Friday, April 8, 2011
Chocolate Surprises
Being allergic to milk, I'm one of those people who have never eaten real Nutella - in fact, I can't remember if I have even tasted it. I love nut butters and chocolate, however, and given the outrageous prices of store-bought nut butters in Denmark, I frequently have a jar of some homemade nut butter or -spread in my fridge.

Below is a recipe for a very simple "fake Nutella" made with walnuts and cocoa. My own miniature food processor is too small to handle most nuts, and I only feel comfortable processing "soft" nuts such as walnuts or pecans. If you own a real food processor, however, feel free to use hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, or any other type - and toast them if you like.

If you want a creamier and more Nutella-like consistency, try replacing the cocoa powder with melted chocolate and cutting down the sugar - or replacing it with 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup, honey or agave nectar.

Chocolate-Walnut Spread 
with a hint of coconut
  • 1 1/3 c walnuts
  • 1/2 c unrefined sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 7 tbsp coconut milk
  • pinch of salt (optional)
Process the walnuts in a food processor until fine. Add the rest of the ingredients gradually, and process until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Add more coconut milk, spoonful at a time, if the mixture seems too dry. Transfer into a jar and store refrigerated.

***

If you can stop yourself from eating the jar of this on toast or by the spoon, here is one of my old muffin recipes as well. These are always popular, and really quick and easy to make.

Chocolate-Walnut Filled Muffins
Makes about 12 regular sized muffins

  • 1/4 c coconut milk
  • 3/4 c rice milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 4 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
  • 2 c flour (most of the time, I use 1 c all-purpose and 1 c whole grain spelt)
  • 2/3 c light brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar or 1 tsp liquid vanilla
  • 1 tsp egg replacer powder or 1 flax egg
  • 1/2 c chocolate-walnut spread
Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F).

In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients in a flour sifter, and combine with the wet ingredients.

Divide half the batter between the muffin liners. Drop a spoonful (I use about 1/2 tbsp) chocolate-walnut spread on each muffin, and cover with the remaining batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden.



As you can see, I frosted a few muffins with some leftover chocolate frosting I had - but these are so sweet that actually I just prefer them plain, without any kind of frosting or glaze, and with a big glass of rice- or soy milk.

We have got quite a storm in Copenhagen, but the sun is peeking out. Of course, this could be expected after the rainy week, as tomorrow is my birthday! As the old Danish saying goes: the sun shines if the birthday person has been good that year. I have been telling my boyfiend this whole [rainy] week that come Saturday, we will have the most gorgeous weather. ha! ;)


Hope you will have a lovely weekend! 
 
posted by Seglare at Friday, April 08, 2011 | Permalink | 6 comments
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Winter Adventures
Time has really flown this winter/spring. The last time I updated my blog, we were about to head for a road trip to the winter wonderland of Lapland (northernmost Finland, Norway and Sweden).

Everything was covered in deep snow - but the sun had just returned after a few months of polar night.



We also drove down to visit a giant snow castle on the Finnish side of the border. Sadly, we didn't have the time to venture inside - but it looked quite impressive from the outside! I hope one day I can go back to explore the castle. You can also sleep there, although I'm not sure that's something I want to do...  ;) Many couples also choose to get married in the snow chapel.




The small, coastal town of Kemi had some beautiful, old wooden houses as well, and it must be quite lovely in the summer.


We had a wonderful - albeit short - trip, and it was a great ending to my vacation.

As soon as I returned to Denmark, another road trip followed. We don't own a car (we just can't justify having one as long as we live in the city center and have everything within walking/biking distance - plus parking in central Copenhagen is super expensive!), so we took advantage of my boyfriend's brother's car while he was out traveling. The daisy sign = scenic road.


One fun thing about living in a monarchy (it really feels quite surreal to me that this system still exists in Western Europe today) are the numerous old castles around the country. This one was Vallø Castle located some 20 miles south of Copenhagen. It was getting late and the weather was quite miserable, so we decided to go back and explore it closer in the summer instead.



The next day, we headed north. I really like the northern part of Zealand, and when we buy a house one day, this is the area I hope to live in. I love the ocean and would prefer to live on the coast facing the Atlantic (or the Pacific, of course ;)), but since we'll probably work in Copenhagen, this is the closest you get to the "big sea". I also much prefer the idyllic, small towns of the north over the suburbs - even with a slightly longer commute. It was freezing so my pictures are limited to those from the beach this time - but I hope I can share some pictures of the beautiful, small beach towns later in the spring or summer.




