Saturday, January 30, 2010

Creamy pomegranate-lingonberry hearts

Wondering how to surprise your valentine this year? Perhaps not quite yet, but I just got carried away with my gorgeous red pomegranate and cute heart-shaped cupcake molds. I had a hard time figuring out what to call them - the "cream" resembles white chocolate, but also distantly a cheesecake. It has layers of flavors, and it depends on the taster, which is most prominent. To me this was white chocolate, to my husband it was cheesecake, and most likely someone not quite as accustomed to the taste of coconut would find it to be the dominant flavor. Well, try it our for yourself and let me know what you think!

Honey-almond crust
Almond flour (or dehydrated almond pulp leftover from making raw almond milk)
Coconut oil
Raw, organic honey
pinch Himalayan salt, touch of pure vanilla

Mix together and pat down thinly on the bottom of cupcake molds. Chill to firm up.

Cream layer (for 6 cupcakes + leftovers)
125g cashews
400ml coconut cream (about 1,75C)
2 tsp mesquite + 2tsp lucuma (optional, but very good)
0,5-1,5 tsp dehydrated orange peel
70g raw cocoa butter
vanilla agave, to taste
pinch salt

Blend everything until smooth. Spread on crust, chill until they are hard enough to remove from the mold.

Pomegranate-lingonberry glaze
1 pomegranate
0,5 C lingonberries
vanilla agave, to taste

Blend. Layer on top of the cupcakes prior to serving.

We made 6 and I had leftover cream+glaze, so I froze the cream to make raw ice cream and served it with the pomegranate-lingonberry sauce. All three layers of the cupcakes go really well together, and make a really scrumptious treat. Without the glaze, they keep well frozen. If you like, you could also serve them just lightly thawed as ice cream cakes. We opted to allow them to thaw a bit further, which brings out more flavor. Altogether this is a versatile recipe, you could just use the cream in any other raw dessert that calls for it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Royal berry tartlets and cranberry-orange cookies

Once again my good friend was coming over for tea. I've mentioned before that she has several allergies. As such, they wouldn't be too problematic, but combined with my gluten-intolerance and milk allergies it becomes challenging. Again, it wouldn't be if I would go for conventional baking.. but you know me, my desserts are always raw even if I sometimes enjoy cooked meals.

I came up with a crust that would work for both of us, given that it had to be nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and raw. Then I thought I'd make a strawberry shortcake out of it, but I wasn't sure if she was allergic to strawberries.. then I remembered that it is fairly common, and thought I wouldn't risk it. Well, I thought I'd use blueberries instead, but I've made quite a few raw blueberry pies in the past... long story short: I made a pie filling out of blueberries, raspberries, figs and dehydrated orange peel. Only to realize soon after, that she is allergic to nearly all fruit, except bananas. Luckily it turned out she could handle the small touch of organic orange peel, and got no reaction from the figs either.

As if there weren't enough problems to begin with, I was short of time. I went to work early and didn't have time to prepare anything in the morning. I told my husband to soak some flax seeds for me, but neglected to tell him how much water I wanted in them... well, there was too much and hence I had to make a much bigger batch of "dough" than I had in mind. This is how I ended up making a batch of 12 tartlets and about 20 cookies.

The "dough":
1 C soaked flax seeds
2 C water
1,5 C coconut flakes
1,5 C sprouted buckwheat
10 dried dates
vanilla agave + honey, to taste
pinch salt and cinnamon (salt is essential!)

Soak flax seeds in water for at least an hour, preferably overnight.  Blend with dates, buckwheat and seasoning. Remember to taste the dough!

Royal berry filling:
1,5 C raspberries
1 C blueberries
12 dried figs
vanilla agave
0,5-1tsp dehydrated, ground organic orange peel (peel your oranges, dry in room temp/dehydrator, grind in a food processor)
2 tsp lucuma, optional

Blend all ingredients together, taste and adjust sweetness.

Fill as many pie shells with the dough as you like (spread with wet hands), set in fridge for an hour or too. Make filling after you have put the shells in the fridge, and chill it. Once the pie shells have set, assemble and chill until served. They are best, when you let them warm up just a bit in room temp before serving.

We had extra filling, but it is amazing on it's own. You could enjoy it just with some raw chocolate, on raw pancakes, etc etc... Feel free to substitute the crust for your favorite raw crust, especially when making for skeptics it might be a better idea to make a sweeter, nuttier crust. Because it didn't have any oil, this dough didn't really "set" like a nut crust with cocoa butter/coconut oil would. This means it softens in room temperature. It also tastes more "healthy" than delectable, but if you like a less sweet, nut-free crust this is pretty good. More than likely though, the next time I make these I will make an almond-pecan crust with coconut oil and vanilla agave.

