding ladlefuls of broth, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is cooked and has creamy texture. This takes about 20 minutes.
When the rice is almost cooked add the shrimps, parsley, salt and pepper up to taste. When the rice is ready, remove from the heat, cover and let sit for a couple of minutes (this way the risotto gets its fluffy texture).

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chipotle flavoured beef pasta

Chipotle is a variety of chili often used in Mexican cuisine. We have a chipotle sauce bottle that we usually use for tortillas, the sauce has a rich and smoky flavour and it is not too fiery hot! I like mildly spicy food ;)

As I planned to cook pasta with minced meat and tomatoes, I had the sudden brilliant idea to add our chipotle sauce to it. It was really YUMMY!

HINT: With this kind of rich meaty sauce I suggest using either some short thick pasta or spaghetti.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):
  • 500 gr pasta
  • 400 gr beef minced meat
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 400 gr tomato sauce
  • 1 big onion
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • chipotle sauce
  • salt & black pepper
  • chili flakes or fresh chili
  • paprika powder
  • oregano
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • parmesan

Wash and slice the bell pepper in small pieces, removing the white parts and seeds.
Chop onion and garlic finely and saute it in a saucepan with oil over medium heat. When it becomes soft, add the bell pepper. Let it cook at vivid flame for about 5 minutes so it releases much of the water and becomes softer.
Add minced meat, salt and pepper. Mix and cook until the meat turns brown, then pour the tomato sauce and a ladleful of warm water. Cook for 5-10 minutes so the sauce gets thicker, stirring time to time. Add chipotle sauce and chili flakes up to taste, salt, pepper. Sprinkle with paprika powder and oregano.
Put a pot of salted water on to boil. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Mix the pasta with the sauce and serve with lots of parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Emergency food: Fish Sticks!

I've been sick the whole week, and when you are sick, besides eating soups and taking medicines the last thing you want to do it to spend lots of time cooking.

But have no fear! Help comes straight from your freezer: fish sticks (or fish fingers, if you like), easy to prepare and yummy to eat!

I love to eat them with mayonnaise but this time I opted for a slightly healthier version with some tomatoes :D

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