June 30, 2012

Monet's Garden + Apricot Salad


Hello from Paris!

Just a quick post this morning as I was finally able to load some photos on my unreliable laptop! We are spending our last honeymoon days in Paris, but before I share photos from our recent days I wanted to share a few photos of the gorgeous garden of Monet we visited in Giverny and a delicious seasonal salad I made whilst visiting my brother in Provence. 

I hope to be back soon with lots more photos!

Until then,

Have a lovely weekend!






Apricot Salad with Rye Croutons
(serves 2)

5 fresh, ripe apricots
a big handful of rocket
50g walnuts, toasted
2 or 3 rye bread slices with crusts cut off and cut into pieces
1 heaped tablespoon of Herbs de Provence
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. Cut the apricots into wedges and toss with rocket.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the rye bread pieces. Season with herbs de Provence and a pinch of salt. Fry for a few minutes, until crisp.

3. Toss the salad with olive oil, balsamic, toasted walnuts and rye croutons. Serve immediately.

June 27, 2012

Inspirational Friends: Sayward Rebhal

Greetings from Paris, mes amis!

While my computer has decided to take a long (and unindented) holiday, I'm forced to put all my picture posts on hold and instead focus on getting the message across through mere words. Fortunately, I have another inspirational friend to introduce you today!

Sayward Rebhal, who's blog The Bonzai Aphrodite, was one the key motivators for me to go 100% vegan some 6 months ago. Sayward's down-to-earth, yet well-written posts were not only entertaining, but also informative. She has since put blogging on hold, but continues to inspire and spread the vegan message through freelance articles and of course her book, Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide.

I talked to Sayward about her vegan journey, her book and raising her most adorable son. Hope you enjoy!

  What inspired you to become a vegan?

Well actually (unfortunately?), I wouldn’t say that I was inspired to become vegan. It was a total accident. I had just spent over a year disentangling myself from cigarettes, and I’d used crappy food as a crutch in order to do so. When I finally emerged victorious from the nicotine battle royale, I decided to get back on track by doing a “cleanse”. I thought going vegan for a week would do just the trick.

Well of course, within that single week I realized just how easy and fun it was to be vegan, and how amazing the food was, and how good I felt. And at the end of that week I just couldn’t, knowing what I know, keeping my integrity in tact, imagine going back. I remember thinking, “Damn, I wish I could ‘un-know’ this!” But I couldn’t. So I went forward.

Removing animal products essentially lifted the scaffolding that my cognitive dissonance was structured around. For the first time I could see clearly, and that’s when all the Animal Rights stuff came flooding in (and quickly!). I’m proof that someone can stumble into veganism “for health”, and end up a committed ethical vegan.

  What do you love about being a vegan?

Everything! Is that a cop-out answer? Okay, how about this . . .

What I love most about being vegan is the sense of inner calm – I’d call it peace – that came over me once I had shed that cognitive dissonance that I mentioned above. In order for me to be completely centered, and completely confident, then I have to be living my Truth. Authenticity is everything and for me, I wasn’t being authentic when my meals weren’t reflecting my ideals. But now, I get to practice nonviolence and feel like I’m making a difference, three times a day, every day (plus snack times too!) That’s a lot of opportunity to feel empowered. And that’s a lot to love.

Your book “Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide” was published last year. Tell us a little bit about the book.

Well basically, I wrote the book I wish I’d had when I was pregnant. It’s got everything you need to carry out a healthy and happy vegan pregnancy, from nutritional information, to practical tips, to social strategies, and on. But it’s also so much more than just an instructional manual. I really tried to focus on providing support. I think a lot of vegans feel very isolated, and those feelings are magnified during pregnancy. So I wanted to talk to women like their best friend would, with upbeat encouragement. I wanted them to have someone completely on their side, right there saying “Yes, you’re kicking ass! You got this!”

What advice would you give to women planning a vegan pregnancy?

Almost exactly the same advice I’d give my non-vegan friends, actually: Hug your partner. A lot. Go on tons of dates. Eat dinner together and look each other in the eyes while you talk about grown-up things. This will all change soon, so enjoy it. Have sex all the time!

Sleep as much as you possibly can. Especially when it comes to sleeping in. That’s the gold.

