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

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three bean chili with sweet potato (my first slow cooker recipe!)

I’m so tired today. It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping very well most nights. I’m pretty certain I’ve pulled/strained my left chest muscle, so all week I’ve been waking up during the nights because I’ve moved and it has hurt.

It must have been during boxing last Tuesday that I did it, but I first properly felt it on Thursday when I did yoga. Then after a day of carrying heavy boxes around the office, it really started hurting on Saturday. On Sunday it was so bad certain movements made me feel like crying. Since then it’s gotten a bit better – the pain is not as sharp now, it’s a duller kind of pain, but sometimes it still surprises me how much it hurts. Like when I sneezed yesterday and thought I was going to cry. On top of this I’m of course getting a cold – at a time where I can’t sneeze, cough, or blow my nose without being in pain.

In addition to this, I slept really badly both last night (pain) and the night between Wednesday and Thursday when I woke up at 1am, 4am, 5am and 6am, thinking I’d overslept each time. So it wasn’t just the waking up and rolling over in bed, it was the waking up with your heart jumping out of your chest because you thought you were running late (and then trying to roll around without incurring that still somewhat shooting pain in my chest muscle).

So it hasn’t been a great week. I also haven’t been to the gym since Thursday’s yoga, and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do next week either. You don’t really realise just how much you use/tense your chest muscles in your everyday life until it starts hurting when you do it – just getting up from the sofa, turning around in bed, or laughing has become something painful. I’m going to be really careful about the gym though, because we have a conference with work next weekend at a ski resort in the Alps and I’m not planning to miss out on the skiing.

Anyway, I’m long overdue on this, but I’m going to post the three bean chili recipe that was my first slow cooker attempt! I found it online somewhere where it was a recipe for three bean chili with pumpkin. I’m not overly keen on pumpkin though (and the recipe called for tinned pumpkin which I doubt I’d be able to find in my local supermarket) so I decided to swap it out for sweet potato. I think it turned out nice, but the first portion didn’t give me that ‘wow’ feeling I had hoped for. I then added frozen sweetcorn to my remaining portions and that upped the game a lot. So I think when I make this again I will skip out on the sweet potatoes and instead add sweetcorn (after the chili has cooked for the prescribed time).


Ingredients (6 portions)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g sweet potato

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt


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Fry the onion in 1 tbsp oil until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another few minutes.

Add 1 tbsp oil to the slow cooker, then add all of the remaining ingredients.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

It really can’t be simpler.


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Next time, however, I’ll try:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion (approx.. 150g)

4 cloves of garlic

2-3 red peppers

425g chickpeas

425g kidney beans

425g black beans

425g tinned tomatoes (crushed or passata)

500g sweetcorn (add after cooking)

2.5 cups beef stock

2 tsp oregano

1.5 tsp chili flakes

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

0.5 tsp sea salt

Also, this obviously isn’t vegetarian because it has beef stock in it, but if you swap the beef stock for vegetable stock you’re good to go. I just prefer the slightly heartier taste I feel like the chili gets with beef stock.

/t

honey roasted parsnip soup

My first Christmas working in Parliament – which for the record was three years ago – we went for lunch in the Members’ Dining Room. Staff members are not usually allowed to have lunch there, but we were allowed to book a table for our Christmas lunch.

It was a very funny lunch, at the time were six staff members – five full-time and one part-time, though mainly because of the comical mishaps and misunderstandings, such as one of our group shouting ‘no’ quite loud at the waiter because s/he thought he was going to pour red wine in the glass of someone who wanted to drink white. Let’s just say that in a somewhat subdued and rather serious atmosphere that turned some heads.

Now an English Christmas lunch is nothing like a Swedish one. We don’t even call it ‘lunch’; we call it Julbord – which means Christmas table! The English ones I’ve been to have had menus with three or so options per course, and most of them have been Christmassy. In Sweden you pay a set price per person and it’s a massive, and I mean massive, buffet. One table with just cold food, one table with just hot food, and one table just for sweets, biscuits, and desserts. A Swedish Julbord is the kind of thing where you should skip breakfast and still won’t need any dinner. This can become quite difficult if you’re going back to work afterwards though, so unless you’re doing it on the weekend, most people have a Julbord at dinnertime rather than at lunchtime.

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But the English lunch has its charms, (one of them being that you don’t grow tired of eating the same food before you have to do it again on Christmas Eve) and when we went in the House I decided to try a honey roasted parsnip soup for my starter. I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of parsnips, but I wasn’t too excited by any of the other options, so I went for it. My indifference towards parsnips soon changed though, and I’m pretty sure this was the turning point because I really liked that soup. So much so that almost three years later I still remember it.

I think my thinking that I wasn’t a big fan of parsnips came from when my dad used to make potato gratin when I was little. He would often make potato and parsnip gratin (with lots of onion!) so I would bite into what I thought was a lovely, soft potato – and it wasn’t. That has then followed me through life making me think I didn’t like parsnips, until I moved to the UK.

