Christmas Eve morning

Merry Christmas everyone. It has snowed last night and the ground is all white and magical with -10 degrees outside. This morning feels that much more special as it is our first Christmas as a little family. We all gathered in bed, Siena was allowed too because it is her birthday today and she is turning two years old. We have some rice porridge in front of us that is topped with a sticky date and plum sauce. To make the sauce, you basically boil some dates and plums together with some seasonal spices (such as cinnamon, cloves, orange zest) and a touch of brown sugar, if needed. I topped it with some dried apples and more cinnamon. We have Christmas music playing in the background and it’s time to open a few presents that are under the Christmas tree. The little one has his Christmas hat on and we are still in our pj’s with hubby. We are going to spend the holiday with our families (we are naturally all taking a covid test before hand to be on the safe side) and enjoy some time with our loved ones. This moment right here is something I wished for last Christmas and it feels quite magical to have this moment to ourselves.

Savoury Christmas Treat & Cardamom Cocktail

‘ Shrimp toast and a cardamom gin cocktail as a Christmas movie snack’

Christmas is the time when you eat savoury and sweet, one after the other to satisfy all your taste buds. Even though I love to bake and cook sweet things, I much prefer eating savoury over any given day. This very typical sweet rye bread combined with some form of shrimp paste and/or cured salmon is something us nordics love to eat. I added the runny egg on top as I personally just love the combination together. My husband and I had these toasts yesterday when we watched a Christmas movie. I love that he has been home so much now as he is on daddy leave combined with some holidays, so we are trying to make the most of enjoying this time together with our baby. We also enjoyed a light cocktail each made from cardamom, grapefruit and gin. I cannot believe it is only two more nights until Christmas Eve. I just made some gingerbread cookie dough into the fridge that I will be baking in the morning as we will have a little picnic in the forest tomorrow. Let’s start with making the cocktail-

Cardamom gin cocktail

  • 2 oz Heindrick’s Gin
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice ( I used fresh juice)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz syrup
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • Rosemary/ Seabuck thorn/dried apple to garnish

Toast a cardamom pod on a dry pan to intensify it’s flavour. Put the pod in a cocktail shaker and gently crush it. Give it just enough pressure to crack the pod and a few of the inner seeds. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a glass and garnish with sea buck thorn and a twig of rosemary.

 

Shrimp Paste 

  • 1 cup chopped shrimp
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped capers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
  • thyme twigs

Mix everything together in a bowl to make a delicious shrimp paste

Remaining ingredients for the toast

  •  few slices of Cold smoked salmon
  • 2 slices rye bread
  • 7 minute cooked egg (runny yolk)
  • ground green pepper
  • toasted walnuts

 

Christmas Date Cake

Dates are the perfect sweet ingredient for a winter kitchen. The natural sweetener makes a great base for cakes, salads, jams, smoothies, sauces, breads and gives that lovely rich intensive caramel taste. I’ve done date coffee-style cakes every winter and since it is only three nights until Christmas, it was about time to make one. The sticky juicy cake was topped with a cream cheese icing and some macarons but the cake is great just on its own. I love to have it with a cup of tea or an espresso as a little pick me during the day. I enjoyed some while wrapping the last of the gifts and organising some last things that we have to do before winding down for the big day.

 

Date cake ingredients

  • 250g dates (pit removed)
  • 2dl sugar
  • 2dl water
  • 200g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2dl flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

cake tin

  • butter
  • bread crumb- flour

toppings

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • macarons

Directions

Deseed and cut the dates into a saucepan and cook on medium heat . Add the sugar and water. Let the dates cook until soft and mushy for about 10 minutes. Add in the butter and allow to melt into the dates.

Allow the dates to cool a little and add in the egg. Add in the dry ingredients. Butter and flour the cake tin, then pour the date mixture into the cake tin. Place the cake tin into the oven ( 175 degrees Celsius) onto the lower level for 45 minutes. Check that the cake is ready by pressing a tooth pick into the mixture, if it comes out dry, it is ready. However, do not overcook the mixture and allow it to cool before tipping it over onto a cooling rack.

To make the icing, melt some butter and mix in with the icing sugar. Mix in some cream cheese and a splash of milk. Pour the frosting over the date cake and garnish with macarons. If the consistency seems too dry, add more milk or butter and if the consistency seems too wet, add more sugar.