Traveling is not the only reason I have been busy, however. Being on my last year of law school meant not only lots of study work, but also that I slowly had to start thinking about finding a job again. I was very lucky with my first job in Copenhagen, which I got before moving here, without speaking a word of Danish; and quit when I went back to the university three years ago. Unfortunately, many of my foreign friends have experienced that it isn't always easy finding a study-relevant job when you're not fluent in the local language and have limited working experience.

It seems like my luck in the job market has followed me, however, and I landed another great job within a week of starting to look (!). I started at my new job two weeks later, and have now been there for three weeks. At the moment I only work part-time, so I still have enough time to study for my final exams this summer and early fall - but it's quite nice to be gaining some work experience again.

After all, How could it not start well when I was greeted with this beautiful bouquet on my first day. ;)


 
posted by Seglare at Thursday, April 07, 2011 | Permalink | 1 comments
Friday, January 28, 2011
Vegan Carrot Cake
While our snowy weather continues, the freezing temperatures are gone for now and we are enjoying the most gorgeous winter days - the kind of weather that makes you want to go play outside all day long. The sun has been out the last few days, and it looks like there are millions of tiny diamonds scattered on the snow. At night, the clear sky means a breathtaking starry sky, which I always miss in the city.

The days are also getting longer by the day: a few weeks ago, we only had a few short hours of daylight, and today I woke up at 7 AM amazed at how bright it was outside. We're clearly heading to spring. :)

I am visiting my parents yet again and trying to enjoy all the snow until I return to Copenhagen in two weeks or so. Despite the huge workload, I really love the freedom of the final university year, and being able to spend so much time visiting my family overseas. I also feel that I'm most effective when I study on my own (vs. sitting in class), so this fits me quite well. :)


After playing in the snow, there's nothing I love more than a cup of dark, hot chocolate - and a piece of cake. I have been meaning to share this carrot cake recipe since Christmas time, but I keep forgetting - so here it is. This is a moist, sweet cake that is super easy to make. It also freezes well, so I usually cut it into pieces and freeze them individually, so I can take one out of the freezer whenever I feel like having something sweet. My recipe is probably quite similar to numerous other carrot cake recipes out there, but this is an easy cake for those looking for a basic vegan version.


Vegan Carrot Pineapple Cake
  • 1 c non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp warm water
  • 3/4 c muscovado sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 c flour - I use half whole wheat/spelt, half all-purpose
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 c grated carrots
  • 1 small can/about one cup crushed pineapple, drained  (save the juice for later)
  • 1/2 c chopped almonds or other nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 c raisins (optional)
Icing:
  • 1 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Grease a (about) 12-inch square pan.


In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and vinegar. Set aside for a few minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Add the oil, banana, vanilla and flax+water into the wet ingredients, and mix well. Now shift in the dry mixture, then add the carrot, pineapple, nuts and raisins, mixing until just well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake in the lower part of the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature.

To make the icing:

In a medium bowl, mix together the confectioner's sugar and enough juice to form a smooth, spreadable paste. Pour the frosting over the cake and, using a rubber spatula, spread it evenly. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired.

You could also use your favorite (vegan) cream cheese frosting, which is always good. Vegan cream cheese is just incredibly hard to find in Denmark, so unless I have stocked up in Sweden, I mostly use the basic icing instead.

Have a great weekend! :)
 
posted by Seglare at Friday, January 28, 2011 | Permalink | 8 comments
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Winter Hibernation
After weeks of winter hibernation (aka lots of traveling and two exams, among other things), it's time to look into my quiet blog again. ;)

Christmas - my favorite time of year - is over, no matter how I'd like to prolong it. Despite the sad news just before the holidays, we had a lovely Christmas and New Year's. I was so glad that my boyfriend was not working on Christmas Eve this year, and was able to join us for three days. He had to be back to work much too soon, however, and I stayed at my parents' for a little longer while he flew back to Copenhagen after the Second Christmas Day.


I also spent New Year's at home with my parents this year, with was really nice. The longer I live abroad, the more I appreciate every moment spent with my family.


Soon after New Year's, my sister's family arrived. With a hungry toddler in the house, the gingerbread house was soon just a memory.


This winter has been exceptionally snowy in most of Scandinavia, and we seem to be getting more snow every day. Just before Christmas Eve, the Danish island of Bornholm got snowed under, and thousands of people got trapped in their homes or temporary shelters in the middle of their holiday plans. The snow was generally about 1.5 meters (5 ft) deep, but reached a depth of 6 meters (20 ft) or more in some places. I believe this Christmas was an unforgettable adventure to some, but ruined the plans for others wishing to reach their family or travel somewhere for the holidays.

