Dec
22
2010
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Healthy Nordic Alternatives for your Holiday Season Table

Don't let Christmas weigh you down!

It’s Christmas again and with this a time when your healthy kitchen could take a nose-dive. But not here at Julie’s Kitchen! With all due respect to saffron buns and Christmas ham, we really do need to start to think along different lines. Christmas mingles in Sweden usually offer up gingerbread biscuits, hot spiced wine and a host of other delicacies which unfortunately often include an overdose of refined flour and sugar. Yet the Scandinavian traditions of Christmas also offer unique opportunities for healthy eating that will leave your digestive system feeling light and bright. So here are a few suggestions of healthy Scandinavian elements to think about introducing into your Christmas that will also make your Christmas smorgåsbord or mingle especially interesting.

Starter Ideas

Focus on crisp breads with different types of smoked fish toppings. Make a luxurious pate using your favorite smoked or preserved fish topping by pureeing the cooked or smoked fish with olive or canola oil, a twist of lemon, salt and pepper. Combine in a food processor, adjusting ingredients to give you just the right consistency. Sardine is a fish that is hard to beat in pate.

Experiment with sour, vitamin C rich berries such as cranberries or rowanberries as a tangy topping for crisp bread combinations.  Place small bowls of berries in between the crispbread and toppings. Try not to sweeten too much – just a sprinkling of sugar and a bit of cinnamon will do it.

Main Dish Ideas

Make vegetables the focus! What could be better than a steaming platter of honey-baked grilled root vegetables accompanied by some festive tossed kale? For the root vegetables (beets, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and more): peel and cut into large chunks, toss in olive oil and rosemary or bay leaf, and a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 200c or 390 F for 40 minutes. 10 minutes before the end of the baking drizzle over a bit of honey. For the kale: Chop roughly and saute for a few minutes in olive or canola with onions, golden raisins, salt and pepper. The kale should keep some of its firmness. Serve the vegetable dishes with some Turkish or Greek yogurt (not Scandinavian but it’s a great topping!).

Dessert Ideas

That’s simple! Lay out clementines, mandarins and oranges in generous bowls interspersed with small bowls of walnuts. If you want to provide an extra special touch to the walnuts, melt some good quality dark chocolate and bathe the walnuts in it. Place spoonfuls of chocolate walnuts on baking paper and allow to harden in the refrigerator.

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Check The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for many other great suggestions for your holiday season table!

May
27
2009
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Packing a Pre-Summer Health Punch

lima_beans

My favorite butter beans

I’m not giving you my little secret for getting through that warm weather day foodwise until it really is warm. Here in the Mälar islands it is windy and although we are all trying to wear summer clothes, the odd sweater creeps out even with the best intentions of being summery.

So, even if the early summer weather is playing tricks on us with wind and rain, as it is supposed to do if we are going to have a good harvest, there is some great healthy Nordic-style food to be enjoyed in the spirit of getting fit and energized for the season. If you’ve been out for a long walk in the park in this sort of weather, you’ll be hungry and this is just the dish for you.

If there are three ingredients that I find to be very Nordic, they are root vegetables, oily fish and beans. All three have played a major role in the kitchens of this part of the world and all three are clear winners when it comes to your health. The question is can you combine these successfully to create a meal with fantastic taste and a real health punch.

As I found myself out on my deserted island with just those three ingredients and a hungry husband to feed a few days ago, I came up with the following which is a delightful meal on windy, cool pre-summer days when you are trying to give your body something really good. Years ago, I learned that with food limitation is the mother of invention and you should always remember this when trying to find inspiration in your kitchen. Here is the recipe.

Mashed Root Vegetables with Sardines and Butter Beans
Serves 4

For the mashed root vegetables:
6 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
50 grams butter
1/2 dl milk
A pinch of ground muscat
Salt/Pepper

For the bean topping:
1 large zucchini, julienned
380 g lima or butter beans (cooked)
4 tbsps canola oil or olive oil
1 clove garlic

2 cans sardines (including at least 4 whole sardines)

Peel the potatoes and carrots. Cover with water in a pan and add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and cook on medium heat until you can easily pierce with a fork. Drain away the water. Mash the vegetables with a fork or potato masher. Add butter, half of the milk and place over low heat, blending together the ingredients. Add the remaining milk, if needed and season with muscat, pepper and salt. Cover and keep warm.