Pour the icing over the cooled date cake and garnish with a few macarons. Sieve on some icing sugar.

Winter smoothie

Today is the darkest day of the year and it feels only natural to start the day with a vitamin filled smoothie. I try to pack in the fruit and vegetable through liquid form to ensure I get enough nutrients throughout the day, now that my time is limited with a little baby. Thus, smoothies are great additives to a diet that are quick and easy to make. Since we will be enjoying a delicious but heavy Christmas meal in just three days, a refreshing smoothie is the best way to start the day. My husband and I both love this combination of ingredients and the rich purple colour is appropriate for this festive season.

Winter smoothie

  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 orange
  • about 5-7 walnuts
  • pinch of cardamum

Blend everything together and drink immidiatly 

 

Christmas coffee & Pine wreath

I usually prefer a simple good quality cappuccino in the morning without any sweetness but during the Christmas season it is nice to spruce up the coffee once in a while. This maple latte also makes a great afternoon pick-me-up if you have a little sweet tooth craving and elevates your cappuccino in a matter of minutes. While hubby has looking after our little one, I quickly made a little wreath and enjoyed it over Christmas music and this smoothing coffee, which is super delicious. Cardamom is one of my favourite spices during this time of year, which I would say the entire Scandinavia agrees on.

I actually found the twigs for the base of wreath on my morning walk with Siena who happen to be chewing on them. I noticed how durable and bendy they were that I snatched a few to take home with me. You basically bend them into a circle and attach the ends together with floral wire. I took some pine twigs and little white berries from the forest and simply attached them to the base with more floral wire. It is really as simple as that. This little wreaths make great decorations on top of gifts or simple around the house to bring a little of nature inside. I think, wreaths are perhaps the finest Christmas decorations. A little evergreen in Christmas time is a must. 

Maple Cardamom latte (serves 2)

  • 1 1/2 cups cashew milk (or any milk of choice)
  • pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1 Tablespoon almond butter
  • pinch of vanilla paste (or extract)
  • 1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup
  • 2 good quality espresso
  • toasted almond flakes
  • pinch of cinnamon for topping

Directions

In a saucepan combine the milk, cardamom, almond butter, vanilla and maple syrup. Bring to a high simmer over medium heat. Transfer the milk to a blender and blitz until smooth and frothy. Top the milk on top of your espresso. Garnish with toasted almond flakes and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Christmas Pomegranate Pavlova

‘cosy candlelight mornings & early hour baking of a Pomegranate Pavlova’ 

A traditional pavlova really sets the mood during Christmas time, so I decided to whip one up for this Sunday. For the past few weeks my hubby and I have been had a nasty stomach bug, which has drained our energy to the maximum with a baby under one month, but now we are both feeling much better. It means it is time to get back into the holiday spirit as it is only a few weeks until Christmas Eve. My hyacinths are starting to bloom in the kitchen, our little baby has grown 3cm since our last checkup and I’ve made one wreath from pines and white berries. The tree is still as beautiful as ever and we have managed to watch one Christmas movie thus far. I started whipping up the egg whites before 7am while the baby was sleeping and managed to snap a few photos even though it was really dark outside still. I find baking early morning such a pleasant activity, I enjoy a freshly brewed coffee with a little bit of me time (so rare lately) and appreciate all the little Christmas ornaments around the house. When the pavlova was set in the oven, our little elf woke up as well and after a nursing session my boys enjoyed a slow morning in bed with some cuddles. My brother and his wife bought the little one a cutest elf hat from a countryside village that was just the cutest visual ever. The weather is miserable today, foggy, slippery and dark so it’s time to cosy up indoors with some candle light.

In this elegant dessert, a crisp thin layered meringue layer is filled with homemade pomegranate sauce, greek yogurt and toasted almonds. The greek yogurt may not be a traditional topping for a pavlova, but trust me, the tanginess works against the sweetness of the meringue. To keep the meringue from being flat and grainy, try beating egg whites until stiff but not dry. Over-beaten eggs easily lose volume when folded with other ingredients. Also, when adding in the sugar, add it one tablespoon at a time mixing well continuously. Then, you beat the meringue until thin and glossy that is easily shipped into a dome on your parchment paper that is placed into the oven. A pavlova cooks for about an hour and takes about 2 hours in total to make even though it is not much work.

