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
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Vegan Non-Clam Chowder
It seems like the picture upload is working without problems again. I still have no idea what was wrong, so I just hope it was a temporary bug on Blogger and won't happen again.

For the past two weeks, the weather here has been beautiful, but freezing cold. Last night, it finally started snowing a bit, which meant the temperature climbed up a few degrees. Unfortunately, it also meant that the beautiful, white frost covering on the trees disappeared. Hope we get the fairytale landscape back for Christmas! We still have plenty of snow, however, and the weather forecast predicts a white Christmas in most of Scandinavia this year.

The lake has frozen over. Some brave people were already skating on the (not very thick) ice! 

The cold had also painted some lovely frost flowers on the windows of our garden storage. I snapped a few quick pictures thinking I'll go back for a better one today - but now they're all gone. :(

When the weather is cold, my favorite foods are warm soups and dishes with lots of chili. I had seen a vegan clam chowder on Jeni's blog during MoFo, and knew I wanted to make it as soon as possible. A few days ago, I stocked up on cashews and even bought liquid smoke (which I never have on hand) - and started cooking. Then I re-read the recipe, and realized I didn't have cauliflower - I have no idea how I forgot to buy it! I did have some broccoli, however, so I decided to use it this time. To avoid getting green soup, I decided to puree the potatoes instead of the broccoli. Another change I made was to use a mushroom called Albatrellus Ovinus (Sheep Polypore) instead of oyster mushrooms. This mild, light-colored mushroom is native to Northern Europe and parts of North America, and we had some in the freezer from this fall. I feel stupid buying mushrooms in the store when we have a freezer  full of them, which is why you often see me substituting wild mushrooms for cultivated ones. I also threw in a ripe avocado.

In the end, the soup turned into something very different than the original recipe - but it was really, really tasty, so I'll write down my version here as well.

Vegan Potato, Broccoli and Avocado Soup
  • 2 tbsp heart-friendly vegan margarine, divided
  • 1/4 lbs oyster mushrooms, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c raw cashews
  • 2 c vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 c water
  • 1/3 c onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 c starchy potatoes, diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 ripe avocado, pureed
  • 1 tsp green pepper or black pepper, to taste (I prefer green pepper for the milder flavor)
  • fresh parsley, to granish
In a blender, grind cashews to a fine powder, then add 1 cup of vegetable broth.  Blend until smooth, and set aside.

In a skillet, saute 1 tablespoon margarine and oyster mushrooms for about 7 minutes. Set aside.

In a large pot, mix 1 tablespoon margarine, onion, garlic, and potatoes. Saute for 5 minutes, then add bay leaves, thyme, white pepper, remaining vegetable broth, water, cashew mixture and salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are quite soft. Remove the bay leaves.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the broccoli florets, and cook for about 8 minutes, until the broccoli is tender.  Stir in the mushrooms and avocado.

Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper and some fresh parsley. Serve hot.

The soup appears curdled, but it was just the cashews, which I obviously didn't grind fine enough. 

You can find the original recipe here - and I really intend to make it soon, too (this time with the right ingredients ;)). As you can see in the adapted recipe above, I also omitted the liquid smoke - somehow I just don't think it would have tasted too good with my combination of ingredients, but I dare you to try. ;)

Have a nice weekend!
posted by Seglare at Saturday, December 04, 2010 | Permalink | 6 comments