Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Christmas preparations

My Christmas preparations have continued quite successfully over here. I have just baked another batch of gingerbread as well as a soft gingerbread cake with added banana (for the exotic touch) and kicked off the Christmas food shop earlier on with the help of my sister. Two days ago we wrapped up the final Christmas present purchases and tomorrow we will add the final touches of frosting to the cookies we are just baking.

Having been this good with all the preparations, tomorrow we are also heading down to the beach for almost three days of sunshine, surf and as much sleep as possible… 🙂 I think I have deserved that now. Especially after my big Christmas party debut yesterday. It was the second time I was out in months and months. I had popped by my department’s Christmas party last week, but that was nothing compared to this. Basically, last time I was in jeans, flat shoes and in and out of there in an hour and a half. This time was a proper dress, high heels and make up party and I must admit I was rather excited about it all. What I hadnt taken into account was how long it had been since I last wore heels. And how much half a glass of champagne can get to you…

Having floated around the party yesterday like the after dark social butterfly I used to be way back in my youth, today was a complete opposite to that. I woke up with a slight hangover from the half a glass of champagne and with knees, calves and throat aching from having stood around chit chatting with dozens of people for three hours. I was just not used to a) high heels, b) talking that much to people, c) staying up past 8pm

But I had a wonderful time. It was so nice to be out and about a bit instead of just at home with the little one. Although, I must say I was soooo looking forward to cuddling up in bed with little E and big J after these three hours out. Just like I am now. The last batch of gingerbread cookies are almost done and I have enjoyed the first slice of my soft gingerbread – banana cake, almost fully my own design 🙂 But now it is bedtime for this little lady. Hooray!

And we are one day closer to Christmas eve.

Cravings…

I always thought the whole thing about cravings while pregnant was a topic that had just been blown out of proportion and that surely you cannot have such massive urges to eat random things simply because of your growing bump. Well lo and behold, here I am now at 4 months with a fairly interesting palate and a need for the most random foods.

Over the last few years I have had some big changes in my diet, the biggest one according to me being the move away from being an avid coffee drinker to loving tea (green tea and oolong now being my favourites). But nothing prepared me for these changes.

OrangesI kicked off my pregnancy with purely wanting soda crackers, toast and potatoes as everything else made my stomach turn and shivers of disgust go through my body. Looking at the nutritional values of the things I was eating would make a starving child look well nourished, and needless to say I lost over a kilo between the 6th and 10th week. During this time I did though soon moved over to loving oranges to lessen my nausea. Oranges in the morning, during the day and in the afternoon, orange juice whenever possible and lemon in every water glass. Later on I heard that apparently the acidity from citrus fruits helps you feel less nauseous, but also that vitamin C plays a big role in this. without just listening to my body I would never have realised this so big respect to the body and it knowing what it wants.

Around this time I also completely stopped drinking tea. It was like I hit a wall and I just didnt have ANY interest in this lovely hot beverage anymore.. Quite surprising as I had up till then been having a happy 5 cups a day most likely. Reading about it I soon found out though that you should not have too much caffeine in your diet while pregnant and I guess this was again my body’s way to align itself with its new situation.

Pistachio NutsMy next big craving was pistachio nuts and beet root.. Not together, but still.. Hmm.. Considering my previous cravings of such low nutritional value it was with relief that I found out that both items are great sources of nutrients! Pistachios are high in oleic acids, carotenes and vitamin E while at the same time being packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.They also contain important minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.. Once again, pretty impressive craving by my body..

BeetrootsBeetroots then again are apparently loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C with the greens showing a higher content of iron compared to spinach.  They are also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium, choline, folic acid, iodine, manganese, organic sodium, potassium, fiber and carbohydrates in the form of natural digestible sugars. And actually, its iron content, is of the highest and finest quality that makes excellent food that is blood building! (and apparently you increase the amount of blood in your body by approximately 40% during pregnancy!)

Interestingly enough my latest craving is salami.. Yesterday I had wonderful salami empanadas as my second breakfast and that same evening I was spoiled with a few slices of pepperoni pizza… Mmm.. It definitely hit the spot but I am still to find a good nutritional excuse for this craving..

Grinders, Blenders and Mills

I found a grain mill!! How amazingly cool and fantastically fun, I cant wait to get to use it! But before that I will have to get rid of some of the rust on it, I guess “antiques” like mine don’t come without a price to pay.

I drive past this old man and his shop of randomness every day on my way home from work and today I finally thought its time to actually go have a look what kind of treasures he has lying around. I spotted a fantastic vintage metal Jerry can that I couldn’t help but get and when I got to his whole collection of grinders and mills I was sold. He had grain mills and meat grinders of all kinds of shapes and sizes but the one I fell for was a Corona grain mill that seemed to be the least rusty.

I piled my treasures into the car and drove home very pleased about my findings. Now I will be able to buy grains and not flour and make my own fresh flour instead of just settling for the shop’s flour!

***

Now its been almost two weeks since the purchase and I still haven’t removed the rust. Then again, I guess its understandable with all the other things we have had going on. But now with our guests gone there are no more excuses… I’ll let you know how it goes.