Ingredients for pavlova

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (topping)
  • handful of almond flakes (topping)

Pomegranate Sauce

  • 1 pomegranate
  • 3 tablespoons blackcurrant jam
  • 1-2 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 140 degrees celcius. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a large bowl, add in the egg whites. Beat them with an electric whisk until stiff, but not dry. Gradually add in the sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat until thick and glossy. Fold in the vanilla extract, cornstarch and lemon juice.

Spoon the mixture onto your parchment paper. With this quantity, you make two smaller ones or one large one. I made two smaller ones, shaped like a dome. Bake for 1 hour and cool on a wire rack.

 

To make the toppings: 

Sauté some almond flakes on a dry pan with a pinch of salt. Cook until slightly golden and remove to the side to cool.

To make the pomegranate sauce, deseed 1 pomegranate and keep the juices. Place this into a small saucepan and cook on medium-heat. Add a teaspoon of sugar and 3 tablespoons of blackcurrant jam. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until everything has incorporated. Remove to the side to cool.

Once the meringue has cooled. Add some greek yogurt on top, some pomegranate sauce and a topping of the almond flakes. Do not be alarmed if the dome cracks, it usually does as the toppings are much heavier.

 

Time for a Christmas tree.

‘Picking up our first Christmas tree as a little family’

Our annual trip to pick up the Christmas tree is finally here, that we did on the first advent which means, only four more Sundays until Christmas. This time our trip to the organic tree farm felt that much more special as we picked the tree up as a little family. I got emotional on our car ride to the farm as we were listening to the most beautiful Christmas songs and I kept thinking how lucky we are to have our little one all bundled up in the backseat and Siena sleeping in the trunk of the car.  The weather was crispy with a light dusting of snow, which made our drive that much more idyllic.  tWe walked around the farm looking for a large bushy tree and when we found the perfect one, hubby cut it down for us. Our little baby was sleeping the entire time as he likes the car ride, so our trip went really smoothy. Siena enjoyed the frosty hay on the ground and wanted to be a part of everything as she usually is. Once we came home, we went to get all the boxes of ornaments from storage and set up our tree in the evening. As part of tradition, we played the home alone sound track, set up the lights of the tree and after decorated it with all our ornaments. We made a glögi cocktail and enjoyed the evening in our little baby bubble. We danced together with our little baby in between us to our favourite festive song and enjoyed the pine smell of the tree and the twinkling lights as the day got darker. The evening is one for the memories and I’m glad I managed to snap a few shots so we can show our boy once he is old enough to understand such matters. Today it is December first and it is officially the month to start feeling the holiday spirit.

Christmas Gift wrapping Inspo

‘ and soon it is December and time to start thinking about Christmas time’

Christmas has really come quickly this year as my hands have been much more full this year, due to a certain new cute addition to our family. We are in the midst of planning on getting a Christmas tree as December is just around the corner which will hopefully happen next week. This Christmas is going to be magical with our newborn, our little families first holidays together. Along the past few months already, I have done little purchases of wrapping paper that I have found beautiful. Some of my favourite colours this year are deeper reds, browns and greens with traditional Scandinavian patterns with stripes or this darling nutcracker paper that is very English style. I managed to wrap a few gifts already and wanted to share some inspiration, as I tend to do on a yearly basis. This time I used flowers that I had left over from a bouquet, natural yarn with hints of white and gold. You can make the simplest of packets look really stunning by adding some foliage, different material yarn and all these packets are tied together as they are natural in style. You can make little pine wreaths on top, add twigs of pinecones, eucolyptys or whatever branches you find from nature.  Days are getting darker and this morning I managed to snap a few photos of my morning set up with a coffee, a gingerbread cookie and getting into the spirit of wrapping gifts.

