Mar
20
2011
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Spring Nutty Cake

Use dried fruit rather than refined sugar to sweeten desserts

As everyone indulges in mounds of cream sandwiched in huge buns consisting primarily of things that really aren’t going to do us much good (white flour and sugar), it’s time to think anew. I know that I am a party-pooper when it comes to the annual semla-fest, a Swedish tradition which is also practiced in other Northern European cultures, which originated in the need to pack in the calories before the 40 days of fasting decreed by the Catholic Church at Lent.

These days most of us do not fast anymore and the on average 4-5 gigantic semla buns that Swedes consume annually are in a continuum with all of the other calorie-rich foods that continue to be consumed on a regular basis. It’s one of those familiar things that provides a short feel-good experience and then leaves you feeling a bit, well, bloated. As you know from this blog, I’m not against cream, I just find that the increasingly wide-spread consumption of foods such as semla, which are no longer limited to the time frame of tradition (that is, you can in fact consume a semla at just about any time of year), is unfortunate. 

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, it’s time for the good news. You don’t have to abstain from a sweet, even with a dollop of cream, to be healthy. Inspired by the many unused packages of dates I received as gifts at Christmas mingles, I decided to see whether these fruits, which have a strong natural sweetness could be used in making something tasty to consume with a cup of tea. Since I always have a wide range of nuts and dried fruits stored away in my kitchen cupboard, I decided to experiment with a few of these to make a cake, without refined flour and sugar.  The result was a divine, light cake with great texture that everyone in the family enjoyed, and all made without the use of refined flour and sugar!

Spring Nutty Cake

200 grams or 7 oz. ecological dates (you can also use figs)
1 dl or 1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 dl or 1/2 cup almonds
1 dl or 1/2 cup walnuts
1 dl or 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
6 egg whites
vanilla essence or vanilla sugar

Preheat your oven at 175 C or 347 F and line a baking tin with baking paper. Run the dates through the food processor so that they are chopped very fine. Add nuts and dessicated coconut and process, one deciliter or half  cup at a time. Whip egg whites until stiff , adding vanilla sugar. Gently fold the dried fruit and nut mixture under the egg whites until a batter forms. Empty the batter into the lined baking tin and bake for 45 minutes. The cake should not be baked dry and should retain some moisture inside. If you have that whipped cream craving, don’t hesitate to add a dollop to your slice of spring nutty cake.

Written by Admin in: Cakes,Dried Fruits,Fruits,Nuts,Sweet Food | Tags: , , ,
Jul
17
2010
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Using Gooseberries

The perfect balance between sweetness and tartness

My fingers are feeling tender, but they are certainly worth picking. Is there a berry with a more perfect balance between sweetness and tartness than the hard-to-get gooseberry? When they have reached a state of perfect ripeness, I find that quite a few do not make it to my kitchen counter. They are shamelessly devoured right at the bush which is of course the most healthful way to enjoy them. Gooseberries have more vitamin C in them than most fruits and they are rich in antioxidants which protect against a wide range of modern-day diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

However, for those that do make it to the kitchen counter, I’ve got a couple of good ideas. The first is one that my husband reminds me of each year when the gooseberries ripen. “Grandmother made a wonderful cold gooseberry soup with whipped cream,” he reminisces. Of course, I have no idea exactly how grandmother made her gooseberry soup and unfortunately I cannot ask her since she took her recipe with her to heaven some decades ago. Here is my best guess which is tried and tested, and makes a superb dessert or a light lunch on a hot summer’s day.

Gooseberry Soup
Serves 4

1 liter or 1 quart gooseberries, hard ends removed
Water (as per preparation instructions)
Contents of one vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 lime
Honey or sugar to taste
4 tbsps cornflour blended with a bit of cold water

Place the gooseberries in a cooking pot and pour in enough water so that the gooseberries are not quite covered by the water. Add vanilla pod or vanilla sugar. Cook over medium heat so that the berries soften – ensure that the mixture does not boil. Remove from heat and add honey or sugar to taste. Once blended, add the cornflour mixture and allow to thicken over low heat. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into a serving bowl and grate over the rind of 1 lime. Serve with the option of whipping cream.

Recently I discovered that gooseberry makes a delicious sauce for roast chicken (and I am sure turkey). Everyone at the table, particularly my children, agreed. Take about 2 dl or 1 cup of gooseberries and pour over 2 dl or half a cup of water. Allow to cook over low heat until the berries have softened. Add a little sugar and a pinch of salt and blend so that the berries are crushed. Don’t make the sauce too sweet – remember this is a savory topping. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. Serve at the table in a pitcher as an option with the roast chicken. Don’t serve anything spicy with this dish – perhaps a few roasted or boiled vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and parsnips – so that the wonderful gooseberry flavor can be allowed to stand out.