Saute the garlic and zucchini in olive oil for 3-4  minutes on medium heat. The zucchini should not be too soft. Add the cooked beans, saute for a further 2 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Assemble on individual plates. Spoon a large ball of the mashed root vegetables into the middle of the plate. Spoon the bean and zucchini mixture over and around the mashed vegetables and top with a sardine, preferably broken into two pieces.

Artistic, delicious, full of energy, divine! Remember to check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for more recipes!

Dec
03
2008
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Beetroots for Christmas

Big Beautiful Beet

Big Beautiful Beet

Since I’m on great Finnish food ideas and root vegetables this week, I thought I’d throw in that little extra that will add great color and flavor to your holiday season table.

I just cannot say enough good things about beetroots. Just a superb food. If you don’t eat them yet, start! Want to learn more about them? Check Paavo’s Bytes for May 2008 in More Bytes.

Beetroots in Soured Cream with mashed potatoes or mashed root vegetables (see my recipe in the previous entry in this blog) is a terrific dish and very easy to prepare. Here’s how:

 

Beetroots in Sour Cream

1.8 lbs or 800 g medium beetroots, peeled and diced
2 medium onions finely chopped
2 tbsps butter
1 2/3 cups or 4 dl sour cream
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
Salt/Pepper
A generous handful of fresh chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a pan and saute the onion and beetroot. Lower the heat, cover and allow to ‘sweat’ until cooked. Blend in the soured cream and wine vinegar. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Place on a warm serving dish and sprinkle over parsley.

Typically, this dish is served with mashed potatoes piped around it. However, you can go for a lighter version and simply serve with my light recipe for mashed root vegetables as a separate dish.

If you are wondering how to avoid ending up with pink fingers after making this dish, wear disposable kitchen gloves.

Oct
22
2008
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The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health

Yummy Vegetables!

Tummy Trim Vegetables!

Oh dear. “What is she thinking now?”, you might wonder. Isn’t a title like “The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health” just naturalness gone too far? No, not really although I do agree that a book with that title might not make the bestseller lists.

This was just my crazy little way of calling your attention to the value of controlled fermentation in the kitchen for good health. Cultivating good bacteria in order to mature foods in ways that are good for our stomachs and that appeal to our palates is a very old art used in many parts of the world, including in the Nordic region. Lactic fermentation of root vegetables and cabbages is one good example. This technique was originally a means of preserving the vital nutrients that these vegetables could provide until the next warm season could deliver new nutrients. What is lactic fermentation? It means using the watery liquid (the whey) that is left when you drain out the creamy part of yogurt or other forms of ‘live’ dairy product. What is a ‘live’ dairy product? It is one that contains live bacteria good for maintaining your digestive flora (check the labels!).

When I thought of “The Rotten Cookbook for Good Health”, I thought of a whole host of foods that would fit in. All kinds of interesting combinations of tasty vegetables that could be fermented and bottled, wonderful sourdough breads, home-made yogurts and more. The idea just gets bigger all the time!

Now let’s get down to practicals. During the past days, I have made classic Nordic fermented root vegetables. A serving of this a day is guaranteed to keep your digestion in good form! Here is the basic recipe:

Tummy Trim Vegetables
(makes 3 liters or 3 quarts)

2 kg or 4.4 lbs root vegetables and cabbages of your choice (I used white cabbage, swede, carrots and turnip) roughly chopped
1 liter or 1 quart yogurt or buttermilk (filmjölk in Swedish) drained through a cheesecloth overnight
Salt
Water

Place the chopped vegetables into a large clean glass or ceramic container that can be sealed. Pour over the whey (the milky liquid) that has been separated from the cream. Mix the vegetables into this liquid and place a heavy weight on them (I use my limestone rock paper-weight) so that they are compressed and just covered with the liquid. Seal and leave to ferment in a warm place in the house for 12 hours. Open and add salt water if the vegetables are not covered in liquid. The recipe for salt water is 3 tsps to one liter or quart of water. Place the weight on the vegetables again and seal. Leave in the same place to ferment for 3 days this time. After this time you can bottle the vegetables and liquid as you like and refrigerate or keep in a cool place. In contrast to most foods, these just improve with time! Consume as a side dish with almost anything. For extra seasoning, add in paprikas, onions and your favorite herbs such as rosemary or dill on the first day of fermentation. This makes a mean “rotten” side salad!

Visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for a further selection of great recipes!

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