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It’s a Pleasure – Nut Caramel Candies

3.10.2016

Life has had quite hectic twists and turns lately. Sometimes I wonder how it is even possible for me as one human being to cope with all these projects I have managed to gather in my life. But in some weird way person kind of multiplies herself, expands time or makes other magic tricks when stuff just needs to be done. And there is no time to sit around when a revolution awaits! A food revolution, you know, in which I try to take part with my work.

A part of my revolution dream has now become reality as my very first cookbook about healthy sweet treats, that came out in Finland some time ago has now been released in the US and it goes by the name It’s a Pleasure. I’m so happy about the outcome – the book looks and feels super pretty and nice and I hope it can help to transform globally the way people feel about sweets with it’s over 80 recipes for cakes, candies, cookies, muffins, ice creams, chocolates and other sweet treats – all without guten, dairy and refined sugar. Because there is just no better way to indulge than to savor with treats that left you feeling light, healthy and satisfied!

Try for example these overwhelming pralines. I have prepared big batches of them lately and people have LOVED them. And no wonder. The best pralines combine many elements: a soft filling, a texture that snaps nicely and something crunchy. Also, a hint of saltiness is a big plus. These chocolates are all of the above and can be created with very simple and wholesome ingredients.

Please, just try them! And if you wish to have a copy of It’s a Pleasure, throw me a message here below before Oct 10th and I’ll pick two winners to whom I’ll post the book next week – in Finnish or in English, you choose!

Until then – Viva la revolucion!

V

NUT CARAMEL CHOCOLATES

Makes 15-20 pieces

Caramels:

  • 15 fresh dates
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 15-20 pecans
  • 4-5 tbsp unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter

Icing:

  • 4 ounces unsweetened dark or raw chocolate, or ½ cup Basic Chocolate from the It’s a Pleasure book.

On top:

  • flaky sea salt

Pit the dates. Put the dates, coconut oil, water vanilla extract and salt into the blender and purée. Caramel should be thick and smooth. Spoon the caramel in a freezer-safe container and put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes so that it thickens a bit and is easier to handle.

Line a small baking sheet with a parchment paper. When the caramel sauce has thickened, take about teaspoon-sized dollops of the caramel and place onto the prepared baking sheet and mold the caramel into balls. Press a pecan into each ball. And then add about half a teaspoon of peanut butter on each pecan nut and place the tray into a freezer. Freeze for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime melt the chocolate on the top of a double boiler / in warm water bath. Take the pralines out of the freezer and dip each of them into the chocolate icing. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and return them to the freezer just to set. Bring out, serve and indluge. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Recipe from the book IT’S A PLEASURE by Virpi Mikkonen

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Vegan meatballs and sweet potato pasta

26.11.2015

One year ago I dreamed about a cookbook that would save our family meals.

My dream book would have recipes that would take less than 30 minutes to make, preferably only 15 minutes, ingredients lists should be nice and short, they would not include gluten, dairy or refined-sugars and most of the recipes should be vegan. The book should offer wholesome recipes for breakfasts, dinners, lunches, snacks and for sweet treats. Kid-friendly recipes would be a big plus and also if the book could also offer better alternatives for pizzas and burgers, my man’s favorite meals. All in all, the recipes in the book should be healthy, super easy and super delicious.

Too sad there wasn’t any book like that on the market. I went through a big bunch of cookbooks and waited for a hero that would fly into my arms and save those moments where the stomach is empty and the mind goes blank at the same time. There were nice recipes here and there but a book that would fulfil ALL my needs just didn’t seem to exist.

So, I had to make it myself. And I did.

Two weeks from here my next cookbook about healthy fast food is going to be released in Finland. The Finnish name is Kiitos hyvää Pikaruokaa, and I’m proud to say that the book offers EXACTLY everything I just described above!

I am so thrilled and I can’t wait to get it in my hands – For one since I actually cook the recipes from the book everyday, and I can’t remember all my recipes in detail, and I don’t wanna go on searching for them from my computer all the time, so I really need to get the book in my kitchen and in my hands – ASAP!

Gonna let you know more about the book later, but I’m sure you guys are going to appreciate it as well. Who would not love healthy and tasty fast food!

But now, to today’s meal! This vegan meatballs and pasta recipe is not actually from my upcoming cookbook, because I created it after the book had already gone to print, but it makes an excellent and simple everyday meal also. I’m just loving this easy pasta made from sweet potato and the rich taste and great texture of these vegetarian meatballs! If you ask me it's quite an excellent mimic of the Italian classic meal, with a healthy and fun twist.