Written by Admin in: Fruit Soup,Gooseberries |
Oct
16
2009
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Thin Apple Cake

It's October again...

It's October again...

October wouldn’t be October without an apple recipe. At Sweden’s smallest factory, which happens to be devoted to apple products, I tasted the most heavenly little apple cake with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I tasted carefully in order to record the ingredients on my tongue and recreate at home. Here is what I came up with and it is very good. The upside is that you can eat it in thin, small slices. The downside is that it does contain those bad boys, refined white flour, sugar and butter. This recipe contains no eggs.

Thin Apple Cake

4-5 tart medium-sized apples peeled and cut into slices
juice of 1/2 lemon
2.5 dl or 1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsps vanilla sugar
2 dl or 3/4 cup sugar
1.5 dl or 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
100 g or 3.5 oz. butter
4-5 dl or 1.5- 2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 392 F. Grease a pie dish. Prepare the apples and toss in lemon juice. Melt the butter in a pan, remove from the heat and blend in milk. Start with 4 dl. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in them and pour in the butter and milk liquid. Blend with a hand-held beater. The batter should not be too stiff. Add milk if it is hard to mix with the beater. Pour the apples into the batter and mix into the liquid. Pour the batter into the pie dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Learn more about  Sweden’s smallest factory devoted to apples at Julie’s Nordic Island.

Written by Admin in: Apples,Cakes,Fruits,Sweet Food | Tags: , ,
Oct
05
2009
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More plums…

A real winner

A real winner

Now you’ve been very patient, waiting for me to test that plum sauce and see whether it works with savory foods. The good news is that a) it does and it is superb and b) you get an extra recipe for plums which cropped up in the process!

I served the following plum sauce over pork served with braised apples and red cabbage, and boiled potatoes. My children couldn’t get enough of it which should give you the heads up. It has the advantage that it is much more health conscious compared to the better known plum sauce from Asian kitchens.

Savory Plum Sauce

1 liter or 1 quart plums, halved and pitted
3 dl or 1 1/3 cups dry white wine
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
3 tbsps honey

Cook the plums covered on low heat in dry white wine and vinegar.  Once the plums are soft, allow to cool and press through a strainer. Place the plum liquid into a clean cooking pot and add honey. Allow to cook on low heat uncovered until the volume of the sauce has reduced by half.  Serve warm or cold over pork, potatoes or other.

Making the sauce didn’t exactly take care of the copious quantities of plums I had picked from my tree. I even needed a friend to help me pick them and suggested she take a basket home. We both came to the conclusion that the best thing to do in order to bottle this sunshine was to make some plum jam. This recipe is divine:

Bottled sunshine

Bottled sunshine

Plum Jam with Lemon & Cinammon

1 liter or 1 quart plums, halved and pitted
500 grams or 1 lb sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp natrium bensoate

Clean glass jars with tops for bottling

Combine all jam ingredients in a pot and blend with a wooden spoon, cover and cook over low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved and the jam is gently bubbling, remove from heat and skim away the ‘foam’ at the surface of the jam. Blend the natrium bensoate in a spoon or two of jam and add to the pot, blending thoroughly. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Pot the jam immediately.

Sep
09
2009
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Plums under a blanket

The magic of a plum tree

The magic of a plum tree

The plum trees in my garden have decided that this is their year! Standing on the ‘inside’ of a plum tree next to the trunk with the branches curving in like an igloo all around you is quite an experience. Everywhere I look the rich fruit pours down and I wonder whether I have gone to heaven. Fortunately, not yet…I’m quite alive so far and have been thinking about all of the many fine recipes I can prepare with these beauties.

First, to encourage you to enjoy plums, here’s the nutritional scoop on them. Plums are giving blueberries competition when it comes to antioxidant value (antioxidants fight free radicals associated with cancer and heart disease). In difficult economic times they could even be a preferable choice since a single plum can give you just as effective an antioxidant boost as a handful of more expensive blueberries.  Plums are also famous for their beneficial effects in encouraging good digestion due to a substance under the skin.

Apart from eating them just as they are, sweet and delicious, this season, it is hard to resist making a sweet dessert with them.  Here is my recipe for plums under a blanket which suits the cooling weather of September and isn’t too dangerous for your wasteline in delicate quantities.

Plums under a Blanket

800 g or 1.8 lbs plums
3/4 dl or 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 dl or just under 1 cup white flour
1.5 dl or 1/2 cup wheat germ
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 dl or 1/3 cup sugar
100 g or 3.5 oz butter
1 egg
1.5 dl or 1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 125 C or 257 F.

Plums under a blanket

Plums under a blanket

Rinse the plums and pat dry. Cut in half, remove the pit and place in a cooking pot. Add sugar and cinnamon and cook on medium heat for up to five minutes so that the sugar blends into the fruit. Remove from heat.