Our snow situation is nothing compared to that on Bornholm - and Sweden and Finland are generally much better equipped to clear snow than Denmark - but I still haven't seen this much snow since my childhood. If you step out of a cleared road or path, you instantly sink up to your thighs. Snow shoes would be a fun thing to have right now! Luckily my parents have a neighbor who has professional snow removal equipment and does all the work for them and other neighbors, so only minor shoveling by hand is ever required. 



The lake has also frozen over. Many years, the waters have remained open through Christmas and New Year and the ice has not been strong enough to walk on all winter. This year, we were able to safely walk across the lake on Christmas Day.


A lone rabbit had used the same shortcut...


The temperatures have been excruciatingly cold and down to -30 C (-22 F) some days - and down to -23 C (-10 F) in Denmark, which is the coldest in 30 years - but on warmer days, it has been fun to walk in the snowy forest admiring the magic beauty of winter. 




 Is it just me, or does the light in these pictures already look like spring?




The polar night has just ended in Lapland - and by two days early in Greenland, which is thought to be because of the accelerated melting of polar ice - and even here in the South, you can feel the days getting longer. Although I am a fall person and love the Christmas season, I can't wait for the bright spring days. :) Some years, I have found the first flowers (Winter aconites) in Copenhagen in February, which always feels special.

I still have one goal for this winter though: cross country skiing. With all this snow, it's difficult to find good excuses. My dad is an avid skier and my very first memory ever is of sitting in a baby carrier on his back, when my parents were skiing one winter. I must have been just under two years old. I got my first ski set on my second Christmas, and grew up playing in the snow - but because of the lack of snow in Denmark, I haven't skied for several years. We'll see... maybe this winter. ;)

I hope you are all enjoying the winter, whether you have snow or not. :)
 
posted by Seglare at Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Permalink | 7 comments
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Happy Christmas
Greetings from the land of snow!


So it is Christmas Eve tomorrow. I have some last minute errands to run, so for now, I leave you with these pictures of icy, snowy old town Stockholm from earlier this week.









I know only a crazy person would choose to walk several miles to Skeppsholmen when it's -20 C and windy; but I really wanted to see the visiting Chinese terracotta army and wasn't sure I'd find another time to go before the exhibition is over. Let's just say I didn't quite realize how cold it was when I left, or else I would have taken the bus. ;) I couldn't feel my fingers by the time I got there, but I'm still very glad I went. The walk was beautiful as always, but it was certainly the coldest I remember.



Although the weather is again clear over here, Denmark and Southern Sweden are still experiencing heavy snowfall. My boyfriend is flying in early tomorrow morning, so I just hope he won't be stuck at Copenhagen airport for Christmas.




I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones - and if you don't celebrate Christmas, I simply wish you a nice weekend. :)
 
posted by Seglare at Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Permalink | 2 comments
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Missed Plans
Although it so might seem, the earth has not swallowed me. The past weeks have simply been so busy I have not managed to squeeze in a single blog post.

I told you about my uncle, who was hospitalized early last month. The infection was thought to be nothing serious and seemed to be responding well to antibiotics. However, it turned out that he had developed pneumonia, and his condition got worse quite suddenly. He passed away in his sleep on December 14. We all miss him terribly and wish we didn't need to let him go yet; but at the same time, I know he lived a long, interesting and happy life, and I'm grateful for all the beautiful, funny and happy memories we have together. Since my dad's parents died years before I was born, I never had the chance to meet my grandparents from that side of the family - and so my uncle (dad's older brother) and his wife have always been like grandparents to me and my sister. They didn't have any children of their own, so we were obviously very spoiled... ;)

On a happier note, I have been busy with my final exams of the semester, and am so glad they are finally over. Now I should have one semester left in law school, and I'm done. I'll probably continue in school at some point in my life, but I'll be ever so glad to be done studying law.

My last exam was on Thursday, so I haven't even had much time to spend preparing for Christmas - one of my favorite things in the whole year. I have mostly sat inside with my nose buried in thick books, admiring the stunningly beautiful scenery behind the window. It has been freezing cold in Scandinavia, however, so it's not like I've been dying to go outside, even if I wasn't busy...


This is apparently the coldest winter in Denmark in 30 years, and I believe something like that in rest of Scandinavia as well. In addition to the freezing temperatures, we have tons and tons of snow, and it seems like almost all parts of Scandinavia are going to enjoy a white Christmas this year. I know those who need to drive long distances may not be as delighted with the ongoing snowfall as the rest of us, but the snow certainly makes everything prettier.