I Dream of Chickens

Lately I have been fighting the urge to steal some of the adorable chicks that hang out down by the guards house at the entrance to the area where we live. Partly because they are just so cute, and partly so that I can expand my self sufficient empire to include egg production in addition to my other attempts of food production.

This interest to grow my own vegetables started innocently enough with a few plants on the terrace (currently they are sadly just surviving rather than thriving plants..), but has little by little grown into a greater want to actually be more self sufficient. To be more exact, I want to get “back to basics”, to learn more about how to actually grow my own food, raise my own chicks and simply to be aware of what I put in me as well as how much effort actually goes into producing what you eat.

After months of googling and trial and error on my terrace, I decided its time to get some proper books on the topic. Since my sister was buying some holiday reading for her trip over here, I decided to put in a small order as well and decided on two books, “The Backyard Homestead” and “Homesteading” – Both comprehensive books on how to turn your little lot of land into a self sufficient paradise.

“The Backyard Homestead” seems absolutely wonderful. I read a few pages on Amazon via their excellent “Look inside” feature and that was the one I also started skimming through as soon as I got my hands on it. And just like the back cover already demands you to, it seems to be a fabulous all-round guide to putting “your backyard to work”, almost however small it is.

From its claims that a quarter of an acre could actually give me 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork and 75 pounds of nuts, I am now greedily eyeing up our garden to see where I could set the chicks up and where I could hide the pigs so that our landlord (or our lovely little jealous dog Sofia) wouldnt be too upset about the new family expansion.

I guess all I need now is a supportive partner, and at least a quarter of an acre of land to get this little project off the ground. Judging by the teasing I am getting about this, I think the quarter of an acre of land will be the easy part…

My Christmas Wish List

Happy 1st December everyone – Let the countdown to Christmas begin!

In celebration of Christmas I decided to put together a lovely little Christmas Wish List (CWL), just like I used to do with my sisters when we were small in the hope that Santa (a.k.a mum and dad at that time) would acknowledge our pleas and bless us with something from the CWL.

So Dear Santa(s) here is my Christmas Wish List 2010:

1. Walden Mini Magic Longboard

Oh this board from Walden Surfboards is absolutely wonderful… With a yellow colour that makes it look so happy! So happy that I think I would be incredibly happy on it. Until a wave thrashes me and I get another dosis of the washingmachine experience..  But I bet I would be happy again once I am back up on this board… I wonder if they do yellow leashes.. I want a yellow leash to go with this..

2. Stamp Rug from Rocket St. George

Even if I don’t live in the UK anymore, something about England and English design quirkiness touches my heart.. Like this 1p Stamp rug! I want, I want, I want! It would look amazing on my floor, Im sure of it! Even if I would like to have a white floor on which to lay it, instead of our black tile floor. Hmm.. But no, let’s not go that far as to put white floor tiles on this list. Ill leave that till next year’s Christmas list!

3. Sweatshirt from Stereopanda

The guys at Stereo Panda make amazing stuff, fantastically fun 80s inspired BMX/Street wear. Unfortunately way too seldom they create their wonderful items for women. But these sweatshirts are just adorable and look like you just want to slip into one and stay on the sofa in your woolly socks and leggings all day long…

4. Blossa Glögg!

Of course there has to be glögg at Christmas and of course it has to be Blossa Glögg! Although, since I am pretty far from Alko and the ferries between Finland and Sweden (for cheap tax free boose) I will be attempting making some myself this year.. Fingers crossed it turns out almost as nice as this year’s Blossa Glögg with Saffron..

 

5. Scottish Fine Soaps – The Tin Soap Collection

And when I say the collection, I really mean the WHOLE collection… How can you every chose just one out of these??

6. Magazine Rack from Rocket St. George

So I can store my Oxygen Magazine and Women’s Health magazines somewhere stylish AND practical.. (See mum, you can be stylish AND practical! ;))

7. Hurley Shorts for Women

I find it so difficult to find surf wear, not to mention street wear for women in general, and all these difficulties seem multiplied here in Costa Rica 😦 Thank god for online shopping and people coming to visit, but boo for luggage allowances on planes! Hurley has done some lovely things that I have been quite drawn to lately, such as these shorts here and a few bikinis I have stumbled upon in the shops over at Multiplaza..

8. This Christmas’ new Moomin Mug

Is so pretty! It would go marvellously well with the rest of my collection and I really hope someone will bring me one when they travel over here from Finland this Christmas/Winter…

9. Knitting Stuff!

I do like my knitting and even if I cannot foresee myself terminating my latest project in the next few weeks (a 1.5 meter long, about 1 meter wide throw in off white) I would love to get started on the next project already now! But since I am currently using my only pair of knitting needles and the only wool I have, I would love to have more fun knitting stuff.. Anything really.. (and a sowing machine as well actually now that we are on the topic of making stuff…and….)


10. KitchenAid’s

And lastly, some kitchen porn.. How hot is this KitchenAid Artisan Mixer in Cobalt Blue! I cannot say how often I would use it, but how can any woman (excuse the gender stereotyping here..) live without one of these? (And if you dont like my colour choice, pick your own at the KitchenAid Online Shop!)