Combine the dry ingredients for the blanket in a food processor and add butter cut into chunks, egg and milk. Blend until an even batter.

Place plums in an oven-proof dish and cover with the batter. Bake 30-40 minutes and serve warm. Of course, a dollop of cream is nice but not necessary.

I’ll be exploring making a savory plum sauce this evening. If it’s successful, watch this space!  Until then, check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

Written by Admin in: Desserts | Tags: ,
Aug
07
2009
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Newly harvested honey on flambéd fruit

Raw Honey

Raw Honey

Last night I tried out a few experimental recipes from various cookbooks I have in my kitchen library but it was my own dessert recipe, whipped up on the spur of the moment, that I got that 5 stars for.

The secret to this lovely sweet is the power of warmed, newly harvested raw honey. When I say raw, I mean honey that has not been preheated and remixed with sugar by the food industry. You can find it sold in the small boutiques and by beekeepers in your area.  As you know, I am a beekeeper, so it isn’t hard for me to find raw honey.

I had six very mature bananas resting in the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter, last year’s rosewater (liquid from aromatic rose petals immersed in brandy) and more jars of newly harvested honey than I can count, I set to work as follows:

Flambéd Fruit with Honey
Serves 4

4 mature (but not black) bananas peeled and halved lengthwise (it doesn’t matter if the bananas break into smaller pieces)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
50 g or 2 oz butter for sautéing
1 dl or 1/2 cup brandy, warmed
1 dl or 1/2 cup raw honey
Vanilla ice cream or whipping cream

Warm the honey in a small pan. Do not allow to boil. Whip the cream or remove the vanilla ice cream from the freezer. Place 4 dessert bowls on the counter so that it is easy to assemble the dessert quickly and serve.

Douse the newly sliced bananas in lemon juice. Sauté the bananas in a thick-bottomed pan in butter until lightly browned. Don’t over-handle the bananas as they will become mushy. Flambé the bananas for your dining audience by momentarily bringing the pan near the table, throwing the warm brandy over the bananas and setting it alight. As soon as the flame has died down, spoon the bananas into the bowls and top with one scoop of vanilla ice cream plus a generous drizzle of warm honey. Serve immediately.

As with all desserts, in fact all foods, please remember to stick to small portions. This is a lovely sweet to round off the meal, not the main feature of a second meal after the first meal!

Written by Admin in: Bananas,Desserts,Fruits,honey,Sweet Food | Tags: , ,
Apr
28
2009
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Black Currant Cake

Black Currants

Black Currants

As the black currant bushes around my town home and out on my island begin to sprout the first aromatic leaves, I realize that it is time to use up my frozen berries from last year’s harvest. Black currant is regarded by many nutritionists as a wonderfood due to its high antioxidant content (meaning that they offer protection against free radicals which can damage cells and cause disease). The only question is how can you use them aside from in the standard, albeit wonderful, jam pot? Black currants have a strong flavor and can be more difficult to figure out how to use in bakes, etc.

Recently I discovered a recipe for a black currant cake in one of my cookbooks, but I had to hesitate. Mounds of sugar, butter and white flour were required in order to produce this delicious-looking black currant creation. I summoned my courage and decided to make the cake with alterations. The result was divine and everyone liked it without exception.

Here we go:

Black Currant Cake

For the cake:

3 eggs
2.5 dl or 1 cup raw sugar
3 dl or 1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
For the topping:

4 dl or 1.5-2 cups black currants (frozen or fresh)
50 g or 2 oz butter cut into thin slabs
2 dl or 1 cup slivered almonds
0.5 dl or 1/4 cup raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 175 C or 347 F. Grease a regular-sized pie dish. Blend the eggs and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and remain cake base ingredients. Blend. Pour into the pie dish.

Scatter the black currants evenly across the top of the cake base. Follow with a layer of nuts. Scatter the sugar across the top and finally distribute the slabs of butter evenly.  Bake approximately 30-35 minutes. The cake should not be entirely firm and retain some moisture in the middle.

Allow to cool and enjoy in small pieces with tea or coffee. Remember that quantity and physical activity are key in being able to enjoy your desserts well!

Mar
04
2009
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Chocolate Fruit Balls

Sweet Tooth's Healthy Delight

Sweet Tooth

Kids in Sweden love them. Adults in Sweden buy them at the shops without telling their kids. They are an energy bomb and are the sweet tooth’s delight. What are they? Chokladbollar or chocolate balls! How can I possibly think of including this in a health food blog, you may well wonder. Well, let’s see.

I’ve been working on ways to create this Swedish sweet-tooth’s dream with means other than the usual bomb of butter and sugar. I’ve worked out a version with oats and honey in the past, but that still includes butter. Chocolate balls do have the virtues that you can make them bite-size and they don’t include white flour. However, I’ve got to do better than that.