Cranberry-orange cookies
The dough, left-over from making the tartlets
Chopped almonds (soaked and dehydrated if possible)
Organic, sugar-free dried cranberries (eg. apple-sweetened)
Orange peel

Fold chopped almonds and chopped cranberries into the dough with a large spoon/spatula. Add flavorings and sweetener, if desired. Dollop onto dehydrator sheets, spread into thick round cookies. Dehydrate! Mine were in for about 12 hours, after which they were warm and crunchy on the outside but nice and chewy on the inside. The quality of the cranberries really makes a difference, I used Eden Foods cranberries, which are big, juicy and dark in color.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Raw buckwheat sandwiches with parsley nut cream

This was not the first time I have made raw bread, believe me I've tried a fair amount of recipes.. somehow I've never liked them too much (read: edible with plenty of toppings to mask the flavor). I thought this bread would be no different, but I was suprised to find that this was actually tasty on its own. It was good with raw spreads and veggies, and we also have enjoyed it with a (cooked) indian brown lentil dahl.

Raw brazil nut-buckwheat bread (aka best raw bread I have made)
1/2 C brazil nuts soaked
1 C flax seeds
1 C water, to soak the flax seeds with
1/3 C pumpkin seeds
1 C sprouted buckwheat (soak 10min, sprout 24h, little tail)
2/3 C grated raw seet potato
Quality salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried organic thyme (just a touch)

Soak buckwheat groats 10 min, place in a sprouting jar. Rinse at least 4 times during the 24h. Soak brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds 6-8h, discard soaking water. Also soak flax seeds with water (min 1h) to make a thick gooey paste. When they're all done, place nuts and buckwheat in a food processor, along with sweet potato. Give it some spins, I left mine chunky on purpose. Season. Shape into bread slices and dehydrate overnight.

Parsley nut cream spread:
1/2 C brazil nuts
´1/4 C sunflower seeds
handful of fresh parsley
clove garlic
lemon juice
salt, pepper

Blend brazil nuts and seeds, add lemon juice, garlic clove and salt + pepper. Blend until smooth. If you like, you can also through in the parsley. This will lend the spread a light green color. Alternatively, you can finely chop the parsley and mix it in with a spoon.

Serve together, or eat the bread on its own or with your choice of toppings. We had simple sammies with split pea greens and julienned carrots.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Functional training and stress relief

My life is pretty hectic and exciting at the moment. I mentioned that the New Year would mean new challenging opportunities for me. Recently I was asked to participate in ground-breaking research and formulate my findings into my Masters thesis. This is all happening quite fast, considering that it was only a couple months ago when I finished my Bachelor's thesis and have only studied 2,5 years at the University. Last week I also had a development discussion at work that revealed several interesting career path opportunities for me.

Although all this takes up a fair amount of hours (work, research, studies), I feel fortunate and stress-free. Of course, in times like these stress management skills are essential. Personally I don't think all stress is bad, for example a small amount of pressure can allow you to perform better and more efficiently than usual. However, the moment you notice that you are feeling overworked and it affects your moods daily, it is way past time to do something about it. How do you guys deal with stressful times?

My stress-fighting strategies sound simple: exercise, diet, fun. I find that my new-found form of functional training, Kinesis, has proven to be very effective. For me, it uniquely combines relaxation and releasing tension. This is because I utilize the balance boards/BOSU-balance trainer with every exercise possible. Not only does this provide an amazing way to work out your deeper core muscles while working on other muscle groups, but the deep level of concentration the movements involve allows you to really clear your mind.

Advantages of Kinesis:
+ Activates kinetic chains of muscles, not just individual muscles monotonically like conventional equipment. Resistance varies also with the range of movement and angle (as well as weights).
+ Easy!
+ The design allows you to move freely with minimal interference with the body, especially in 'push' movements.
+ Fast set up
+ Incredibly versatile, even just one machine can be used in dozens of different ways (be creative!)

Some of my favorite Kinesis movements (free video instructions)
- Core exercise with the above machine, you lie on your back and grasp one handle with each hand. Lift both feet up. Stretch your right leg, and push your left arm back parallel to the floor (away from your head). Without dropping your feet, do the same with your left leg and right arm.
- Using the equipment in the first pick, either stand on a balance board or sit on a fitness ball and extend your arms (like you were boxing). Or use a ball/balance board and stretch your arms, and then open them. You can combine this with lifting one of your legs at a time, while maintaining your balance and strengthening your core muscles.
- With the machine in the lower pic, you can sit on a ball and make a large circle with both your arms holding the handles, a "sun".