After traveling around for a few days, I'm finally back at my parents for Christmas. It's always so nice to come home! With all that has been going on, I have yet to do most of my Christmas shopping, and have somehow escaped all Christmas baking and preparing as well. My mom, however, had made some saffron buns and gingerbread cookies - including a gingerbread house! I didn't manage to take a picture of that one yet, but I'll make sure to post it later (I just need some daylight ;)). As soon as I stepped in, I was met by a lovely scent of gingerbread that lingers in every room of the house - how I wish my home always smelled like this..!


I may have eaten a few cookies as well...


Now that I have some time in my hands, I should be able to post more regularly again. I'm sorry for not replying any emails or comments in the past two or three weeks, either; but I'll get back to you as soon as I can. I also look forward to catching up on some blog reading over the holidays.

I hope all your Christmas preparations are going well, and hopefully you're ahead of me what comes to Christmas shopping..! We are buying charity gifts (like this) to most people again this year, but I'll still have enough shopping to do for my closest family and friends. I can see a few hours spent in a bookstore in the coming days - my favorite place to buy (and receive ;)) gifts to all those who like to read. I don't have such a large family myself, so I never get stressed out with Christmas shopping though - I enjoy every minute of it. My boyfriend hates shopping of any kind and would prefer to gift everyone with charity donkeys or Danish chocolate (which are both lovely gifts, just not for five years in a row), but I don't mind finding things for his family as well - to be honest, I'm quite happy to have a few more people to choose something for. ;)

Happy 4th Advent! 
 
posted by Seglare at Sunday, December 19, 2010 | Permalink | 1 comments
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Vegan Tomato Tart
Yesterday I was on my own for dinner again. I was already reaching for the cereal box, when my eyes caught a bowl of wrinkled tomatoes. We have about 10 kg (22 lbs) organic tomatoes in our kitchen - most of them still slightly raw, but the oldest were just starting to get overripe. I eat a fair share of fresh tomatoes, and wasn't feeling like tomato(y) soup, salsa, oven baked tomatoes, or tomato sauce, either. I almost turned away and went back to the cereal box, but there was a small voice in my head saying the wrinkled tomatoes might be bad by tomorrow. Seeing as these tomatoes are perfectly sweet, juicy and delicious, and as most tomatoes in the stores this time of year are imported from Spain (and not organic), I just didn't have the heart to let them go to waste.


As I was standing there wondering what to do with them, I suddenly remembered my friend having some tomato-mozzarella tart at a restaurant we visited some time ago. While I obviously didn't taste the tart myself, she said it was amazing. There it was - vegan tomato tart!

I didn't have a recipe for this, so I just took a basic pie crust I use for a lot of savory tarts, and decided to try and mix the tomatoes with some olives, garlic and herbs (these are always safe choices with tomatoes, right?). :) I also intended to mix in some black beans I had in the fridge, but I forgot all about them in the end - so I had them on the side instead.

I only have fresh oregano in my kitchen at the moment: it was growing in the garden all summer and somehow survived the first night frost when I forgot to move it indoors, and is now growing happily on my window. If you do have fresh basil and thyme (or other fresh herbs) on hand, however, I think they would be perfect in this tart. :) You could also add some vegan mozzarella- or other cheese, if you like.


Vegan Tomato and Olive Tart

For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 c spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1/4 c non-dairy milk
For the filling:
  • 900 g/2 lbs fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 15 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • handful of fresh oregano
  • freshly ground black pepper
To make th crust:
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan (by all means, use a real tart pan if you have one ;)).

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the oil and milk, and mix until smooth. Press onto the bottom and sides of the pan, and poke with a fork all over to avoid bubbling (you can also place a baking sheet and dry beans in the pan to get a pretty crust - but I never bother). Bake in the lower part of the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.


While the crust is in the oven, make the filling:
In a large skillet, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, coriander, basil and thyme. Cook on medium-low heat for about five minutes. Drain the liquid that has been released (this makes a nice stock for lentil soup or other vegetable dish, so don't discard it ;)). Mix in the olives and oregano.

Pour - or nicely arrange - the tomato mixture on the crust. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Let cool for a moment before serving: serve warm, but not hot. Garnish with fresh herbs.



I managed to use up all the wrinkled or soft tomatoes, but still have a huge box of lovely tomatoes for the coming days and weeks. :)

What are your favorite things to make with tomatoes?
Any recipe suggestions are more than welcome!
 
posted by Seglare at Sunday, December 05, 2010 | Permalink | 11 comments