So here comes my solution: chocolate balls made with dried fruit. Some of us (including me) are sensitive to dry fruit and, in general, medical science is beginning to realize that different bodies have different tolerances for high quantities of fiber. So, choose a dried fruit that agrees with you. I love dried apricots, but my stomach growls when I eat more than just a touch of them, so I combine a bit of dried apricot with dried figs, dried apples and sometimes dried cranberries. The great thing about using dried fruit to make these delicious little sweet quenchers is that the moisture and sugar in the fruit allows you to skip the sugar and butter. A little added honey and you are away. Also, if you are lactose, gluten, milk or egg intolerant, this recipe meets your needs! Here is my suggestion which can be made in many variations.

Chocolate Fruit Balls (makes about 20-25)

2 cups or 5 dl nuts of your choice (a mixture of almonds, walnuts and cashew works well)
1 cup or 2 1/2 dl dried fruits of your choice
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsps honey
either 2 tbsps grated apple or grated rind of one orange plus juice of half an orange

1/4 cup or 1 dl dessicated coconut or unsweetened cocoa powder for dipping the balls in

Grind nuts and dried fruit in a food processor until they form moist clumps. Add remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth paste. Pour the dessicated coconut or cocoa powder into a bowl. Take a tablespoon of the paste and roll into a ball, dip in the coconut/cocoa and place on a serving plate. Keep refrigerated.

Chocolate fruit balls are not just a child’s delight. They are also an elegant finish to a nice meal, particularly if everyone is too full for a major dessert. Just serve them up with coffee or tea after the meal. Very elegant indeed served on a platter and surrounded with a bit of fresh fruit.

Jan
17
2009
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Hot Blueberry Crumble

Dalarna Blueberries

Dalarna Blueberries

I love the very cold spells that we still have down in Stockholm (despite the grape-growing climate that the warming of the planet seems to promise us). It gives the lake ice a chance to become thick enough for us to skate on so that we can explore the islands of Lake Mälaren the way that people used to do in the winter. Our bay is an enormous ice skating rink at the moment and you don’t have to wonder what we will be doing with our Saturday morning!

Don’t go unprepared! Pack some Maple Roasted Nuts and hot chocolate as a snack. Whatever you pack, do expect everyone to be starving and ready to eat your right arm when you get home. The cold has a habit of making us feel truly hungry (a good thing). In this situation, I usually have ready some Chicken Soup for the Cold with a nice dill white cabbage salad (see the next entry!) on the side.

The crowning glory of the day, however, will be this dessert recipe for Hot Blueberry Crumble which everyone will lap up with a warm cup of coffee or tea. Don’t expect there to be any leftovers. If you didn’t know it already blueberries are a superfood packed with antioxidants (cancer shield) and good for eye health. As always, and hard as it may be with something so delicious, eat in moderation since this dish doesn’t just consist of blueberries!

Hot Blueberry Crumble

500 g or 1.1 lbs frozen blueberries
2 tbsps potato or corn starch
1 tsp vanilla sugar
4 tbsps sugar
rind of one lemon which has been rinsed and dried
100 g or 3.5 oz. butter
3 dl 1 1/3 cups oats
1 dl or 1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 dl or 1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F. Grease a medium-sized casserole dish. Blend the blueberries, starch, vanilla sugar, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl and pour into the casserole dish. Wipe out the bowl and combine remaining dry ingredients in it. Add the butter in chunks and rub it into the dry ingredients so that a crumble forms. If it is too dry take a little more butter. Scatter the crumble evenly on top of the blueberries. Bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or a spoon of Turkish yogurt.

Remember to visit the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook which is a continually growing directory of recipes for your good health this 2009!

Jan
03
2009
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Gröt Glorious Gröt!

The Glorious Filling Grains & Pulses of the Nordic Kitchen

The Glorious Filling Grains & Pulses of the Nordic Kitchen

Gröt or porridge doesn’t seem like the sexiest of dishes but things aren’t always what they seem. Porridge in all of its most innovative and traditional forms is being served up as fine cuisine in some of the most fashionable restaurants in Scandinavia. Why? It’s healthy, fresh and delicious.

My own porridge recipe is as simple as it is delicious. Enjoy with some fresh berries, nuts or raisins strewn on top:

Julie’s Porridge for a Happy Morning or a Satifying Evening

4 dl or 1 3/4 cups oatmeal
8 dl or 3 cups milk
3-4 tablespoons honey

Warm all ingredients in a pot, stirring slowly over medium heat with a wooden spoon. Once thickened, and just beginning to simmer, remove from heat. Lap up and enjoy the warmth surging through your body! You can use water or milk substitutes as an alternative to milk if you are allergic.

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