Spend entire days laying on your couch, relaxing. Do nothing. No really, I promise, just do it.

Spend less time stressing about your pregnancy, and more time planning what kind of parent you want to be. Read 1 or 2 pregnancy books but then move on. Start reading parenting books now, because you won’t have time to read them once you’re a parent. Most importantly, do everything you can to incorporate “flexibility” into your very core. Be prepared  to bend. And to compromise. Plan on it. Embrace it, even. Parenting tears apart everything you thought you “knew for sure”. If you fight it, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. If you ride it, it’s so much damn fun. Oh and also, B12 and DHA!

  What are your future plans? Any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?

I have huge plans, all of which seem to start with B’s – books, businesses, blogging. Not necessarily in that order. I like to dream big, and I’m always dreaming. At the moment though, I’m totally focused on being a mom. Okay, maybe not totally focused . . . but that’s top secret, sorry!

  What are your experiences of raising a vegan child?

My son is 2 and just started pre-preschool, and he’s beginning to notice that there are things that other kids eat which he has never seen before. The other day, just out of curiosity, I asked him, “Honey, are we vegetarians, or omnivores, or vegans?” and he delighted me by squealing, “We’re vegans!” So I continued, “And what does ‘vegan’ mean?” and he said “We don’t eat animals!” (yes, my eyes got teary and my heart just about burst). Finally I asked him, “And why don’t we eat animals?” This one stumped him. He thought long and hard and then he replied, “Because we eat food.” Ha!

Right now I’m working on teaching him to ask “Is it vegan?” if somebody offers him something. We visited a farm sanctuary recently, and he was just in awe. He’s been talking about the animals ever since. I know he doesn’t make the connection yet, that those animals are the same things that other people are eating. But we’re lucky, because almost every single person we hang out with is vegan (or vegetarian). He just hasn’t been exposed to much meat-eating yet. But I know he will, and I’m trying to prepare him for that. It’s a blessing and a curse I guess. I’m afraid he’s in for a very rude awakening, some day.

Besides following a vegan diet, what are some simple things one can do to promote a compassionate and cruelty-free lifestyle?

Buying secondhand as much as possible. May sound surprising, but here me out. Clothes, furniture, home goods, vehicles – everything! – is manufactured using animal products and in ways which destroying the earth. And it’s all unnecessary. There’s already so much amazing stuff! So buying secondhand just takes your dollar (and thus your support) completely out of that equation.

  What tips do you have for people wanting to make the switch to a vegan diet?

Go as fast or as slowly as you feel comfortable. It’s not “all or nothing”, so if you just can’t imagine giving up your beloved cream cheese or your weekend latte or whatever, well then don’t! Give up everything except that thing. Focus on making the changes that are fun and that excite you – trying new restaurants, cooking new foods, and learning about the awesomeness of farm animals.

A few practical things:

Make sure you’re eating enough. Plant foods are bulky and they’re nutrient-dense but calorie-light. You’ll have to eat bigger portions than you’re used to.

Make sure you get enough protein and enough fat. Carb-itarians burn out quickly. Finally, find a community of like-minded-people. Visit the veggie restaurant in your city, or find a vegan potluck to attend, or search for a local group on MeetUp.com. If there isn’t anything in your city, then go online. There are tons of blogs and websites full of friendly folks who can give you support. Also, listening to podcasts can be really helpful for keeping you feeling inspired. I like Vegetarian Food For Thought and Our Hen House.

  Who is your vegan inspiration?

I draw immense inspiration from the cumulative rad-ness of the vegan community at large. There are SO MANY amazing folks out there, each contributing in their own way, and it all adds up to light this beautiful fire of hope – right under my ass. Ha! But really, if you want something to keep you motivated, just tap into the vegan movement around the world. Every single person – from the elderly pacifist petting their rescued kitty on their couch, to the rowdy activist leading the protest with a bullhorn – is adding to the incredible tapestry of Veganism. And it’s so powerful!

What is your favourite vegan meal to prepare?

This is a hard question. We go through phases around here, and it’s always changing. Let’s see . . . recently the little family has been digging on tacos. Hard shells, not soft. Filled with homemade refried beans, smoky grilled onions and peppers, black olives, green salsa, and lots of avocado. Heaven!

