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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mozzarella bites with pesto

Do you like mozzarella? Do you like also pesto? And how about both in the same recipe?

I got this idea from a Jamie Oliver's show some time ago. It's a very simple appetizer but also very tasty.

As you can clearly see the dish has only three ingredients: mozzarella, pesto and oil! That's it!
Isn't that awesome? You can serve a wonderful antipasto to your guests with very little effort.

In this recipe I used low fat mozzarella, but you can use also the normal one or even buffalo mozzarella for a more rich taste.

I realized only afterwards that I put a little bit too much pesto on the mozzarella bites, oh well :P

HINT: This dish works well also as snack, especially if you use handy small mozzarella balls.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 2 mozzarella (200 gr each)
  • green pesto
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • pine nuts (optional)

Remove the mozzarella from the packages, shake them off the water and tear them into pieces by hand. No need to be precise :)
Place a teaspoon of pesto on top of each mozzarella bite and drizzle with oil. If you want, add also some pine nuts on top.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fresh shrimp salad

Even though now the weather is cold and it's getting darker and darker all the time, I still enjoy making and eating simple fresh food.

I used to eat this shrimp salad often in Italy during the hot summer, it's lovely! It's light, healthy, fresh and ready in few minutes!

NOTE: In this recipe I use big frozen uncooked shrimps, better if they are already without heads, tails and de-veined.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 200 gr big raw frozen shrimps (cleaned)
  • salad of your choice
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt
  • lemon juice

Cook the shrimps in boiling water for about 15 minutes (or follow the package instructions).
Drain them and let them cool down. Peel them of the shells.
Place some salad on a serving plate, add the shrimps on top of the salad. Add oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve as it is or with mayonnaise.

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