Feta cheese chickpeas couscous with roasted sweet potato

I was supposed to visit the grocery store today (well, actually yesterday)… but the slushy weather, the fact I need to take the girls with me, carry stuff back home alone and all the blablas made me so lazy… I didn’t go.  uh (anyone there like me? please?)

No grocery shopping, not much ingredients to make dinner with. I had to think fast… feta cheese and one big sweet potato in the fridge… adding this and that we had something to eat! :)

Feta cheese garbanzo beans couscous with roasted sweet potato

serves 4

  • 2 dl dry couscous
  • 200 ml boiling water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 (400g) can of chickpeas, drained. I used organic chickpeas in water with no added salt
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • cumin, salt, pepper, paprika to taste
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 big sweet potato (orange fleshed variety), peeled and cut into chunks
  • garlic powder
  • white pepper
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 150g feta cheese, cut in cubes
  • 1 tbsp parsley (I used dry. Use fresh herbs preferably)

Heat oven to 200°C. Combine the sweet potatoes chunks, olive oil, salt, garlic powder and pepper in a large bowl, toss to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes (check if soft with a fork). Reserve.

Bring water to boil in a small saucepan, add the salt and olive oil. Stir in the dry couscous removing from heat. Place the lid and let stand until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and add a dash of olive oil (or a knob of butter)

In a large skillet fry the onions and add the cumin. When it gets fragrant, add the drained chickpeas, paprika powder, salt and pepper to taste. My chickpeas were without salt but if you are using salted ones, be careful when adding the spices. Keep in mind you are going to mix everything together in the end (couscous and feta cheese).

When the chickpeas get warm enough, remove the skillet from heat. Add the ready couscous, using a wooden fork to combine everything. Toss in the chunks of sweet potatoes and feta cheese. At last, add the tomatoes and sprinkle with parsley.

I like to add drops of lemon juice before eating but it is totally optional.

You can eat this as salad for the next day. It tastes good cold too ^_^.

Feta cheese chickpeas couscous with roasted sweet potato


Little giraffe bento

November 17, 2010

Little giraffe bento

Oh gosh… It has been more than a week since my last post. Yes, I am cooking and doing stuff but I am not taking pictures at all. I am having problems on making good photographs because of the winter darkness (we celebrated Father´s day in Finland last Sunday, I baked a cake and everything… but hey, sorry guys, no pictures ^_^)

Anyways… it is already middle November and I tend to get very busy (and desperate! ahaahha) in the end of the year. Craft projects, baking and cooking ideas… I hope I can cope with everything and share something in the blog.

Today I made a bento for the girls, mostly because Luonnonvoima was not eating much lately and I was a bit concerned about her behavior. When I showed the boxes to them they yelled “Kirahvi!!” (kirahvi is the Finnish word for giraffe) =).

To shorten the history, Luonnonvoima ate everything! I was so glad….

Little giraffe bento

Contents of the boxes: rice, furikake, steamed broccoli, cooked carrots, tamagoyaki (omelet) with spinach, braised tofu in tonkatsu sauce, MSG-free sausage, cherry tomato, clementine wedges, red grapes. Giraffe made with cheese, carrot and nori; her horns with dried somen noodle and cooked carrot cut with a straw.

Little giraffe bento

A tip about the spinach. I don´t know from where they’ve heard “spinach is a no no” but when they asked what was the green thing inside the omelet, instead of saying “it is spinach”, I said “it is a nice leaf”. They replied “just like basil?”… I said “yep” and they ate everything nicely. Uh… kids are so tricky! :D

Lihapulla - Finnish meatballs

The other day I was talking to friends in twitter about how weird is to make blog posts about savory foods and hot meals (compared to sweets and bakery ) once they just don´t look good at all when you take photos of them. They can be super tasty and delicious .. but they can look so ugly too :P

Well.. besides nice sweets and well fixed bento meals, we also eat “normal” food.. like everyone else. Who normally takes a picture of your last pasta bolognese? I mean.. without taking the risk of the meal cooling too much and kids start yelling they are hungry and can´t wait for mom to take the best “shot” ?