V

VEGAN MEATBALLS AND SWEET POTATO PASTA

Vegan meatballs:

( 8-10 pieces)

  • ½ heaping cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup chickpeas
  • 5 tbsp flax meal (or flax seeds)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbsp Tamarin soya
  • black pepper
  • a pinch sea salt

For frying:

  • 5 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

Sweet potato pasta:

  • 1 big sweet potato
  • 2 cup marinara tomato sauce

On top:

  • vegan parmesan cheese (recipe in Kiitos hyvää Pikaruokaa cookbook!) or original organic parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit/200 Celsius degrees. Measure sun-dried tomatoes into blender and blend until quite smooth. Add rest of the ingredients and blend. Pour the dough into a bowl and form small balls with your hands. If the dough feels too wet add a little bit of coconut flour or other flour. Pour generously oil onto a pan and fry the meatballs for about 5 minutes, until they get a nice brown color. Transfer the meatballs onto a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes. In the meantime prepare the sweet potato noodles.

Peel the sweet potato and prepare noodles with a spiral slicer or julienne peeler. Add 1 tbsp oil onto a pan and cook the nools for one minute. Add the marinara sauce and cook for about 10 minutes.
Take the meatballs out of the oven. Dose some noodles on plates, add meatballs on top. Grate some vegan cheese or parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle on some fresh basil leaves. Serve and enjoy!

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Sweet Potato Oat Porridge

3.11.2015

Hello darlings, it’s been a while! Actually over a month since my last post. …Oops. I could say that I have been working like crazy and have been doing this and that and the third, which would be very much true, but as my mother always says: only a lazy person counts her work. So let’s trust her and forget explanations and concentrate on the present, and on the most essential – the goodies I brought you!

I have been doing some collaboration with Oatlet Store, which is a brilliant webshop that deals oat-based products. And as a big fan of all oat related I have been super excited to test their gluten-free oat products from Provena and to design new recipes with them.

One of my absolutely favorite thing that came out of my laboratory is this pre-christmas sweet potato oat porridge. It is just insanely tasty, comforting and rich! And it includes my favorite ingredients at the moment: Sweet potato, cinnamon, cardamom, pecan nuts and – jumbo-sized oat flakes. Oh-my-god – TOTALLY different thing than those small oat flakes, that taste like a cardboard, especially after you’ve tasted jumbo ones. So delicious, and you get beautifully textured hearty porridge out of them.

I’m planning to make this sweet potato oat porridge my family’s official christmas porridge that will be consumed every morning until christmas. Well, at least on the weekends. And maybe only in December. I would rather like this to give nice taste memories to my kid than to cause any food traumas. It is too good to be overdosed. …Although I have a tiny hunch I’m gonna do it personally anyways.

But hey, with this pre-christmas porrdige I have also a pre-christmas gift for you: With the code VANELJA you get -20 % discount when shopping in Oatlet Store and the discount is available for two weeks from now. Oatlet Store ships throughout the EU. And if you want a tip, I can recommend at least, surprise surprise, these Provena Gluten Free Jumbo Oats and also Provena Gluten Free Whole Grain Oat Flour for baking.

Have a lovely November, stay warm and eat a lot of porridge!

V

SWEET POTATO OAT PORRIDGE

Gluten-free & vegan

Serves two

Porridge:

  • ½ cup pureed sweet potato (about 1 small sweet potato)
  • 2 cups oat milk (or for example almond milk)
  • 1 ½ cup gluten-free rolled oats (preferably jumbo-sized)
  • 1 tsp ceylon cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • A pinch of sea salt

On top:

  • Crushed pecan nuts
  • Maple syrup (or organic local honey)
  • Ceylon cinnamon

Make the sweet potato puree: Peel the sweet potato and cut into small chunks. Steam until soft. Place the chunks to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the oat milk and the sweet potato puree into a pot, bring up the heat and whip until mixed. Add spices and rolled oats. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending of the type of oats used. Serve with crushed pecan nuts, cinnamon and maple syrup. Enjoy!

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Happy Birthday Vanelja!

16.9.2015

It was exactly one year ago when I opened the doors of Vanelja and introduced it to the world for the first time. And in my very first blog post I then wrote:

“Nothing in Vanelja is permanent, no goals has been set. That makes it possible to grow to whatever direction life takes it to. It is exciting to see what kind of flowers will Vanelja bloom in when the fertilizers are freedom, passion and pleasure!”

And wow, what beautiful blossoms have I been able to witness during this first year! I have been just amazed by all the opportunities, connections and people life has sent through my blog.

During this year I have made great new friends from different parts of the world, I have also made 3 cook books (insane, I know! do not try at home), been featured in international media, websites and blogs, been picked by Instagram to their suggested users list, been nominated in the Saveur Food blog Award and actually winning the award in the Best-designed blog category. And then there are also some huge huge things I can’t yet talk about that have started to seed during this year.

So may I just say: Phew. And thank You. Thank you life, thank you dear You, thank you universe. I promise to continue following my dreams. And as Elsie De Wolfe said:

“I am going to make everything around me beautiful – that will be my life.”

And I’m also going to make lots of these delicious banoffee-muffins, which you should try also. They too taste like a dream.

V

BANOFFEE MUFFINS

Muffins:

  • 1 ½ ripe banana
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 3 organic, free range eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees / 175 C degrees. Grease the muffin cups. Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture in muffin cups and bake for about 15 minutes. In the meantime prepare the caramel sauce and frosting. When muffins are ready, take them out from the oven and let cool. Spoon some frosting on top and pour on some caramel sauce. Serve and enjoy!