Thank you, Sayward!

June 22, 2012

Provençal Tales - French Lentil Salad with Chanterelles


It wasn't hard to predict that I would fall in love with Provence. I mean, what is there not to love? Mediterranean climate with dry heat and lots of sun, peaceful country villages with a strong sense of community, friendly and polite people and of course the amazing food. This has to be the most idyllic way of life.

We are staying with my brother and truly immersing into the local way of life: we greet the locals on the streets with a quiet Bonjour, we go to the boulangerie around the corner to buy a fresh baguette, we shop for seasonal ingredients at the markets. 

 

I've swapped my morning power walks into quiet late afternoon strolls. My green smoothies have been replaced by fresh summer fruit and I create new recipes as I come across ingredients in the shops and at the markets. There is a slower pace of life in this idyllic village, and it's fitting perfectly with our holiday mood.

The view from our window



Quiet afternoon walks

Is there anything more Provencal than lavenders?













 At the markets in Aix-en-Provence

 


A lentil salad with dried chanterelle mushrooms seemed very appropriate for this atmosphere. Simple ingredients, honest flavours; peasant-like food. French puy lentils cook quickly and dried mushrooms are easy to prepare. Dinner is ready in half an hour. 

 French Lentil Salad with Chanterelles

200g puy lentils
vegetable stock
30g dried chanterelle mushrooms
2 shallots
bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic or red wine vinegar, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook the lentils in vegetable stock (add about 3 times stock to the amount of lentils)  until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain if needed and pour into a large bowl.

2. Cook finely chopped shallots in olive oil or water for a couple of minutes. Add the shallots in to the bowl with lentils.

3. Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain and plunge into boiling water for about 15 minutes. Drain and chop coarsely.

4. Mix finely chopped parsley and mushrooms with lentils and season with olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

June 18, 2012

Guest Post by Golubka: Peach and Raspberry Summer Tart


Bonjour de Provence!

We flew from Helsinki to Marseille on Saturday and were greeted by a hot and sunny weather. We are visiting my brother here in Southern France and then heading off to Paris before flying back home to Sydney. But before I share photos from our time here in the sunny Provence, I am truly honoured to introduce you to Anya from a blog I hope many of you are already familiar with, Golubka.

I adore Anya's creativeness in the kitchen: she is not only an incredibly talented cook, she also knows the art of styling and taking beautiful photos. Her raw food creations are beyond amazing and her recipes are always original, healthy and delicious.

I'm sure you'll enjoy this summery tart as much as I do! I am planning to try this recipe at first chance. Thank you again Anya!



Hello there! It's a true honor to be a guest here. 

Writing a food blog centered around mostly raw recipes, I am often asked about cooked alternatives for many of my raw dishes, especially those that involve a dehydrator. Recently, I've been experimenting with recipes, where both raw and cooked preparation is possible. As a result, I've become very intrigued by gluten free and vegan baking, to the point where I bake something new almost every day. It's fascinating how easy it is to avoid products like butter, eggs, refined sugar, and wheat by thinking a bit outside the box and instead making light, nourishing, and delicious goods.

I've never been able to pick a favourite fruit - whatever is ripe and in season quickly becomes my one true love. There is something especially wonderful about the combination of raspberry and peach though. Their colouring and fragrance speak uniquely of summer and the two work together beautifully. In this tart, I added fresh herbs - lemon balm, basil, and thyme - to continue the summery flavour story and to accent the peach and raspberry.


Peach and Raspberry Summer Tart

Note: I always soak and then dry my nuts, seeds, and grains prior to making flours out of them, for easier digestion and better taste. While I use a dehydrator to dry them, it is also possible to use an oven, or just air dry. I do those steps in advance and keep a bunch of dried soaked/sprouted nuts, seeds, and grains in my refrigerator and ready to be used for baking. A high speed blender makes flour out of any grain in seconds. You can also use a regular coffee grinder to grind your flours. Thankfully, sprouted grains and flours are becoming more and more available through retail. You can always use regular flour and nuts as well.   
(makes one 10", or four 4 1/2" tarts)

Crust

1/2 cup pecans or walnuts - preferably soaked and dehydrated
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1/2 cup quinoa flour - preferably sprouted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buckwheat or millet flour - preferably sprouted
1/4 cup good quality honey
1/4 cup coconut oil - melted
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon each chopped lemon balm, basil, and lemon thyme leaves (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F./180C.

