29 March 2014

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie + A Secret

There is a secret I have been keeping from you! It wasn't deliberate, I just haven't been able to return to this little space sooner.

I turned 30 last week!!! But I bet you are wondering how I feel about it, huh? Fine actually, in fact better than fine. There is something about progressing through life  that makes me feel more substantial as a person, like somehow with 30 years under my belt I'm a little more capable and stronger.

It snowed on my birthday!

I was recently reflecting on the wellness series I held in January with our four guests. Have you also found yourself pondering over their interviews since then? Here are some of their words of wisdom that come back to me often.

Milena (Skin Care): "...our skin is our largest organ and, although it does a great job of maintaining a barrier between what is inside versus outside of our bodies, it is permeable and anything we apply to the surface of our bodies is going to be absorbed and thus circulated elsewhere…"

Tammy (Mind, Consciousness, and Thought)"The outside world has no power to make us feel good or bad, happy, stressed or depressed. We are the creators of our worlds. Clients who catch even a glimpse of this understanding find that once they understand where their health and wellbeing comes from (themselves) they finally can experience the changes they have been chasing for so long."

Laura (Yoga & Ayurveda): "Ayurveda’s first principle is that every person…..has a unique path, and a unique set of circumstances. Start with compassion. Begin by listening. Honor yourself. Recognize that you are worthy...wise. You are nature, too, and you have all nature’s intelligence and healing power inside of you."

"Consistency is the key that turns Yoga from ordinary to extraordinary. The Yoga Sutras call this "Abhyasa & Vairagya,” stating that consistent action with non-attachment to the outcome will give you success in practice."

Maria (Overall Wellness): "….live in the “here and now” or “in the present” for as much of the time as possible, given this makes us realize what we are thinking, feeling, and doing. Another aspect is “to accept” what comes, good or bad, without rejecting it."

As you have probably gathered, wellness and well-being are big-ticket items in my life. I am currently studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a Holistic Health Coach. So wellness is not only a personal priority but also my passion to explore deeper and help others work towards. 

I believe that no matter where we are in life, we all have the right to strive for wellness. Yet we often (myself included) toss it aside saying we are too busy. But if we don't prioritize taking care of ourselves, how can we enjoy our lives or give our best to the things we are passionate about like our families, friends, and careers?

So what if we changed the way we thought about wellness? What if it we saw wellness as a mindset, a way of thinking, and found small ways to work this mindset of wellness into our lives?

Wellness is not something we perfect. Rather it's a lifestyle of sorts, a way of being, that we slowly chip away at over time. It's a deeper form of health, rooted in self-love, self-respect, and self-trust. It's about whole nourishment, finding what uniquely nourishes us on all levels, and making small choices that make us feel good from the inside out. It looks something like this: choosing to fill our mind with thoughts of gratitude, finding ways to naturally fit movement into our daily routine and bring more whole foods into our meals, being patient and forgiving with ourselves, and allowing ourselves to feel the way we feel, process it, but trust our resilience to spring back from it.

Even more importantly, wellness is about bringing mindfulness to the present, acknowledging that life has ups and downs and that it's okay if we don't always give enough attention to ourselves. It's about trusting that life is cyclical and that time to focus on ourselves will come back around and our priorities will balance out over the course of the week or month or year.

So when it comes to age, if wellness is a priority, I will argue that age is just a number. Age only matters in the context of being mindful of what our body is telling us, adapting to its needs over time, but as Maria says, accepting what comes, and finding the unique balance that is right for each of us as individuals.

This buttermilk pie was my birthday cake. It's a classic from my childhood, one of my grandmother's many specialties. It nourishes me on a deeper level because it reminds me of my happy childhood and the strength of the women in my family; my Mom, my Grandmother, and my Aunts.

I'm going to be short and sweet here. You simply don't mess with your grandmother's classics. Trust me, I've tried. It does not work. The beauty of this buttermilk pie is in it's simplicity. While I did cut down a bit on the amount of butter and sugar, I've brainstormed this with my mom and Aunt Anna and have decided that a plain pie crust and plain butter and sugar allow the delicate tang and richness from the buttermilk to shine through. Sometimes this is what we need. Simple is best.

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie
Serves 6-8
Slightly adapted from my grandmother's recipe

Favorite basic pie crust, unbaked
1/3 cup (76 gr) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup buttermilk (full fat please!!)
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C).

Grease a 9 inch pie plate. Line plate with pie crust.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy and sugar is dissolved. Mix in remaining ingredients until everything is well combined, don't over mix. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes, until center is set and a knife comes out clean from center.

Let cool slightly, but best served warm!

21 March 2014

Simple Green Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Is it too early still for a lighter springy green salad? If you're like me and are feeling spring coming on then you may be eager to lighten up a dish here and there too. Warm, sunny days have come early to Switzerland this year. I say that but then we are supposedly back to winter this weekend.