Kinesis is especially effective when combined with relaxing and empowering yoga breething techniques you breath in when moving into position, and breath out when doing the most strenuous part. This will activate more core muscles and increase strength and effectiveness.

Because Kinesis is a form of functional training (works on several muscle groups with one exercise), it saves time. Especially the movements requiring balance will activate muscle groups traditional gym equipment never would.    

My typical gym ruitine:
30min in-door cycling (interval training, 5min cycle seated with resistance, 5 min standing with added resistance)
30min Kinesis exercises as circuit training (no resting in between)

Sometimes I run instead of cycle, and sometimes if I don't have an hour I opt to cycle in slightly higher gear for 20min and do Kinesis for 10-20min. Once a week I usually run 15min for warm up and participate in a Kinesis Core class for 45min. When it suits my schedule, I also enjoy pilates and different yoga forms. Typically I go to the gym 3-4 times a week with my husband. The days I don't go, I get my minimum of 30 min exercise by cleaning, playing with my daughter, going outside with the family, etc.

I will not go too deep into diet in this post, after all all my past posts have been about diet in one way or another. Yet I will say that in times of stress, it is sometimes a good idea to indulge a little. No, I don't mean diving into a bar of chocolate or eating a bag of chips. Instead, dry making some raw chocolates (click here for an easy recipe) with your partner or friend, and sip some delicious Yogi tea. Relax and talk!

Images from:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lucuma maple flax crackers

My adventures with my new Stöckli dehydrator continue! It is so much fun - I feel like a "domestic goddess" again when the yummy fragrance of my concoctions can be sensed throughout the corridor. Playing with my dehydrator is way more fun than baking ever was (and I really used to enjoy that!), not only because I know that these treats are truly healthy for all of us but also because I feel there is no limit to my creativity. Maybe it is the scientist in me, that relishes in being presented with a problem like "it is not possible to make raw pulla*" and being able to solve it through thinking and experimenting. It is rewarding and comforting to find that switching over to eating right can be exciting and fulfilling. First I had a whole list of things I thought I'd miss, but now I've come to realize that I wouldn't trade my yummy raw treats for anything.

Many of you have probably had or heard of raw flax crackers. I added my spin on the traditional maple-cinnamon crackers:

Lucuma maple flax crackers
3 round 13" trays

2 C whole flax seeds
4 C water
2 medium organic apples (I had Gala)
1/4 C raw organic honey
1/4 C organic pure maple syrup
1-3 tbsp ceylon cinnamon (regular cinnamon contains the liver-toxin coumarin)
2 tbsp raw organic lucuma powder
pinch salt

Soak flax seeds in water for at least an hour, preferably overnight. It will transform into a very thick goo, which you don't want too wet because it would lengthen dehydration time later. Puree apples with spices and sweeteners in a food processor/blender until smooth. Mix with flax seeds either in a bowl or pour them into the food processor. Taste, and adjust flavor until it is so good you have to restrain yourself from just eating it out of the bowl. Seriously, we were lucky to actually get some to the D :)
Once you have the taste down, take out your dehydrator sheets, oil them with coconut oil if necessary and spread the gooey mixture onto the sheets thinly. I oil the sheets just for the nice taste and texture the coconut oil adds to the crackers.

Dehydrate under 104F/46C to keep it raw - don't want to compromise those amazing omegas, enzymes and vitamins!

My husband and I usually find the cinnamon flavor in the store-bought raw organic maple-cinnamon flax crackers too intensive. I discovered that using combination of lucuma and cinnamon helps add a whole new depth of flavor, lending a rich and balanced flavor to the crackers. Of course lucuma is highly concentrated with nutrients as well - which together with the honey and mineral-rich maple syrup makes these extra super.

*Finnish or Scandinavian sweet wheat bun, which is raised with yeast and flavored with cardamom. A staple in any "normal" Finnish coffee table.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Zander with lime sweet potatoes & persimmon chutney + my lab results

In finnish: Kuhaa limebataatilla ja persimmon-chutneyllä

Zander is a highly valued fish in Finland known for it's soft, unique flavor. It consequently happens to be one of the most expensive fishes in stores. I love fish, but I am picky when it comes to selecting it. We always buy wild-caught fish, usually species which come from relatively clean waters. This zander has been caught by a family member from a lake not too far away. Next year, we talked about going to fish ourselves.