Birth story

‘The day our lives changed forever and gave it that much more meaning’ 

It was Saturday the 6th of November, six days until the official due date, when I decided it was the perfect quiet weekend to do some major cleaning before the baby decides to arrive into the world. We were invited to a wedding, but I decided not to go as I was so close to birth and sitting down for many hours was rather uncomfortable at that point in time. My husband decided to go with the car so he could see some friends and I planned for an evening of organizing. That day I took some belly photos (39+1 day) as the lighting was good outside as I figured it was going to be one of the last photo sessions I would have with the belly. In the evening, I played my birth playlist (that I had made for the hospital) and began scrubbing our kitchen tiles on my knees with a steam hose. This process is rather strenuous on the body as you have to really scrub the tiles with force and keep going up and down on your feet and knees. I was told that this process can help you go into labour and I was ready for the baby to come out sooner rather than later. I drank my first glögi of the season, cleaned the tiles, vacuumed, mopped the floor and really made the house look as good as new. In the evening when everything was complete, I decided to take a lovely relaxing shower as my entire body was aching from all the hours of work. I took my time in the shower, feeling the heat of the water all over my body. I washed my hair, scrubbed and was ready to put on my pj’s and watch a good movie. It was 18.00 and I came out of the shower, dried off and felt a gush of water running down my leg. I instantly knew my water had broken. My first thought was that, “thank lord I’m in the bathroom and not in bed, as this would have ruined our freshly clean sheets.” It was a proper slightly pinkish/water puddle that could not be mistaken for anything else. I called my husband (who did not pick up immediately) and wrote him a message on WhatsApp telling him to come home right away. There were speeches going on at the moment and as he saw my message, he called me back and made his way home. I called the hospital that told me to come in for some testing. In Finland they test to see if the water has actually broken and also for some type of bacteria. After a couple of hours spending time at the hospital, it became clear that my water had broken and we were advised to go back home and wait for the contractions to begin. We had also scheduled an appointment for inducement for the following day at 18.00 if none of my contractions would have begun.

So, with a lot of excitement flowing through my body we decided to head back home. We went to go pick up Siena (who was at day care at my brothers and his wife’s house), went to Mc Donald’s for a cheese burger and headed back home. I decided to go relax in bed and watch some Netflix and try to get some rest. I wasn’t tired at all, but knew it would be better to just try and relax. At 23.00 I started to get random contractions every now and then but by 2am, they were at best 1-2 minutes apart. At this point they were strong, but because I didn’t have anything to compare it to, I didn’t know how strong of a pain it should actually be. I felt like I could have taken stronger contractions (even though these were crazy strong) so we decided it was time to head to the hospital as they were so close in time. We took our hospital bag, baby car seat and headed off to the hospital, took many contractions in the car (the cobbled stones were the worst and sitting down did not help either).

The hospital (naistenklinikka) was lovely and calm once we got there at exactly 02.15am in night and immediately got a lovely spacious room. Still at this point I was not nervous at all. The nurse checked my condition and I was dilated by 2cm, so it was good we came to the hospital as I was in labour at this point. Still, I had heard that you can be dilated for a really long time and was prepared that I will probably give birth in the next 24 hours or so.

As the contractions got stronger, I tried some laughing gas that did not work for me at all. It made me feel nauseous when breathing into it as it tasted like a shot of tequila every time. Our nurse was so kind and soothing and my hubby was giving me great support on the side lines. The atmosphere was calm and peaceful, everything I had hoped it would be. I asked for the epidural at 03.30 and after 15minutes all the pain went away. It was great, I just looked at the machines and saw I was contracting but did not feel a thing. At this point we decided with my husband we should try and get some rest. He slept a little bit and I just rested with my eyes shut. By 05.55 am I started to feel the pressure again as the epidural usually wears off after a few hours. At this point the nurse suggested we give me another dose of epidural to numb the pain. I got the dose, and she checked my situation and I was actually already 10cm open. We couldn’t believe everything had happened so quickly and she casually told us “It’s time to have the baby now”. This was exciting. She taught me when to push and after 8 minutes, our little precious baby came into the world. The pushing is painful, the pain is unlike no other but for some reason your body can take it. It feels more like intense pressure than anything. The second epidural dose did not have time to help at this point and I can tell you, the most painful part was when the shoulders came out and at this point, I was screaming so loudly, that I didn’t hear the instructions on not to push. I ripped some due to this, as you should only push when contractions take place. Despite this, our baby was out, he cried and was lifted on my chest. It was so emotional, beautiful and we both had tears in our eyes as finally our little precious darling came into the world at exactly 06.48. He was perfect and the entire birthing experience was better than I could have imagined. The nurse helped latch the baby onto my boob and we rested there for some time. It was so quick and because everything went so smoothly, we transitioned to a hospital hotel (scandic perhepesä) next door that evening which was such a lovely place to spend the next few days with our new born. It is a hotel with nurses and doctors that do routine checkups and help you get started with your newborn. You are treated to hotel food and the room was cozy with a large bed and tv. There was a sauna section, which my husband enjoyed and together our life as a little family started just there. We were both so pleased with the staff and service that as we left on Tuesday, we ordered them a box of donuts and left them a cute note as we felt so grateful for everything.