Nevertheless I had an urge to make this salad. I kept it fresh and simple with tender, delicate greens, thinly shaved crunchy fennel, toasted sunflower seeds, and a bit of goat's milk feta. The feta goes nicely with the star of the salad, a raspberry vinaigrette. Frozen, defrosted raspberries are whizzed up with vinegar, olive oil, and fresh herbs for a quick, thick, sweet and tangy vinaigrette that you'll want to make over and over again. And if raspberries are in season by all means use fresh here!

Simple Green Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Serves 4
Notes: I used Boston/Butter lettuce but Mache or any other tender leaf would also be nice.


Several large handfuls tender greens
1 small bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced (with mandolin or knife)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1/4 cup feta (goat's milk preferable)
Raspberry vinaigrette (below), to serve

Either keep greens as full cups so they hold the smaller components of the salad nicely. Place in large salad bowl and add fennel, seeds, and feta to each cup. Or tear greens into smaller pieces and toss with other ingredients. Pour vinaigrette over salad just before serving or pass at the table once salad is plated.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted (measure when frozen)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (white wine vinegar also works)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
Drizzle honey (~1/2 tsp.)
Scant 1/4 tsp. salt
Splash water

Add all ingredients to a small food processor (or use a hand immersion blender). Process until smooth. Taste, adjust to your liking and serve alongside salad. 

19 March 2014

Baby Shower

Hello Wednesday! It's hump-day, so I figured it's a good day to drop in and share some pictures with you from the baby shower a friend and I hosted on Sunday. The mom-to-be chose an afternoon tea-time party, so I made three sweat treats, and a guest brought a wonderful cake.

Starting from the bottom: my Fudgy Hazelnut Chocolate, Heidi's Almond Cake with Buttermilk Icing, and Jeanine's Raspberry Crumble Bars. I was extremely happy with how everything turned out - I knew Heidi and Jeanine would not let me down!

Baby showers are a decidedly American tradition. So this was a new experience for the Swedish mom-to-be and her guests. But I think it was well-received. We enjoyed each other's company, played a few games, and opened baby presents.  It was a relaxing and special way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

13 March 2014

Orange-Tahini Oat Bars

A nut-free energy bar that is sweet, chewy, and filling…..what more could you ask for? Because it's nice to take a break from nuts every once in a while and because many of us have nut allergies these days, I decided to show you how tasty oat energy bars can be sans the nuts. These are loaded with tahini, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and lots of orange zest. They are perfect to carry with you to work or school for a quick breakfast, an afternoon snack, or for pre/post-workout fuel. Plus, when you see how easy they are to make and can pronounce each and every whole ingredient I don't think you'll want to go back to store-bought ones anytime soon.

There is a bike messenger in St. Gallen. I don't know why I am telling you this other than the fact that I associate oat bars with energy. And this guy uses a lot of energy biking around delivering mysterious (well, mysterious to me!) packages to businesses. The road by our house is on a hill, and my office window looks out on to the road. So I see the bike messenger going up and down this hill literally every day, 3-4 times a day. You can't miss him because he is there rain or shine, snow or ice, wearing a bright yellow jacket and a large, sturdy yellow messenger bag. Bike messengers are such an environmentally friendly and efficient solution for transporting time-sensitive packages within a city, but I am always curious to know what they carry around in their bags and for whom they are delivering.  In Philadelphia, where we used to live, there is a particularly unique bike messenger you can check out here, in case you are as intrigued by their work as I am. ;-)

But back to the oat bars; whether your profession is that of a bike messenger, corporate warrior, or any other role we take on in life, I think we all have some space for a sweet oat bar every once in a while.  Don't you?!

Orange-Tahini Oat Bars
Adapted from A Sweet Spoonful
Makes 8-12 bars

1 cup soft, pitted dates
1/3 cup tahini (sesame butter)
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp orange juice (~ 1 orange)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Zest from 1 1/2 large un-waxed oranges
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp flax seeds (optional)

Preheat oven 375 F (190 C). Use coconut oil or butter to coat an 8 inch square baking dish.

Add dates to a food processor and process until they are finely minced and begin to form a ball.

In a small sauce pan over low heat warm tahini, applesauce, syrup, and orange juice, mixing well until the mixture is fully incorporated and liquid. Cool slightly, then add to the food processor with the dates along with vanilla extract. Process until the mixture has smoothed out and the dates are full incorporated into the liquid, about 1 minute.

In the meantime in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients (oats through salt, and flax seeds if using). Mix well, then add the date mixture while still warm. Stir together with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon until the oat mixture is full coated and sticks together.

Pour into baking dish, pressing down so it even. This is important so it cooks evenly. Bake for 25-28 minutes, until edges are just beginning to turn light golden brown and the middle is still slightly pale. (Note: Don't wait until the middle is also golden brown and completely dry to the touch or the bars will be too dry once cooled.)

Place on a cooling rack and cool completely (at least 1 hour), then use a serrated knife to cut into bars or squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (5-7 days) or in the fridge/freezer for longer.