Now I’ve realised that I actually love parsnips, and being in my soup mood I’ve been thinking about this honey roasted parsnip soup I had in Parliament – especially since parsnips were half price in my supermarket last week. I started Googling for a recipe, but mainly came across regular parsnip soups. So I took a roasted parsnip soup recipe I found on BBC and combined it with my honey roasted parsnip recipe, and tada!


20161024_214328 (2).jpgIngredients

500g parsnips

70g butter

2 tbsp brown sugar

4 tbsp honey (2 + 2)

1 onion

2 vegetable stock cubes

750 ml hot water

750 ml milk

salt

pepper


Peel your parsnips and cut them into smaller pieces. Then melt the butter, brown sugar, and 2 tbsp of the honey in a pot. Pour the honey-mixture over the parsnips and toss them around to make sure they’re well-coated.

Roast for around 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Chop of your onion and fry in a little bit of oil or butter (your preference) until it goes somewhat translucent. Add the parsnips, making sure that you get all the gooey honey-mixture into the pot with you.

Add the stock cubes, water, and milk, and bring to boil. Then leave to simmer for around 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp of honey, then blitz the soup in a blender or with a hand blender.


20161025_175224 (2).jpgI had very high hopes for this soup, and I was not disappointed. It was not quite as sweet as the one I had for our Christmas lunch, but with four tablespoons of honey I think this was probably sweet enough. If you really want it to be a bit sweeter (or you want to make it look more appealing to your guests) you can always drizzle some honey on top.

I got about 4.5-5 portions out of this recipe (last portion was a bit smaller than the other 4), and again, a nice slice of bread with it is not wrong.

/t

sweet potato and carrot soup

It’s getting very wet here. Until last Friday, October had been cold and very grey, but not very wet – but Saturday bought an end to that!

I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. Every day as I sit and look at the small square of sky I can see from my office window, I see a thick, grey cloud cover which never seems to let up. It’s been chilly, but not so cold you need to bring out your winter jacket and has mercifully, up until now, not been raining very much.

This was the first weekend this month that S wasn’t here, so to spend the time I signed up to go to the gym. On Saturday morning I was signed up for 90 minutes of yoga in the city, and thought I could hang around in town after and browse the mid-season sales or so. (Side note: since when are there so many sales all the time?) As I was leaving I was running a bit late, and just grabbed the first jacket in the wardrobe without checking the weather, so when I came out and it was 3 degrees Celsius instead of the 7-ish it had been all week, as well as raining, I got a bit of a shock. No time to go back up and change though, so I ran down to the tube, but as I was walking around town after the class I was so cold. Luckily I had an umbrella in my handbag (if my time in London has taught me anything it’s to always carry a small umbrella in your bag), but the scarf I had on is a loop one that has been too stretched, so it leaves a gap around your throat – thus defeating the purpose of a scarf. Before long though, my mum WhatsApped me and said did I want to come hang out with her.

Anyway, what I was going to say was that on Saturday it started raining and it hasn’t stopped since. The weather websites are claiming that it will be dry tomorrow, and even bright sunshine and 7-9 degrees on Friday and Saturday, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I don’t mind the cold, I don’t (really) mind the fact that the sun is soon going to set before I leave work, and I don’t even mind (that much) if it’s grey out. I just don’t want it to rain. November is a bleak enough month as it is, and with climate change or whatever it is making the winters hotter, there’s not even the promise of a white December to get you through it. All you can do is hope.

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Because of this bleak weather I’ve been in a real soup mood. I have a faint memory of writing somewhere in here – possibly in the blueberry post – that when I was little I didn’t like soup. Any soup. But having discovered that soup could be something other than the dreary, often lumpy, things we got in school, I’ve now come to expect these soup cravings this time of year.

My first soup of the season was a roasted red pepper and tomato soup which I unfortunately was quite disappointed with. It was too liquid and didn’t have the depth of flavour I was expecting, so I won’t put that recipe in this post.

Next up, however, was something much better. I was browsing soup recipes online and came across a carrot and sweet potato soup on BBC Good Food. I really like sweet potatoes, but the thought of putting them in a soup had never hit me. I immediately thought it was a good idea and decided to try it out.

This recipe is so easy, and takes very little effort. It’s a thick, earthy, autumnal soup – in other words everything I wanted it to be.


20161021_203539 (2).jpgIngredients

500g sweet potatoes

300g carrots

2 onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 litre vegetable stock

100 ml crème fraîche

oil

salt

pepper

paprika


Start by peeling your sweet potatoes and carrots and chopping them up into smaller pieces. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Then roast for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. You want the pieces to be ever so slightly darkened (read burnt) around the edges.

While your sweet potatoes and carrots are in the oven, chop up the onions and some garlic. I used 4 cloves, because I love garlic. Fry the onions on medium heat until they start to look translucent. Then add the garlic and fry for a minute or two, before adding the stock. Bring to boil and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the carrots and sweet potatoes to the stock and blitz with a hand blender (or, if you don’t have one, add the carrots and potatoes and then the stock mix to a normal blender). After I had blended to soup so it was smooth, I also added about 2 tbsp paprika. The original recipe didn’t call for this, but I think it complemented the flavours well.

Add the crème fraîche and stir until it’s completely blended in with the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy with some additional crème fraîche on top, if you want, and a nice bread roll.


This was exactly the kind of feeling I was looking for when I was making the roasted red pepper and tomato soup, which is why I was disappointed when I didn’t get it. I ended up with three servings from this – but my servings are probably around 500ml each, so they’re quite large.

Next up is a parsnip soup I amended to turn it into a honey roasted parsnip soup. See you then!

/t

kale green smoothie

I can’t believe I’ve put two trends in one smoothie! And the day after I made the acai smoothie I posted about earlier as well. What’s happening to me?

Kale – or, you know, green cabbage – is another one of those super-trends I’ve felt like I’d rather miss out on. I’m not a big fan of cabbage in general (pak choi being the exception to the rule) and it’s just one of those foods where I feel like people have been eating it for ages – what’s with the recent hype?

Coconut water: also not a fan. I’ve tried it once when they were handing it out in the supermarket for free, but I didn’t like the taste of it. I bet you’re starting to wonder why I even made this smoothie!

Despite my adversity to kale and coconut water, I thought this smoothie could be nice since it has a tropical hint. To ensure that I did really get that tropicalness, I doubled the pineapple. But I still couldn’t taste much of it actually.


20160930_070916 (2).JPGIngredients (1 portion)

35g spinach

20g kale

0.5 avocado (ca 50g)

10 cm cucumber (ca 100g)

100g pineapple

330 ml coconut water


20160930_071709 (2).JPGI thought adding kale to a smoothie would be similar to adding spinach to a smoothie, but I was very wrong. The kale (obviously) has a completely different texture, which leads to the smoothie being a different texture too. I don’t necessarily know that that negatively affected it, but the combination of the fact that I could mainly taste the flavour of the kale and feel that texture of it wasn’t good. So the smoothie went in the sink after just a few gulps.

The coconut water on the other hand I think I could use in a smoothie again – and if I reworked the quantities to remove the kale, I could probably even try making this again. I’ve just cemented the fact that I really don’t like kale. So what am I now going to do with the remaining 100g+ that’s in my fridge?

/t

acai smoothie

 

Just as I sat down to write this, I realised that I inadvertedly doubled the pineapple in this recipe. Woops. It tasted very nice though, so I don’t think it was too bad!

Açaí (I’m only going to do this spelling once) is another of those ‘super foods’ that I’ve been a bit sceptical to. This is not to say that I doubt the health benefits – most fruit, berries and vegetables are full of them – but I’m sceptical to the cult-like following it has gained. Acai bowls, acai smoothies, acai everything. A year or two ago acai was barely around in Sweden and now it’s everywhere!

According to a Swedish company that imports it, acai is “known as the king of the super fruits. It is completely ecological and grows wild in the Amazon forest. It contains the most antioxidants of all fruits and berries, and also contains omega fats, iron, and 26 other vitamins, minerals and fibre”. It’s got it all, so to speak, but with the Amazonian import need comes a quite hefty price tag. It is by far the most expensive fruit/berry in the frozen section of my supermarket, and I’ve long felt uncertain that it would live up to the price (i.e. why not just use lovely Swedish blueberries instead).

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But I am running out of different smoothie mixes that are not too similar to each other – so I caved. I found a recipe for this on BBC Good Food, and since it had mango and pineapple and orange I figured that would mask the acai enough if I didn’t like it. I’ve had the Absolute Vodka Acai Berry before, but obviously didn’t know whether acai vodka and acai smoothies taste alike, lol.

The recipe called for ‘frozen acai pulp, thawed’, so I set out to find acai in the frozen section of my supermarket. After having scanned all the fruits and berries, I couldn’t see it, but I knew there was a health section and thought maybe they’d have something there. I headed over and found acai powder, but that was quite expensive and I felt that the bags were too large – in case I didn’t like it. So I ventured back to the frozen section, thinking I could replace the acai berries with blueberries, and when I picked up the blueberries I saw a sign for acai. I started digging around and there they were. So you’re getting an acai smoothie after all! (And after this you’ll get three more, because there were four ‘portions’ in each bag.)


20160929_072047 (2).JPGIngredients (1 portions)

100g acai ’pulp’

100g strawberries

100g pineapple (50g if you follow the recipe)

2 oranges


I was actually pleasantly surprised. I don’t know if it was the added pineapple, but it was quite sweet yet a bit earthy. I think it would make a great compliment to blueberries otherwise.

The only thing I’m not sure I agreed with is that the recipe said to defrost the pulp before making the smoothie. This made it really, really runny, and adding the juice form the two squeezed oranges was quite a lot (the recipe says 250ml orange juice – which is roughly the same depending on the size of your oranges).

It’s got a dreadful colour though – hasn’t it?

/t