Clearly, I am not a vegan. To me, eating fish and meat from the nature is natural (in moderation). Since childhood I have disliked red meat, and I doubt I'd ever touch beef or pork. However, though I haven't yet, if the opportunity presented itself I might be interested in trying some organic lamb or wild game. Currently, we eat fish 2-4 times a week and organic chicken maybe once in a blue moon. I serve my 13-month-old daughter organic turkey/chicken 1-2 times a week and fish 2-4 times. This is because I feel strongly that growing children need a lot of vitamin B12 in their diets. She has not had any red meat yet, and we probably won't give her any unless for some reason we were having some organic or wild meat.

Speaking of B12, I had some blood tests done as a part of starting my new job. Here are a few highlights:

B12 = 228 pmol/l (normal range 180-700)
Cholesterol = 3.1 mmol/l (<5)
HDL-Cholesterol (good) = 1.42 mmol/l (>1)
LDL-Choleserol = 1.4 (<3)
GT (indicator of liver health) = 6 (10-45)
TSH (thyroid hormone) = 2.3 (0.3-4.5)

So, even though I am eating fish several times every week and usually eat 1-2 organic eggs a week as well, I still have B12 count on the lower end of normal. I do not supplement, and according to the doctor there is no need to start doing either. But clearly this shows that, if you are a vegan or eat only little meat you should definitely have your values tested. A B12 deficiency can cause permanent brain damage. Other than this, my cholesterol levels, liver tests and hormone tests were to quote the doctor "perfect". The fact that my GT-value is below the normal margin is only good, the higher it is the more likely you are to suffer from a liver condition such as cirrhosis later in life. The thyroid test is also almost exactly in the middle of the range, indicating an optimal level. Maybe it is the coconut oil!

Well, now on to the recipe. I was planning on serving the zander with the sweet potatoes and a persimmon salsa inspired by Yaelian's marinated persimmon salad (in finnish). Unfortunately I discovered that my persimmons were too mushy to be diced in any way, so I decided to make a chutney-type sauce to go with the fish and yams.

Zander fillets:
2 zander fillets
Himalayan salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried lemon zest or a little more fresh
organic cold-pressed coconut oil

Warm up the coconut oil in a pan and add lemon zest. Then on medium heat saute the salted and peppered fish fillets until just done, don't overcook. Always keep heat low to avoid destroying the healthy fats in the fish.

Spicy lime sweet potatoes:
2 large sweet potatoes
juice of 2 large limes
1-2 tbsp honey
organic chili powder
Himalayan salt
freshly ground black pepper
organic olive oil

Cut the sweet potatoes into around 1/3 inch thick and wide sticks, squeeze lime juice on top. Add honey, olive oil and other spices. Mix until the seasoning is evenly spread. Bake in a 375F/200C until they have softened but still have a bite to them.

Raw persimmon chutney
3 ripe, mushy persimmons
2 small red onions
2 tbsp fresh parsley
0,5 tsp balsamic vinegar (or raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar)
Himalayan salt
Black pepper

Finely dice the red onions and chop the fresh parsley. Blend persimmons until smooth. Mix in a serving dish with minced onion, vinegar and spices.

I had intended the chutney more for the sweet potatoes, but we were both surprised how well it complemented the fish as well. They all worked well together, but especially the yams and the chutney turned out to be a match made in heaven. Try it out, easy to make and the ingredients are in season!

Hope you all have a nice weekend and like my new blog layout :) I will be posting some recipes that have come out of my dehydrator experiments once I get them all polished and perfected.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Raw strawberry-vanilla granola

Hey guys! It has been a while since I last posted an actual raw recipe. This is mostly because I've been experimenting with different things in the kitchen. Lately I have also enjoyed sharing my thoughts and new innovations so much, that there hasn't been much room for recipes. However, when I tasted this yummy granola for an evening snack yesterday, I realized I just have to share. So easy, nutritious and delicious, which is what healthy eating should always be about. One of those "I can't believe it is raw"-type treats.

Strawberry-vanilla buckwheat granola:
1 C sprouted buckwheat
1 C almond pulp left over from making almond milk or just soaked almonds
1 C strawberries, thawed frozen or fresh
1 C dates
2 vanilla beans (or other form of natural vanilla)
lucuma, to taste (optional)
raw honey/agave, to taste (optional)
pinch salt

Sprout buckwheat (soak 10min, drain and rinse, sprout for 24h), soak almonds 6-8h. If dates are hard, soak them for about 30min as well.
Once you see little tails on the buckwheat groats, they are ready. They will go bitter if you allow them to grow further. Rinse the buckwheat and grind relatively smooth in a food processor/blender. Add almond pulp and strawberries, pulse until encorporated, and flavorings. Mix until a nice, thick paste. Add water/coconut oil if necessary. Spread onto dehydrator sheets (lightly brush with coconut oil if stuff tends to stick to them) as thin layers, this amount took 2 of my round 13" trays.