Peanut butter frosting:

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (kept in a fridge)
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp organic honey
  • 1 ripe banana (sliced in small pieces)

Open the coconut milk can and scoop out the white thick paste in a bowl. Add peanut butter and honey. Whip until fluffy. Fold in the banana pieces.

Caramel sauce:

  • 7 tbsp coconut sugar
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of sea salt

Place the coconut sugar and coconut milk in a pan. Stir gently on a medium heat until the mixture is well mixed. Let the sauce simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Store in a glass jar in the fridge and use within two weeks.

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Cinnamon Bun Waffles from Gratitude

26.8.2015

One of the most traditional ways to celebrate something here in Finland is to make coffee and serve cinnamon buns. That old school serving suits all types of parties and in every occasion.

A baby is born – coffee and cinnamon buns, you win a lottery – coffee and cinnamon buns, someone dies – coffee and cinnamon buns, your blog is nominated in The Blog Awards Finland in the Health and Wellness category – coffee and cinn.. Wait, no. Actually then it’s not coffee nor cinnamon buns, but healthy cinnamon bun”ish” waffles! The exception proves the rule.

So here I am with my not-so-traditional but yet so-very-delicious cinnamon bun waffles as it indeed happened that my blog got nominated in the Blog Awards Finland in the Health and Wellness category. Yay!

The nomination in that specific category made me took a stroll down memory lane and look back to where I started, which was five years ago in my former Finnish health blog called Kiitos hyvää.

Kiitos hyvää was a blog mainly about well-being and “high quality life”. In that time I was very deeply into all kind of nutrition stuff, different methods of measuring health and gaining better health, raw food, superfood, super this and super that. I was truly and totally a health nerd. All that super health hype feels kind of funny to me nowadays, but it was an adventure I had to take in order to get here, into more peaceful and calmer place.

It is very relaxing when you realise that the purpose of your life is to serve only in a way that brings great joy to yourself and others. Not to battle and strive. That is the reason I nowadays post only easygoing inspiration and nice recipes and not try to convince anyone of what is the best diet or how should others live their lives. I don’t have clue, only a delicate and occasionally fading hunch on how to live my own.

But that’s how life, health and wellness are, delicate and constantly changing things that escape exact definitions and are not bound to one truth.

My truth today is happiness and gratitude for being nominated in the biggest Blog Award in my country. And from that happiness I channel these cinnamon bun waffles to you!

Thank you for being there, friend.

V

CINNAMON BUN WAFFLES

Gluten-free, paleo & dairy-free

1 cup almond flour

2 tbsp coconut flour

¼ cup tapioca flour/starch (or potato starch)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp ceylon cinnamon

½ tsp cardamom

2 organic eggs or two flax eggs (great flax egg recipe here )

1 cup coconut milk or almond milk or oat milk

1 tbsp organic honey or coconut palm sugar

2 tbsp melted coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Take another bowl and add eggs, coconut milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract and whip gently until slightly foamy. Mix with the dry ingredients. Brush coconut oil into the surfaces of the waffle iron. Pour mixture onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown or prepare waffles following the instructions of the manufacture. Serve with coconut butter and cinnamon or with banana slices, peanut butter and whipped coconut cream.

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Late summer Power soup

24.8.2015

Hello lover, I just dropped by to tell you that in case you were wondering what to make for lunch this week or prepare quickly in the evening, here is the recipe you have been looking for! It is especially designed for these late summer days when the sun is still nicely warming our noses but you can already feel that the chill of fall is on it’s way.

The recipe is super simple, it’s quick to prepare, takes less than 15 minutes and the ingredient list is nicely minimalistic. So it has exactly those features that an excellent everyday food should always have. And it of course tastes heavenly.

It is a spinach soup with a twist. The soup is made of ripe, juicy pears and fresh spinach leaves accompanied with coconut milk and a nice bunch of fresh herbs, coriander and parsley.

I’m loving how it is creamy and smooth, fresh and earthy, all at the same time. I couldn’t wish for better elements from my power soup.

I hope you’ll find it is a perfect match for your late August days too!

V

PEAR SPINACH SOUP

(dairy-free, vegan, nut-free)

  • 2 ripe pears
  • ½ onion
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 organic vegetable broth cube
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) spinach leaves
  • a bunch of fresh parsley
  • a bunch of fresh coriander
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • blackpepper

On top:

  • olive oil
  • seeds
  • +cashews, if you like

Peel onion and pears and cut to pieces. Add a little bit of olive oil to a pan, add onions and pears cubes and sauté for a couple on minutes. Add coconut milk, water, vegtable broth cube, spinach leaves, parsley, coriander and cook for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour in bowls, add a drop of olive oil and sprinkle some cashews and seeds on top. Serve and enjoy!

Tip! For extra creaminess, add ½ cup to the soup mixture cashews while cooking!

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