2. Grind nuts in a food processor to achieve small pieces. Add the quinoa flakes to the food processor and grind some more to incorporate thoroughly. Add the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of lemon zest and herbs. Mix well to get a crumbly dough. Add the zest and herbs and pulse to incorporate.

3. Put the crust dough into a lightly greased tart pan, press evenly against the bottom and sides of the pan. Prick with a fork several times. Bake for 5-7 minutes and let cool while preparing the filling.


Filling

3 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon good quality honey
4 tablespoons chia seeds
3-4 ripe peaches
2 tablespoons lemon balm or lemon verbena (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped basil (optional)
4-5 sprigs of lemon thyme (optional)
coconut sugar for sprinkling
1/4 cup coconut oil - melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

1. Blend 1 1/2 cup of raspberries in a blender and run through a sieve to remove seeds.

2. Mix the honey with the raspberry puree and add the chia seeds. Mix well and leave for 15 minutes to form a gel.

3. Slice the peaches thinly. Cover the bottom of the crust with one single layer of peach slices.

4. Sprinkle with coconut sugar and approximately one third of the herbs. Add the rest of the herbs along with coconut oil and vanilla to the raspberry-chia gel, mix well. Gently fold the rest of raspberries (1 1/2 cup) in.

5. Spoon the mixture on top of peach layer into the crust. Arrange the reserved peach slices on top of the raspberry mixture, slightly inserting them into the raspberry gel. Sprinkle with coconut sugar.

6. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, decorate with herbs and serve.

June 15, 2012

Summer at the Arctic Circle + A Recipe for Coconut Balls


Summer has finally arrived to the Arctic Circle! We've enjoyed the sunny weather, lush green landscape and outdoor activities: picking dandelions for salads, eating outside, kayaking,  hiking.
We have one more day left here in Finland before we head off to Southern France to visit my brother and then elsewhere in France for our honeymoon.

Before I start packing, I thought I'd share a few random photos from our time in my hometown, and a recipe for the coconut balls that were a huge success at our wedding! These balls are so tasty and everyone was surprised to find out they have no added sugar and no chocolate! They are certainly sweet with all the dried fruit, but tahini gives them a nice touch of savouriness. A word of warning, however, these are pretty addictive!

I love fresh dandelions! Both the flowers and the leaves are so tasty in salads.
Picking nettles at my granny's.

Uncle trying to catch some fish...



I wish I could stay until the red currants are ripe!
View from a top. My home town.
A perfect spot for a picnic after a hike.

Coconut Balls
(makes about 20 small ones)
(recipe adapted from Me Naiset magazine)

100g soft dates
100g sun-dried apricots
50g raisins
50g coconut flakes (fine) + extra for rolling
50g finely chopped almonds or walnuts
2 tablespoons unhulled tahini

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until coarsely chopped, but not too mushy. 

2. Roll into balls and roll each ball in coconut flakes. Refrigerate before serving. These will keep in the fridge for a 3 days.

June 10, 2012

The Wedding


And so the Wedding Day came and went. I can't quite comprehend that all the preparations and work that went into organising the event have now culminated to a beautiful and very special day. It was exactly that: our day which we wanted to keep simple and modest, intimate and friendly. We wanted a small wedding where everyone would be able to enjoy each other's company and feel relaxed. 

We had hired a venue by the river running alongside of my hometown. Two old buildings from the late 1800's. The ceremony was held in the other building (in the below photos the red one), and we then moved into the main building for dinner and celebrations. All the decorations were nature-inspired: moss-covered rocks, trays made out of birch trees, birch branches and beautiful floral decorations made out of grass, hay and wild flowers. Amazingly, our wedding day happened to be the only sunny day in a week. We felt so lucky that the Mother Nature decided to treat us with clear skies. 

Most of the food was traditional for this region: salmon soup, gravlax, pike and reindeer. Finnish flat bread, rye bread, and of course salads. We had Princess Torte as a wedding cake, and in addition there was local cheese, biscuits and coffee cake made by my mum. I had made a fruit salad and some delicious coconut balls (obviously not so traditional) - I'm planning to share the recipe with you later. 
  
The-day-before photos of the venue
Inside the venue where we had the ceremony

After the toast
Simple platinum rings with classic designs. No diamonds here!

The Midnight Sun


We feel truly honoured that so many of our dear friends had travelled from faraway to share our day. We are so thankful for everyone who helped with the preparations and of course we are thankful for all the well-wishes, gifts and love shared on the day.

A friend of mine shared this beautiful poem with me. I've done my best to translate it, but I'm afraid my translation doesn't quite do it justice.

Siinä olet kaste ja minä olen maa,                                                     You are the dew and I am the earth,
joka aamua odottaa.                                                                           who awaits for the morning.
Sinä olet tuuli ja minä olen puu,                                                        You are the wind and I am the tree,
johon tuuli laskeutuu.                                                                         where the wind will descend.
Sinä olet tuli ja minä kuiva maa,                                                        You are the fire and I am the dry land,
joka elämään virkoaa.                                                                         that will revive to life.
Sinä olet meri ja ulapalla sen                                                              You are the ocean and on its offing
meren laulua kuuntelen.                                                                      I will listen to the song of the ocean.
  

Me kuulumme yhteen kuin taivas ja maa,                                          We belong together like the heaven and the earth,

ei meitä voi erottaa.                                                                            we cannot be apart.
Me kuulumme yhteen kuin myrsky ja yö,                                            We belong together like a storm and the night,
sinun aaltosi rantaani lyö.                                                                   your wave hitting my shore.
Me kohtaamme hetkessä ikuisuuden,                                                  We meet in a moment of forever,
me palamme roihuten.                                                                         when we burn blazing.
Kun muistosi hiekkaan jo haihtunut on,                                              When your memory has dissolved in sand,
elää rakkaus sammumaton.                                                                  the undying love will live on.

Sinä olet taivas ja minä pääskynen,                                                      You are the heaven and I am a
swallow,
joka luoksesi liitelen.                                                                             who soars to you.
Sinä olet tuuli ja minä olen puu,                                                           You are the wind and I am the tree,

johon tuuli laskeutuu.                                                                            where the wind will descend.
Sinä olet virta ja minä olen kuu,                                                           You are a stream and I am the moon,
joka veteen heijastuu.                                                                            that reflects on the water.
Sinä olet lähde ja partaalla sen                                                             You are a spring and on the verge of it
minä kumarrun, janoinen.                                                                      I will bow, thirsty.
Sinä olet meri ja ulapalla sen                                                                You are the ocean and on its offing

meren laulua kuuntelen.                                                                         I will listen to the song of the ocean.

Poem by Anna-Mari Kaskinen

June 07, 2012

Meanwhile in Lapland


Wedding is only 2 days away! Truth be told, I never thought things could get quite so hectic, but I suppose it was expected seeing we left a huge chunk of preparations to the last minute. Despite all the running-arounds, appointments, organising and other madness, I've managed to take some time off to enjoy being back in my hometown. 

Whilst I've kept my big and bulky camera tucked in its bag, I've been walking around with a small point-and-shoot and my iphone. I thought you might want to see a few glimpses of the surroundings I grew up in and what early summer at the Arctic Circle looks like. I haven't been back here during this season in many many years so it has felt like discovering the little wonders of nature all over again!

I've enjoyed the abundance of fresh Finnish produce: tomatoes, cucumbers, salads, young leaves of birch trees, fresh nettles and rhubarb from my parents garden. I've indulged with 100% rye bread, last season's lingonberries, pure birch sap and chaga tea, collected and made by my parents. Needless to say I love being back in Finland.

I'll be back on Sunday (hopefully) with some wedding photos!

Blueberries are flowering everywhere



And lingonberries are not far behind!
I adore globe flowers!
"Devil's field" - works of the Ice Age.
The early green of birch trees is my favourite colour
The sun never sets
A lone cabin stands amongst the birch trees
Old barns are scattered across the town
It's all so quiet...
Rhubarb grows in abundance
Wedding props I raided from granny's cupboards
More wedding props... can you guess what our theme might be?
The venue is an old house from the late 1800's
I love the rooms the building has... our guests can mingle from room to room

And finally, a few reminders...