Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

adapted from Allrecipes

There is no better way to eat a zucchini than chocolate zucchini bread. My mom would give this to us when we were kids and it was so good we didn't even know it had veggies smuggled inside. I like this particular recipe because the applesauce cuts down on the oil and it is easy to substitute whole wheat flour without affecting the taste. It comes out soft and moist, with subtle hints of chocolate sprinkled throughout.

I made two loaves and froze one of them. It was so good that it only lasted in the freezer one night before Ben and I decided we may as well eat that one too.

Makes 2 loaves

6 Tbsp Cocoa
2 Tbsp butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup applesauce
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups flour (I used 1/2 white, 1/2 whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips + 2 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Lightly grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, cocoa, and sugar. Then add zucchini, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and add it to the wet mixture. Coat chocolate chips in 2 Tbsp flour (so they don't all sink to the bottom) and then gently fold 3/4 cup into the mix. Pour the batter into prepared loaf pans and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup chips on top. Bake in oven for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lettu (Finnish Crepes)

This is what Ben's Finnish grandma would make for breakfast sometimes. And though Ben usually is not a breakfast person, he does love Lettu.
Traditional Finnish Crepes are usually small (about 8 cm diameter) , and although they are a little thicker than regular French crepes, they are much thinner than a pancake.

Serves 4

4 cups milk
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 cups (400 ml) flour
8 Tbsp (100 grams) butter, melted + butter for cooking

Whisk the eggs, salt and milk together. Slowly add the flour a little at a time, and once it is mixed, add in the melted butter. Cover the batter and let it stand for 30 minutes to an hour.

Heat a frying pan until very hot. Generously butter the pan and pour the first batch of crepe batter in the rounds. You may have to tilt the pan around to get even coverage on the bottom of the pan. Fry until the bubbles on the batter surface begin to set and flip the crepes over.

Fry the crepes until they are golden, remove and continue frying with the rest of the batter. You may have to add more butter to prevent sticking.

Serve with jam, fresh berries or fruit, whipped cream, or syrup.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rosemary Lemon Chicken with Olives

adapted from Chez Us

The rosemary in this dish has such great flavor and is paired perfectly with the bright, tart lemons and salty olives. This photo doesn't begin to describe how delicious this chicken was.

3-4 chicken thighs
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jar olives
1 handful of fresh rosemary (I used 1 Tbsp dried)
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute onion, garlic (and rosemary if it is dried, not fresh). Wash chicken thighs and pat dry, season with salt and pepper and add legs to the frying pan until they are brown on all sides (about 6-10 minutes).

Put chicken legs in an oven safe dish and pour onion/garlic mixture on top. Add olives, lemon slices and rosemary (if using fresh) on top. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through and the juices run clear.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kate's Tortillas

From my sister Kate

I have tried many flour tortilla recipes and none of them come out as soft and pliable as these ones. I really like how simple the ingredients are and the fact that it doesn't use butter or lard. It does take a bit of practice to make them look good, but by the time we had rolled out a few we were definitely getting the hang of it.

Makes about 8 nine inch tortillas

2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp oil
3/4 cup (approx) hot water

Mix together flour and salt, then blend with oil. Slowly add the hot water, a little at a time until the dough starts together. Knead dough until it becomes smooth and stretchy, but not sticky.
Cut the dough into about 8 segments and roll them out on a floured surface until very thin, almost transparent.

Heat a frying pan on high. Take the tortilla and cook it on the frying pan for only 10-15 seconds and then flip it over. Wait an additional 10-15 seconds, take the tortilla off the heat and set it aside.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lasagna Tart

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ok, so this didn't photograph all to well, but I have to say it was one of the better meals I've made in a while and Ben ate the whole thing in one sitting. Be sure to drain the zucchini for as long as possible, they emit a lot of moisture in the cooking process and I was left with quite a bit of liquid at the top. All in all this was a great dinner and one I will be trying again soon!

2 medium zucchini, sliced into very thin coins
1 tsp salt
2 cups ricotta cheese (this is hard to find in Finland, so we used cottage cheese)
3 cups spaghetti sauce (about 800 grams or 28 ounces)

Tart Crust
2 cups flour (1/2 white, 1/2 whole wheat)
1 tsp salt
zest from one lemon or 1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup cold butter (75 grams)
scant 1/2 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 375 (190 C) and place a rack in the middle.

Start by tossing the sliced zucchini with salt in a medium bowl. Transfer to a colander and let it drain as much fluid as possible while you make the tart crust.

To make the tart dough, mix together flour, salt, lemon zest, basil and oregano in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until it forms little pea sized balls and slowly add the cold water a little at a time until the dough just comes together. Knead once or twice, and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick (1/2 centimeter) and large enough for your 9-inch tart pan.