It was exciting to come home as a little family where our new life started. Everything went great for the first week, but just on the seventh day I started to get feverish. It rose up to 40 degrees Celsius and had to go back to the hospital for a checkup. It became evident that my uterus was infected as there was some blood stuck inside it from birth. I remained in the hospital for 3 days to cure it with some procedures, drips and antibiotics and got home afterwards. The hardest part at this point was being away from the baby, it felt like torture but luckily my husband took good care of him at home. I was able to pump milk for him and my husband visited me twice a day so I could see and feed the baby as much as possible.

Luckily now, I am all better and we are back home as a little family. Everything feels so new, I can tell you I barely have time to shower, eat or sleep but I guess that is what life is with a new born. It is indescribable the feeling I have towards our son. I just want to protect and love him forever and make sure he feels safe in our arms. He is so tiny and makes noises like a little bird as I stroke his head and he loves to curl up into my lap and hold my fingers with his little hands. My body has recovered well from labour, the stiches will have melted in a week or so and my belly has disappeared completely too. I can’t believe I was pregnant for such a long time and now our long waited, boy is finally in our arms. I wanted to write this birth story for myself, so I can remember what an amazing experience it was. I truly believe giving birth is an exceptional experience and I feel so lucky to have become a mama to this little darling. I love our little family…

last belly pics

 

Savoury Pumpkin & Fig Pie

Pumpkin pie does not always have to be sweet, a savoury version is beautifully salty, a bit tangy with a hint of sweetness from the pumpkin and figs. Now that autumn is in full bloom, there is nothing more enjoyable than pumpkin pie with a hot cup tea overlooking the kaleidoscope of fall colours. All the leaves have turned a vibrant yellow in Finland and slowly they will begin to drop as we get closer to colder more darker days. This morning the temperature was zero degrees, so it seems that winter is near us.

To make the crust, I use the same staple recipe that I mostly use, that requires butter, flour and a bit of water. It really is so easy to make and after this, you will not buy store bought dough anymore. For the pumpkin filling, I roast some pumpkin in the oven and mix it in with a little bit of garlic, onion and feta cheese. Eggs give the filling some solidity and it is topped with luscious figs. Figs are my favourite during this time of year all the way until winter, as I think they give that decedent festive feeling to nearly anything.

Pie crust ingredients 

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter cut in cubes
  • About 4 Tbsp cold water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter melted (for brushing)

To make the butter crust, add the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. This can also be done without a food processor, by hand. Add the cold cubed butter and pulse about 20-30 times, until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Drizzling in the cold water while pulsing again until a dough is formed. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more water. Turn out onto a floured surface and form it into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. This process can be done a day in advance as well.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface as thin as possible and place over the buttered cake tin. Press on all surfaces until even.

Pumpkin Filling

  • Pumpkin Slices (small pumpkin)
  • Pinch of salt/pepper/ thyme twigs
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Crumbed feta cheese ( about 1 dl)
  • ground nutmeg
  • 1-2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of honey

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Slice the pumpkin (do not need to remove the crust) and place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Drizzle some oil on top along with a pinch of salt. Place into the oven for about 45min or until the flesh is cooked.

Once the pumpkin is cooked. Take out the flesh (remove the skin and sides) and place in a bowl. Then, heat a sauce pan with a bit of butter and add in the chopped onion and garlic. Stir gently so them soften (not burn) and add in a few twigs of thyme. Then mix in the pumpkin flesh, along with some ground nutmeg. Let it gently simmer on low heat and add in the crumbled rich feta. Check for flavour in case it needs more salt or pepper. After a few minutes, remove from the heat and place the filling into a bowl to let it cool a bit. Once a little cool, mix in the eggs. Pour the filling on top on the crust in the cake tin. Slice some fresh figs and add them on top. Meanwhile, in a little pot over medium heat, melt a little butter that will be brushed on top of the figs. Allow the butter to brown on the stove and add in a pinch of honey. Remove from heat and brush over the figs and the sides of the crust.

Place into an oven of 180C for about 40 minutes until the sides begin to golden.