10 March 2014

Sicilian Pasta with Tuna, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

Sicilian cuisine fascinates me because it is a historical culinary road map documenting the layered influences of many cultures (from Normans to Arabs) that settled there and governed the island over time. Our trip to Sicily several years ago left me in awe of the bold, assertive flavors and diverse variety of dishes that make Sicilian food so unique. I was smitten with their use of nuts, dried fruit such as raisins and apricots, citrus, saffron and spices in savory dishes and especially pasta, all thanks to the North African/Arab influence. 


This tuna pasta dish is a reflection of that and a spin off of Pasta con le sarde, a pasta with fennel, saffron, pine nuts, raisins, and sardines. My recipe has pasta coated in a rich tomato and wine sauce with chunks of tuna, toasted pine nuts, plump sweet raisins, lemon, and dill running through. It's a rich, hearty dish, one that my husband and I think is a winner. I hope you do too!

 Sicilian Pasta with Tuna, Pine Nuts, and Raisins
Serves 4

Notes: This is no place to skimp on tuna. Try to find best quality jarred tuna that has the sustainability seal and is packed in olive oil. Marsala is a rich, slightly sweet fortified Sicilian wine. If you do not have any on hand you can substitute with a white wine for a lighter sauce or a sweeter red wine for a more robust sauce. Alternatively, I have not tried them in this dish, but Madeira and Sherry are similar fortified wines that might also work.

3/4 lb (375 grams) short-cut pasta (a thinner spiral shape is best: gemelli, fussilli, rotini, strozzapreti
2 mugs reserved pasta water

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup raisins
3/4 cup Marsala
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
280 g (drained weight) jarred tuna
Juice from 1/4 lemon (more to taste)
1 tsp. salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch dill, chopped (~1/3 cup)

Boil water in a large pot. Drop pasta and cook to al dente. Just before draining, reserve 2 coffee mugs full of pasta water.

While pasta cooks, heat a large saute pan with high sides over medium heat. Toast pine nuts in the dry pan until lightly golden. Pour pine nuts into a small bowl and place pan back on stove. Turn heat to medium-low, and add olive oil, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and raisins. Break up tomato paste in oil and cook out for a minute. 

Turn heat to medium, add Marsala and balsamic vinegar, and gently simmer until fragrant (~1-2 minutes). Break up tuna with a fork and add to sauce along with lemon, salt, pepper, and 1 mug of reserved pasta water. Simmer for a minute for flavors to merry, then add pasta and most of pine nuts and dill (reserving a little of both for garnish), and stir to coat in sauce. Add as much of remaining pasta water as you need to create a sauce, and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and lemon if needed.

Remove from heat and serve in bowls, topping with remaining pine nuts and dill. 

04 March 2014

Fudgy Hazelnut Chocolate

It's funny how we change as life progresses. Growing up I would always ask my grandmother to make her famous peach cobbler, buttermilk pie, or lemon pie for my birthday. Chocolate was not a priority. If you knew my grandmother or have the remotest idea of the caliber of cobblers and pies she could pull out of her oven, I think you'll understand why chocolate was of no interest to me.

Still today if given a choice I'll often pick the fruit cobbler or buttermilk pie over chocolate. But for an everyday treat I've come to deeply appreciate a high quality dark silky chocolate in some form or another. This fudgy chocolate is one of those forms I'm loving at the moment. The hazelnut butter makes it rich and fudgy and the crunch of whole hazelnuts and chewiness of dried apricots go really well together. Of course you can use any nut/nut butter you would like here, I've just grown especially fond of making and enjoying hazelnut butter and the pairing of hazelnuts and apricots.

Fudgy Hazelnut Chocolate
Makes 1 small chocolate loaf

Notes: A few things may affect the amount of sweetener needed. You may need less if your hazelnut butter is sweetened or your sweetener of choice is honey or maple syrup. On the other hand brown rice syrup is not as sweet and you'll probably want the full 2 tablespoons.

2 Tbsp. hazelnut butter (love this recipe)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. honey (or brown rice syrup/maple syrup)
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
Pinch salt
6 dried apricots, chopped (~1/3 cup)
1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat melt hazelnut butter, coconut oil, and sweetener of choice, stirring often until mixture is completely liquid and thoroughly combined. Stir in cacao powder and salt, taste, and adjust for more salt or sweetener if needed.  Remove from heat and stir in apricots and hazelnuts. (If apricots are not very soft, add them in when melting ingredients).

Cover a small loaf pan* with a sheet of parchment paper large enough to come up the sides of the pan. Press paper down into pan and fold ends over edges of pan making a smooth inner lining as best as possible (it won't be perfect). Pour chocolate mixture into pan and refrigerate until solid. (I freeze it for 15-30 minutes to give it a head start, then move to the refrigerator for another 40 minutes before slicing. Freezing is not necessary if your mold creates a thinner layer.)

Cut slices or cubes with a serrated knife and enjoy right away. Store in the refrigerator.

*Although I have not tried it, alternatively it might work to make chocolate rounds by using a regular-sized or mini muffin pan or mini silicone molds. The chocolate should pop out with the help of a knife once completely set.

Sharing this fudgy goodness with Mark this week over at Javelin Warrior's Cookin' With Luv for his Made With Love Monday series.

Made with Love Mondays,
hosted by Javelin Warrior