 

 

Strawberry Jam!!!

Finally!! It is in the saucepan!! I am finally making strawberry jam after god knows how many weeks of procrastination, being ill, not having any strawberries, having them but just eating them instead and yes, like I said just plain procrastination..

Anyways, as usual with my cooking I am doing this slightly off the top of my head. I read that the ratio for jams is 1 to 1 for sugar and berries – so lets hope that is right!

Ingredients

2 cups of sugar

2 cups of mashed strawberries (I hulled the strawberries, cutting out the leaves and then just mashed them in the saucepan)

2 tablespoons of lime juice (This should be lemon juice according to the recipe, but there are no lemons here! Only lots and lots of variations of lime…as far as I can tell.. )

So, as commented above, I rinse the strawberries and then hulled them. I mash them up coarsely (or more finely depending on how chunky you like your jam.) using a potato masher. A good tip that I read about (and obviously forgot while doing it) is to spoon the mashed strawberries into a measuring cup to see how much you have.

Pour them into a large saucepan. The recipe warned me that the mixture will bubble up big time as it cooks and that I should leave TONS of extra room. Well I did, and nothing happened! I dont really know why they didnt boil up then, but my strawberries behaved very nicely! So then you pour in the sugar.

Then you set a very large pot of water to boil, and place your jars and lids inside to sterilize them.

Back to the strawberries while the jars are sterilizing.. Cook them on medium heat, occasionally skimming any foam, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit. This can apparently take from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on how wet the strawberries were my recipe told me. And listen to the rest of this wise piece of advice: “It can take a very long time to get from 215 to 220 degrees, but reaching 220 is key to having the right consistency. That is the magic temperature when the water has boiled away.” So patience is a virtue once again.

When the jam mixture is at the right temperature it will be ready to spoon into the sterilized jars. Leave a quarter of an inch of space from the top of the jars and be sure to wipe the tops of the lids to remove any spilled jam that could prevent a good seal. Actually, you want to remove any extra jam from EVERYWHERE as it is damn sticky! Put the lids on the jars and tighten the rings around the lids.

If you are using metal lids (and not plastic ones as I am) return them to the water bath and boil the jam jars for 5 more minutes to seal and process. Remove and place on the counter overnight upside down to set. Hopefully I have done this more or less the right way and my jam will keep at least for a few weeks in the fridge. Since I havent properly sealed them due to the plastic lids I guess I should get my hopes up that they will keep in a pantry for months and months like my mother’s.. But I don’t have that many jars (4 small ones in total) and I think I am going to give away two. So that should be quite sufficient for the two of us for a few weeks..

Home Made Lasagna

Home made lasagna (with a tiny bit of help from Gordon Ramsay)

Today I made a delicious lasagna (with a tiny bit of help from Gordon Ramsay..) The reason for this outburst of the kitchen goddess in me came from the fact that I want to keep my food costs down while at the same time eat more healthily and basically know what I put in me. I found the recipe on Channel 4’s website under Gordon Ramsay and simply modified it slightly to fit my purpose, i.e. adding many more vegetables for nutritional benefits, crushed linseed for fiber and beans as an added source of protein next to the ground beef.

My modifications to the recipe means that this will now feed a Costa Rican family of about 10 people instead of just feeding the typical UK family of a measly 4..

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled (half grated half chopped)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 600g minced beef
  • Half a courgette (in thin slices)
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tbsp Hot Chilli sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed red pepper
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 50ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 150g Random Costa Rican cheese, grated
  • 6 sheets of ‘non-cook’ lasagne sheets

Method: How to make Linda’s Lasagne 🙂

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/ gas mark 7.

2. Heat the olive oil in a hot pan. Grate the onion and carrot and add some garlic salt before frying together. Season with a pinch of oregano, Hot chilli sauce, crushed red pepper and a little salt and pepper. Allow the onion to soften before making a well in the centre of the pan. Place the mince in the middle of the pan and stir to break it up. Mix the tomato passata with the black beans, add the mixture little by little while letting the sauce simmer. Continue until all the meat has browned nicely. Leave to simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Finally add the milk, turn off the heat and set aside.

3. To make the cheese sauce, first melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and using a wooden spoon, stir to form a paste. Over a gentle heat add a third of the milk, whisking to prevent any lumps forming. Add the rest of the milk a third at a time, whisking as you go. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Allow the sauce to cook out for another minute before adding the Cheddar cheese. Stir and remove from the heat.

4. Spoon half of the meat sauce into the bottom of the baking dish and place pasta sheets on top (break the sheets if necessary to avoid any overlapping). Next, pour in just under half of the cheese sauce, and spread evenly using a spatula before spooning the remaining meat on top. Add the sliced courgettes and the thinly sliced peppers so they form a layer on top of the white sauce. Add the final layer of pasta and use the spatula to pour over the remaining cheese sauce.

5. Finish with the grated Parmesan and sprinkle with another pinch of oregano. Add a light seasoning of salt and pepper before cleaning the edges of the dish and placing in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

YUMMY! 🙂 And yay for making it all by myself!

And the home made lasagna is finally ready!