Dehydrate until crispy, roughly 24h in 104 F. Depending on your dehydrator, you may want to start around 145F for 30min, but watch that your mixture does not get warmer than 46C/104F. Once it is dehydrated, brake into bits with your hands. The granola will keep well sealed for a couple weeks.

Serving suggestion:
1/2 C granola
handful of cashews
handful or two of fresh or thawed blueberries
almond milk

Mix granola with cashews and add blueberries. Pour almond milk over on top and enjoy. So good! Works for breakfast, dessert or snack.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My professional background

Hello everyone, hope your New Year has started off well! Mine certainly has, and I am looking forward to many great things this year will bring. If all goes well, I will get my Bachelor's degree in the Spring. I have already successfully completed my thesis, so I just need to finish rest of the coursework. So far I have not much discussed my education nor professional background, but perhaps I should elaborate a little. I study Bioinformationtechnology, which is an exciting new field combining medicine, science and engineering, biology and computer science. To this date, I have studied sufficient mathematics and physics to constitute minor subjects.

My main focus in University is in biomedical applications, especially imaging and instrumentation, formally my major is biological physics and medical technology. My Bachelor's thesis focused on electroencephalography (EEG) measurements of brain activity. I was fortunate to take part in research at the Cognitive Brain Research Unit of Helsinki. This type of technology is of great interest to me, and I hope in future to participate in developing and improving diagnostic tools. At this moment, I am working for a company which develops software and machinery to administer radiotherapy. This type of an engineering orientation requires elaborate knowledge of medicine and how the body functions physiologically. These studies have prompted my interest in nutrition, which I study on my own time from the vast collection of studies available to me from the university libraries.

In this blog I have many times emphasized the importance of balanced nutrition and a wholesome lifestyle. Both are key in the prevention of serious illnesses, such as cancer. Unfortunately, they are not always sufficient. Although I do understand how "medicalized" our society is and how easily and excessively drugs are both prescribed and used, I do still believe in medicine and science. Studying at this level is very intriguing to me and I truly do love what I do for a living. It may sound hyperbolic, but I truly believe that I have helped and will continue to help cure many people. I am gaining the knowledge to give people second chances: to add healthy years to a patients life, relieve debilitating symptoms, and truly give a reason to have hope. Especially as a mother, it gives my life great meaning to be able to help treat or even cure sick children.

On this note I wish to encourage all of you to make the most of this year and your lives. We all can make a difference in our own way. There are no big deeds or small deeds, both are steps forward in the bigger picture.

1. Think about the way you consume and live. Is there something more you could do to conserve our planet's natural resources?

2. Could you do something to help another person in need? Even if you don't have much money, you might have a shirt or another piece of clothing you don't ware and could donate to a charity.

3. Could you help bring joy to someone? When did you last really sit down and talk with your (grand)mother/father?

4. Instead of complaining about what is wrong in the world, could you contribute to making the change? Maybe start up your own petition for a cause you believe in? I started my petition against using the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame in infants antibiotics and will continue to campaign for it. You can join me just my quickly signing it online.

5. Could you help change someone's life for the better? Probably since you are reading this blog, you are pretty interested and educated in healthy eating and balanced. Don't be afraid to share your knowledge with others and don't give up too quickly! For example, my mother is suffering from a painful illness, and she is pretty reluctant to change anything. With persistence and a gentle approach I have succeeded in getting her to eat organic and she is taking small steps forward. As a birthday present, I got her a package with all the natural remedies for her condition (MSM powder and sea mussel extract etc). I will continue to buy her these if she benefits from them but is for some reason hesitant to re-order them herself.

And finally, don't be afraid of challenges. If you think you don't have enough of them, set them for yourself. They help you feel better about achieving your goals. With persistence and motivation, you will achieve them sooner or later. The New Year is a good time to write down an action plan. Don't leave out goals you find impossible, because you have much greater abilities than you can imagine when you believe in yourself. One person can make a difference, and you can make a difference.

My philosophy in life is: inhibitions are impediments, keeping you from living your life to the fullest.

EEG picture: