gratinated bean tortillas

I was supposed to post this last Friday (had it all set to go) but then the unspeakable happened and posting anything didn’t feel possible.

Sadly I’m not shocked that we had a terror attack in Sweden. I’ve talked to people several times about the fact that it wouldn’t be a question of if, but a question of when – and many others have said the same thing. And the fact that we feel that way is horrible. I was sat in my office when I got a message from S saying “Are you ok?” and with a screenshot from Swedish Radio’s Twitter-feed saying a lorry had just crashed into Åhléns department store in central Stockholm – 600 metres from my office. No one on my floor had heard the news yet, but they soon spread and we all turned on various live reports. Everyone’s phones were ringing – friends and family trying to make sure you were ok. The police closed down the entire underground system and all inner city buses, and people were ordered to stay inside their offices. Shoppers were locked into shops for their safety.

What I have to say I was wrong about though is our response. Despite the obvious – that they have security warnings out and train for these kinds of horrors – I didn’t think they would be this well-prepared. They have done a fantastic job, they responded quickly and forcefully, were quick to send out a picture of the suspect to the media and arrested the driver that same evening. My mum always said she was worried about me living in London because it’s a big terrorist target and I always replied I would be more worried about it in Stockholm – but I am glad to say that I believe the police force has surpassed the whole nation’s expectations. And we have shown them how much we love them for it.

I don’t think I’ve quite processed it yet though. It was only two weeks prior that I was worriedly texting my friends in Parliament hoping they were ok and thanking whatever powers may be that S had only worked a half day that day. I had worried calls from my family asking was he ok, and was trying to process that a spot where I had frequently walked at exactly that time on exactly that weekday had been subject to a terror attack. Hearing from my friends who were on lock-down in their offices in Parliament and who couldn’t leave to go home until 6-7 hours later. And then it happened again. But this time in my town. On a road that I frequently walk down and very well could have been on a Friday at 3pm. But at least this time I knew that if everyone was where they were supposed to be, I would be the only one of my close family and friends near the attack.

No doubt it will all sink in soon enough. There are many emotions tumbling around inside me right now, but at the moment the strongest of them all is still pride. Pride in our police force, pride in the love we as a people have shown them (if you haven’t seen the police cars overflowing with flowers it’s a beautiful sight) and pride in our response as a nation. I have never seen so many people gather at Sergels Torg as they did for the vigil on Sunday afternoon. The flowers that were put on a fence by the place of the attack had to be moved because the fence was beginning to collapse.

So right now we are a country in mourning but we’re trying to go on as normal, if only with a little more love for one another.

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Something I’ve discovered I really like, which surprised me a bit, is bean chillies. It started out before we were getting married when I decided to try 5:2 to help me get in better shape. Not being the kind of person who could eat only once a day I would have to split my 500 kcal intake between lunch and dinner – which obviously isn’t the easiest thing to do. But to my rescue came M&S and Eat. Eat had a really nice Pho noodle soup which was only about 220 kcal and a side-order ham hock and egg salad which was big enough to work for lunch and which, including the dressing I never ate, contained about 270 kcal. M&S had a range of salads and soups too, but they also sold these little one-portion tins of three bean chilli in their Count on Us range. One tin was 200g and had, I think, 214 kcal worth of food and I would sometimes eat several each week. On fast days I’d eat them either with just a small amount of added sweetcorn, or with those ‘zero calorie noodles’, and on non-fast days I would eat them with sweetcorn and cheese on top of a baked potato. I actually still have a few that came with me to Sweden, but unfortunately they don’t seem to sell them in most M&S shops any more.

So when I got my slow cooker and was thinking about what to make first it was only natural that the three bean chilli with sweet potatoes became my fist course. And now that I feel like trying to eat more vegetarian it’s only natural that I turn to beans again. Because working out 3-5 times per week, and wanting to add muscle rather than just lose weight, I still need my protein.

I like black beans and kidney beans (and chickpeas – do they count as beans? I’ve read that they can also be called garbanzo beans) but I’m not as keen on white beans. I think it’s the ‘white beans in tomato sauce’-associations that put me off them. With the success of my three bean chilli, I’ve wanted to make something else bean-centred, but haven’t quite known what until last week when I was browsing Ica’s recipe bank for vegetarian mains and found their “gratinated bean tortillas” recipe. Seeing as I love enchiladas I was thinking this would be a good substitute, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

I think the dish was ok – but it was too sweet. Using normal tinned tomatoes and pasta sauce (rather than enchilada sauce) meant that it lost those enchilada-associations I was hoping for, since there was very little spiciness. Having looked for enchilada sauce sold separately in the supermarket (for another recipe I want to try – a slow cooker enchilada quinoa casserole) but not having found it, I have instead found a recipe for homemade enchilada sauce that looks fantastic. So next time I make these bean tortillas (and there will be a next time because other than the sweetness they were very tasty) I will make sure I have a batch of that homemade enchilada sauce to go with it instead of the tinned tomatoes and pasta sauce.

In case you want to try this recipe as it is anyway, here it is.


Ingredients (8 tortillas)

1 tsp oil

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

3 tbsp tomato purée

390g tinned, crushed, tomatoes

380g kidney beans

380g black beans

300g sweetcorn

8 medium tortillas

390g pasta sauce with chili

100g cheese


Chop up the onion and fry in the oil. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder and stir.

Add tomato purée and crushed tomatoes and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

Rinse the beans and add them and the sweetcorn to the pan.

Put the tortillas in an oven dish and fill with the bean mixture. Top with pasta sauce and grated cheese.

Bake at 225 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes.


Serve with guacamole or salsa and sour cream.

/t

your body can stand almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince

I’m one of those people who you (if you don’t like to exercise) probably find really annoying, because I actually really like exercising. Of course I don’t like all kinds of exercise – for example I find running very boring – but I’ll try anything you throw at me at least once, and often find myself surprised that I like (sometimes even love) it. I’m guessing this has something to do with the fact that I was basically raised in the gym, with the weekends spent in the forest.

My mum started working as a group training instructor a few years before I was born and before I started going to kindergarten she would often bring me along if she had a class. Back then the gym didn’t have the babysitting facilities they have today, so I would be playing outside the hall while the receptionist kept an eye on me. (To this day if I go places with my mum I still meet people saying “I haven’t seen you since you where this small and were crawling around the gym!”. I’m almost 30 now.)

I find this sign very annoying..

We often spent our weekends at different sporting events, be it football games, orienteering competitions, or other running competitions my mum was participating in. I played football (soccer to you Americans) and did horse-riding for ten years, but I also tried my hand at basketball, orienteering, and street-dance. Adding to that, we would go ice-skating on the frozen lakes and go skiing/snowboarding in the winters, and obviously had to try out a load of different sports during our school’s PE-lessons. So I guess it’s not that odd that I turned out a relatively sporty person.

The thing is that really liking exercise doesn’t always make it easier to continue doing it – unless you love running because then you don’t need much to be able to do it. So what happened in my case was that I moved to Italy to be a nanny and basically stopped exercising completely. There wasn’t a gym I knew of anywhere nearby and it was really difficult for me to make friends since the Italians barely spoke English and I didn’t speak Italian. So I got demotivated and fell into the trap of Italian fast-food; pasta, pizza and ice-cream. I gained about 5-6 kg (11-13 lbs) in weight and felt quite bad about it.

I then worked in two more families, worked in Sweden for a year, and went to uni. I became somewhat of a yoyo-dieter at this time, with shortish periods of feeling good about my weight and longer ones where I wasn’t satisfied. Apart from getting a lot of ‘everyday exercise’ from working in a shop (10-15,000 steps per day average) I didn’t do much exercise at this time, because it just wasn’t very convenient. I did get back into it the last two years at uni, because I lived near a hotel that had a good gym. But moving to London after uni then undid that for me. At first I managed quite well and I went to the gym several times a week, but once we were married (my goal I was working towards) and I was working longer hours all motivation just drained out of me. I’d managed to get down to my ‘happy weight’ for the wedding, but afterwards I gained it all back, and a few additional pounds. I think that was the heaviest I’ve ever been.

What’s difficult for me about going to the gym is not the being there but the getting there. Especially when it’s cold and dark out, or if I get home late. Once I’m at the gym and working out I always feel happy (well ok, sometimes the happy feeling doesn’t come until I’m done and no longer feel exhausted!). So now I’ve taken to going to the gym straight from work. I bring a backpack with my gym clothes and then either leave work and go straight there, or go to somewhere nearby and have a look around the shops – depending on the time and the location of the gym. It really helps a lot, because not stopping at home in between keeps me from crashing on the sofa and looking out thinking it’s too late/dark/cold/whatever. And I’m always happy, if tired, when I get home.

Since I got my membership here in Sweden at the end of May I’ve been to the gym 118 times – for 126 hours in total. That’s an average of one workout ever other day, or around 32 minutes per day. And that includes a ten day hiatus over summer and a week long one over Christmas. One of the things that helps as well is that my ‘new’ (can you call it new if it’s been almost eight months?) gym has a great selection of classes, which is what I prefer to do. Also, if you don’t cancel an hour before the class you get a ‘point’ in the system if you don’t show up, and if you get points you can’t book classes online for a while. When classes book up full within five minutes of being able to book, that’s quite a hassle.

So what’s keeping me at it now is partly that I don’t have anyone waiting for me at home – meaning I’d rather spend time doing things away from home so I don’t feel so lonely – and partly the fact that I’ve found a few classes that I want to do every week. My favourite is a 90 minute long hot yoga called Hot Mojo, which is performed in a room that is 38 degrees warm (Celsius) and has a minimum humidity level of 60%. Unfortunately there’s only one 90 minute class in the entire city and the instructor is on holiday at the moment, so for the next two weeks I have to make do with the 60 minute class.

This post has gone down a different road than what I was thinking when I started out, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you’re raised sporty and like to exercise, it’s not always easy to find the motivation to get there. We all need a little help now and then.

/t

2017

Happy New Year everyone! (Ok, maybe that’s a bit optimistic in terms of readership of this blog – but still.)

I’ve had a nice Christmas and New Year’s, but sadly still snow-less. I made some great food for Christmas (banging my own drum) and we had a quiet day with the obligatory Donald Duck and a few presents each. S and I then had three very quiet days on our own where we did nothing (I haven’t spent so much time in front of the TV in ages), then my mother-in-law came and then my brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and her son came. So it’s been a full house for the past four days and, to be honest, it’s going to be quite nice to come home tonight and not be surrounded by people. (Of course it would have been nicer if S was still here though.)

For New Year’s we did dinner in the flat and then went out on a hill behind our house to watch fireworks. It turned out to be a really good spot because you had a 360-view and there were fireworks in every direction. We then went back home and, because we’d all got up around 8 am due to a certain 6-yo, went to bed about 1 am. On New Year’s Day we went ice-skating in the city (because nothing in Sweden is open on NYD) and I thought it was a lot of fun. Haven’t been ice-skating in years and the more I do things I haven’t done since I left Sweden, the more I feel like I’m truly back again.

Today I’m back at work though, but Thursday is a half-day here and Friday a bank holiday, so I’m flying over to London on Thursday afternoon – meaning this work week isn’t really a week at all. I feel like I’m getting quite a bad cold though, my nose is all blocked up, my sinuses are sore, my throat is sore in the mornings, and I have a headache at the moment. Hopefully 90 minutes in a 38 degree room with 60% humidity this evening (hot yoga) should clear me up somewhat.

Since I’m going away this weekend I don’t know if I’ll have the time to type up some of my Christmas and NYE recipes for you, but I’ll do my best! Otherwise something will come up next week.

/t

review: poké bowl

I have never understood the traditional English ’workday lunch’. You know the meal deal from the supermarket, made up of a (often dry and boring) sandwich, a bag of crisps (that’s chips for you American English speakers) and a fizzy drink. First of all it’s so boring and unsatisfying and second, it doesn’t fill you up properly. And it’s not even nice bread – it’s plain white bread that’s not toasted though it’s made for toasting! (Side note on this: S and I have a standing ‘argument’ about the fact that I call it ‘toast bread’ because that’s what we say in Sweden whereas he says it’s just plain white bread. But if it’s meant to be toasted then it should be called toast bread. There is such a thing as a normal white loaf, but toast bread is not it.)

In Sweden it seems more common to have a cooked meal for lunch – we always got cooked meals in school, from kindergarten to age 18/19 when you finish high school – but in Stockholm it’s also very popular with salads. Almost everyone in my ‘lunch group’ at work has a salad most days of the week, and I just don’t understand that either. Sure, with a salad you can have more variation than with a plain sandwich from Tesco, but they also feel quite unsatisfying. Especially now that we’re getting into the cold part of the year.

Enter the poké bowl. Poké bowls have become extremely popular overnight it feels like, and within a five minute walking distance of my office there are at least three or four places where you can buy them.

Poké bowls are usually made up of sushi rice and some sort of protein and vegetables. Many people therefore seem to think they come from Japan, but it’s actually a Hawaiian thing. The most common bowl is sushi rice with salmon and some veggies – maybe avocado, edamame and pickled ginger – but I have also seen chicken versions and noodle versions. I don’t think a day goes by without someone at my office having a poke bowl.

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Since I love sushi I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I liked this poké bowl – it’s basically sushi in a bowl. Since I don’t like mayonnaise I skipped the ever-so-popular chili mayo and poured soy sauce over my bowl instead (I love soy sauce).

I don’t think I would go out and buy a poké bowl, because if I’m going to spend 120 SEK (about £10.40 atm) I’d rather just buy sushi. I wouldn’t say no or be unhappy if someone else bought me one, but I think they’re a bit of a hype right now and, like you’ve already figured out if you’ve followed my blog for a bit, I’m not too keen on hypes. If something becomes a hype I tend to want to go the other way and not use/wear/eat it until the hype has died down a bit. But since this was a work lunch I was more than happy to eat it, hehe.

I did really like it though, and I would actually consider making it myself at home – since it’d be a lot easier than making your own sushi. Although making your own sushi is a lot of fun.

So all in all I thought it was very nice but I don’t get the hype and I don’t get people having the same bowl several days a week.

all hallows’ day – the swedish version

In Sweden we have never really been that into all this Halloween stuff until it became popular because of American culture.

However, we have been celebrating All Hallows’ Day since the 700’s. In Sweden there’s a difference between All Saints’ Day and All Hallows’ Day. All Saints’ Day is always on 1st November, but All Hallows’ Day is since the 50’s the Saturday that falls between 31st October and 6th November.

When Sweden became protestant, All Saints’ Day was supposed to ‘disappear’ since saints were a Catholic thing. So in 1772 it was removed as a public holiday. In 1953 we caused a split between All Saints’ Day and All Hallows’ Day by making All Hallows’ Day a fluctuating date and reinstated it as a public holiday. So we have All Hallows’ Eve (31st October), All Saints’ Day (1st November) and All Hallows’ Day (varying).

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Since about the 1800’s, Swedish people have been lighting candles at graves on All Hallows’ Day – particularly children’s graves. This was already commonplace in Sweden, but had usually been done on Christmas Eve. The practice grew, and after the Second World War it became even more so as it was picked up by Catholic European countries.

It still remains a tradition among Swedish people today, and Skogskyrkogården (the Stockholm cemetery that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site) say they have around 70,000 visitors on that weekend.

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Seeing as I had S and one of his friends from London over for the weekend, I decided to ask if they wanted to go to Skogskyrkogården. This mass-lighting of candles at All Hallows’ Day is not something that’s really done in the UK, so I thought it would be a nice experience and something very Swedish to tell people in London about.

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Greta Garbo is buried at Skogskyrkogården, and a lot of fans had been there to light candles.

As we were walking around the cemetery it started snowing, and it hasn’t really stopped since. There’s an old farmers’ tale that says that “if the sun doesn’t shine long enough for you to saddle a horse on 1st November, it’ll be a cold winter”. I hope they’re right.

/t

kanelbullar

They say home is where the heart is. But what if your heart – or rather, the person holding your heart – is in the wrong place?

It’s been almost seven months now and I don’t miss living in London. I miss London, but not living there. It’s a great city to be a tourist in – the culture, food, shopping, and sheer size of it – and a great city to live in while you’re young. But I was getting to the point where it was no longer the city I wanted to live in, a point where I needed to break free from the bustle. I love coming back to visit family and friends, the fact that I still feel like a local when I’m there. I love the bustle of London when I’m a tourist and know that it’s no longer my day-to-day life, my daily commute. I will always love London and London will always be a part of me, but I was born and raised in Sweden, and Stockholm is a larger part of me.

After what has essentially been eight years living abroad, Stockholm was calling me home. I’m one of those people who genuinely love my hometown – whether that makes me naïve or patriotic I don’t really know and don’t really care. I love walking around the city centre and still being surrounded by water everywhere. I love how you are always close to nature. And after three years on the Jubilee line I even see the Stockholm underground in a different light (though it does run much less frequently).

I walk around my city now, feeling the chill that comes with autumn – you know the one that gently bites your cheeks and makes them all rosy – and hearing the crunch of my steps as I walk through the fallen leaves, and I feel excited. These butterflies and this warmth in my chest is something that only Swedish autumn can bring. The beauty of the colourful leaves, the chill’s promise of snow, and the thought of knitted socks, big scarves, thick jackets, and cinnamon buns and hot chocolate – which will eventually be replaced by saffron buns, gingerbread, and mulled wine. All Saints’ Day at Skogskyrkogården, Lucia, Advent, and Christmas. (And then a few grey and miserable months before the budding blooms and an explosion of flowers in spring.)

Physically I feel better in Stockholm. I’m working less overtime, I’m going to the gym more often (having 46 branches instead of three certainly helps, and so does being able to leave the office at 5-5.30pm!), I eat better, and I stress less.

But (and it’s a big but) I’m not as happy as I know I could be, and the reason is of course that S is still in London. These past few weeks he’s been coming over almost every weekend, which has made the weeks easier to get through (and made them feel like they passed a lot quicker), but it’s also made it more difficult because it makes it even more noticeable that he’s not here during the weekdays (and let’s not even talk about the weekends where he then hasn’t been here). It’s like a double-edged sword – I get to see him a lot, but I feel even lonelier when he’s not here because I get to see him a lot. (I would obviously always choose that option over the other one though!)

So this is why I’ve been feeling down recently. I’ve lost some of my motivation to do things and felt slightly caught in a rut. I’ve been eating a lot more pick and mix than I should, and cinnamon buns too, but at least I’ve still been good with making my own lunch. That’s really more of a money question than a motivation question though. But I haven’t had the energy to write down the recipes and take pictures – it’s also getting more difficult to get ok pictures since it’s getting so dark out! – or make smoothies in the morning. I’ve still gone to the gym every week though – if only twice instead of four times, and I’m happy I’m still keeping that up somewhat. Last week and the week before I went three times, and this week I’m scheduled in for four. So at least I’m not letting my lack of motivation and feeling sorry for myself become an excuse for quitting the gym again – which I did in London. I did work much longer hours there though, and I wasn’t tied up for a year, so it was much tougher to work up the energy to go when you come home at 8-9pm and haven’t had dinner.

Anyway, I thought I’d pull myself out of my blogging dry-spell with my cinnamon buns I made a week and a half ago, and then I have a really nice pork and cider stew I made this weekend (if I can get some good pictures). I also have a tomato and roasted red pepper soup I made two weeks ago, and a pasta. So keep checking in – I promise I won’t abandon you just yet.


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Ingredients (36-40 buns)

150g butter

500 ml milk

50g (1 pack) fresh yeast

100 ml sugar

0.2 tsp salt

(2 tsp cardamom)

approx. 800g flour

1 egg

150g butter

100 ml sugar

2 tbsp cinnamon

pearl sugar


First things first: Swedish cinnamon buns have cardamom in the dough. S doesn’t like cardamom, so I make mine without.

Second, I always use fresh yeast when I bake. I can’t stand dry yeast. If you don’t know where to get fresh yeast (in London you can get it at Scandinavian Kitchen which is about 5-10 minutes from Oxford Circus) you can use dry yeast, but I don’t think the dough turns out as nice.

Ok, on to the good stuff!

First, crumble the yeast in a large bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a pan, then add the milk. Leave on the heat until it reaches 37 degrees Celsius. The easiest way to judge this if you don’t have a thermometer is to put your finger in it. If it feels neither hot nor cold then it should be good to go.

(While you cut the butter, leave 150g to soften in a bowl at room temperature.)

Pour some of the liquid over the yeast and dissolve. Add the rest of the liquid and then the sugar, salt, and cardamom. Stir until the sugar dissolves somewhat.

Measure out the flour and add slowly to the liquid, while stirring with a wooden spoon. Once all the flour is added, work the dough for at least ten minutes, until it’s smooth (five if you’re using a machine). Cover the dough and leave it to rise for 30 minutes.

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The risen dough

In the meantime, take the other 150g of butter, add 100 ml sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon and cream together until completely mixed.

Once 30 minutes have passed, tip out the dough on a floured surface. Cut into two equally sized pieces and set one aside. Roll the first piece out into a rectangle, about 0.5 cm thick. Take half of the spread and use a butter knife to spread over the dough. It is important that the butter is really soft here, or the dough will break. Roll up the dough on the long end, and cut into 1-2 cm thick slices (depending on how large you want your buns). Place on a baking tray in a cinnamon bun case (like a large cupcake case with lower sides) – if you don’t have cases you can also place them on a baking sheet.

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Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.

Cover the buns and leave them to rise for another 40 minutes.

Brush the buns with a beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar. (Again, this is available at ScandiKitchen.)

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Bake for around 10 minutes at 225 degrees Celsius (slightly longer if they’re huge).


Enjoy!

/t