Ease the pastry into your pan and press it in so it is snug around the edges. Trim away excess dough and place the dough in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, heat up the spaghetti sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes, letting some of the moisture evaporate.

Once the dough is done resting, prick the crust with a fork a few times. Line the dough with parchment paper and fill the tart with pie weights (dry beans or dry rice works as well). Bake for 15 minutes and carefully remove the paper and weights, then toast the tart crust in the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for a few minutes and turn the heat down to 350. This step is to avoid having a soggy bottom crust.

Use the spatula and spread about 1/2 of the ricotta cheese at the bottom of the tart, then a layer of zucchini. Then spread 1/2 of the spaghetti sauce, with another layer of zucchini, then the other half of the cheese, another layer of zucchini and top it off with the rest of the sauce. You want the filling to nearly reach the top.

Place the tart on a rimmed baking sheet (in case of overflow) and bake for abou 40 minutes or until the tart is cooked through. Remove, sprinkle the top with parmesan and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kaaliruoka (Cabbage Meal)

from my Finnish Mother in Law, Ulla

This is a dinner that Ben remembers from his childhood. It is so filling and simple, I can see her whipping this up for her 8 hungry kids after a long day teaching ballet. Thanks for the idea Ulla!

1 lb ground beef
1/2 white cabbage, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2-3 cups rice
1 beef bullion cube
1 Tbsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Cook rice (enough for about 3-4 cups... this isn't an exact science) with beef broth or a beef bullion cube. Brown hamburger along with the onion and garlic in a large pot. Drain grease and return to pot along with the chopped cabbage, and parsley. Cook for a couple of minutes until the cabbage starts to soften. Stir in cooked rice along with salt, pepper and brown sugar. Serve (it was great with tomatoes!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Banana Banana Bread

adapted from Allrecipes

This is my go-to basic banana bread recipe. I really like this one because it uses a ton of bananas so it really holds on to the banana flavor. It soft and delicious, and even better the next day, so I would double the recipe and save one loaf for tomorrow.

makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 4 large bananas. If you don't have enough bananas, feel free to replace with other berries, applesauce or other mashed fruit)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 (175 C) and lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla and spices. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

*You can also make these into muffins, bake at 350 (175 C) for 25 minutes

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baked Tilapia Salad with Thai Peanut Sauce

adapted from Danica's Daily

This salad was so good. The dressing was a snap to put together and the next day Ben was asking if we had any leftover.

Serves 2-3

Salad Ingredients
2-3 tilapia filets (or other white fish)
Lettuce or other leafy greens
2-3 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 red pepper, diced
mushrooms (optional) chopped
tomatoes (optional) chopped

Thai Peanut Sauce (makes 1 cup)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
4 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp chili sauce, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced

Heat peanut sauce in a sauce pan on low and stir 5 minutes until peanut butter is smooth and creamy. Let cool.

If using frozen fish; defrost, rinse, and pat dry. Place in a baking dish and marinate in 1/2 cup of the sauce. Make sure all of the fish gets covered. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to several hours. Meanwhile, tear lettuce and prepare and combine vegetables for salad.

Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350, or until flaky and cooked through. You can also wrap filets in foil and grill for 4-5 minutes each side.

Serve salad with peanut sauce on the side. Place fish atop and serve. Great with rice.

Friday, July 10, 2009

BBQ Pork Sandwiches

I LOVE slow cooker recipes. They are impossible to screw up and people think you are just amazing in the kitchen. If they only knew how easy it was, they wouldn't be so impressed! For the Fourth of July, we wanted to make something uniquely American and this was just the ticket. The sandwiches were so good, juicy and delicious.

I made my own sauce because it is hard to find good BBQ sauce in Finland. But feel free to experiment with different flavors of the bottled kind.

3-4 lbs pork (could easily switch to beef or chicken)
3-4 cups (about 25-30 ounces) BBQ sauce (homemade or bottled, it doesn't matter. You just need enough to mostly cover the pork)
1 medium onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Homemade BBQ Sauce
1 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
3 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cayenne powder

Also needed:
Buns, pickles, coleslaw and some people like mustard...

Combine all sauce ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes in a pan until sauce is thickened. If using a bottled sauce, skip this step.

Put the Barbeque sauce in a deep pot (or crockpot) and add the minced onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Put in the pork and be sure that it is mostly covered with sauce or those bits will be dry. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (overnight) or 4-5 hours on high. Scoop off excess fat, and shred the beef. Add a little water or extra sauce if it looks dry. Put the lid back on and cook on low for an additional 1-2 hours. Stir occasionally. Serve warm on split buns and let the compliments roll on in.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

We were getting ready for a 4th of July party and I had a cake meltdown. The cake I made did not work at all and was a huge mess. So with an hour to go, I turned to the reliable Pioneer Woman, hoping she had a simple recipe we could throw together at the last minute. And she saved the day. Because I was just done with cooking at that point, Ben ended up making the whole thing and it turned out so great!

For our topping, we used whipped cream and berries. For a more decadent icing, PW has a lovely looking cream cheese icing that looks divine to try...

1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
9 Tbsp butter, room temperature (117 grams)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

4-5 cups whipped cream (prepared)
Blueberries (optional)

*Important: If using 8 inch round cake pans, be sure it is at least 2 inches deep or the batter will overflow!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan or 9 inch square (we needed a rectangle shape so we used a 9x11 inch pan...)

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and corn starch.
Cream butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs in one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour into a greased and floured cake pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until no longer jiggly in the middle. An inserted knife should come out clean and the cake should look lightly tanned. Remove cake from the pan as soon as possible and put it on a rack to cool completely.

Wash and slice the berries. Once the cake is completely cool, slice it in half through the middle (so there are two layers) Spread about 1-2 cups whipped cream on the bottom half of the cake and cover with a layer of strawberry slices. Put the other half of the cake on top of the cream/berry layer and use the remaining whipped cream to cover the entire cake. Decorate with berries and serve. If not eating right away, store in the fridge.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chewy, Chunky Blondies

Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours"

Blondies are a less chocolatey version (aka Blonde version) of a Brownie. They turn out like chewy cookie bars, and these were great. Plus, I thought the name was so cute, I just had to try them out.

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 oz or 225 grams) butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips or toffee bits
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and set aside *Note, glass pans don't work as well for baking, if you have a metal pan try to use that one because it will cook more evenly on the bottom.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for another 3-4 minutes, or until well incorporated. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until it just disappears into the batter. Fold in the chips, nuts, and coconut. Scrape the batter into your baking dish and try to smooth out the top as best as you can.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of your blondies comes out clean. (Mine took 50 minutes!) The blondies should pull away from the sides a bit and the top should be light golden brown. Take them out and let cool for 15 minutes before flipping them upside down on a cooling rack. Cool completely, cut and serve.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pesto Potato Salad

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This is a fresh twist on potato salad with no mayonnaise and one of my favorite flavors: pesto. The salad turned out beautifully and it was very easy to put together.

2 lbs small potatoes, quartered
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1 inch segments
3/4 cup pesto (about 6-7 ounces)
4 Tbsp mild vinegar, like white wine or white balsamic
1 small purple onion, diced
3 diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but next time I might try pine nuts or almonds)
1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Clean potatoes, cut them into quarters. Boil in salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add beans; cook for 4 additional minutes. Drain and let cool, transfer to a large bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, combine pesto, vinegar, and diced tomatoes. In a frying pan, saute onion until soft and add to the pesto mix. Pour over potatoes and beans and mix until potatoes are evenly covered. Add salt and pepper.

Toast nuts on medium with olive oil, salt and sugar; stirring constantly until they are a golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside to cool on a plate.

Garnish potato salad with nuts, serve immediately or make this up to two hours in advance.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

White Fish Tacos

I am trying to incorporate more fish into our diet and experimenting with different ways of preparing it. These reminded me of the ones you get on the beach in California. We will definitely be making them again sometime soon!

2-3 fish filets (white fish)
1/2 Tbsp lemon pepper
1/2 Tbsp butter

Pico de Gallo
5 large tomatoes
1 cup of diced onion
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
salt (to taste)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juice only
jalapeƱos or chili powder (optional, to taste)

Other Additions
1 cup black beans
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups prepared rice
1 lime, juice and zest

Preheat the oven to 350. Place fish in a baking dish and put a small cut of butter on each filet, then sprinkle with lemon pepper and a little salt. Put in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the fish is flaky.

In the meantime, start the pico de gallo. Dice and deseed the tomatoes and put them in a medium bowl with 1 cup diced onion, minced garlic, 1 lime (juice only), most of the chopped cilantro and salt (to taste). I often will add some chopped jalapeƱos or chili powder for a little heat as well. Set aside.

Begin cooking the rice as per directions. Add salt (to taste) and the other lime, plus the lime zest and any remaining cilantro.

Saute the remaining 1/4 cup of onions with a 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until soft, then add the black beans. Roughly chop the lettuce and put it and the rice and beans in separate serving bowls.
Once the fish is done, create your tacos by layering the ingredients. Close your eyes and pretend you are in sunny California.