Aha. See my problem ^_^ !

Anyways..  I made Finnish meatballs. The complete meal (“koko setti” – the whole set,  like we would say here) and I decided to post about it (bear with me).

Meatballs in Finland are very very common. They can be quite similar to the meatballs they make in Sweden (and I am almost sure you are thinking about the Ikea meal right now… gotcha!) but with less herbs and spices. It differs from the “Italian” meatballs too. Read the recipe and you will understand why :)

Ok, so the recipe basically calls for minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, spices and kermaviili. “Kermaviili” what? Well, yes, that. This is the recipe I use often and it’s how I learned to make “lihapulla”. There might be variations (my mother-in-law does not use “kermaviili” in hers as far as I know).

And what the heck is that kermaviili then? Before moving here, I had never heard about it. True.  Kermaviili is a dairy product made by fermenting milk cream, similar to the normal “viili” (which is another delicacy from the nordic countries ) but can be used in cooking, baking and to make dips. “Viili” is more like a gooey yogurt and most likely to be eaten as breakfast or dessert.

… (hey, but..) …

Yes! I have suggestions if you can´t find the kermaviili! (*clap, clap* XD) Substitute it by equal amounts of cream, milk, plain yogurt+cream, crème fraiche or meat stock . I can´t guarantee it will be the same meatball as mine but I believe it is worth a try. ^_^

We eat meatballs with cooked or mashed potatoes (this time the potatoes were from girls´ grandparents´place, special!) , gravy, homemade lingonberry jam, salad and sometimes cucumber pickles (when I remember I have them in the storage…). The ultimate Finnish confort food!

By the way.. they are a terrific freezer stash.. I can use in soups, sauces and for my bentos.. my girls enjoy  them a lot, like most of the kids in Finland.

Finnish Meatballs – Lihapullat

Makes 4 – 6 portions

  • 500 g ground beef (or you can use half beef and half ground pork)
  • 1 dl (about half cup) dry breadcrumbs. It is called “korppujauho” here and it differs from normal breadcrumbs (and Japanese “panko”) once it absorbs a lot of liquid when soaked (and looks like semolina flour when dry). Substitute by normal breadcrumbs or soak 2-3 slices of old dry bread.
  • 200 g “kermaviili” (I used this). Update: if your substitution is too liquid, milk or stock, I suggest to half the amount
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2  chopped onions
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp allspice (“maustepippuri”, it´s what a Finnish meatball must have, according to hubs)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Heat the oven to 225 °C

In a large bowl soak the breadcrumbs in the kermaviili (or in the liquid of your choice), leave for about 10 minutes. The result must be moist, somehow hard, not “runny”. Adjust the amount, if using a substitution, according to the softness of the mixture.

Fry the onions in a skillet (use butter or oil) until soft, set aside to cool.

Add the egg, mince, onions and seasonings to the breadcrumb mix.

Knead the mixture thoroughly until well combined and firm. Shape into walnut sized balls with slightly oiled or moist hands (keep a bowl with water nearby) and place them on a greased shallow baking tray or over parchment paper. Do not crowd .

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden. You can turn them to cook evenly but I usually  don´t . They  get a crispy bottom ^_^ .

While the meatballs are baking, you can make the gravy.

Gravy – Ruskea kastikke (“brown sauce”)

  • 1 -2 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • about 1/2 l beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil the stock and keep it warm. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the flour, mixing until the “paste” turns golden brown and starts to release a nutty aroma.

Start pouring the hot stock using a whisk to constantly mix it in (oh yes, beware of the steam! It can be scary at this point). Stir well, whisking until no lumps remain. If you feel uncomfortable to continue with the skillet, transfer the sauce to a deep pan and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens.

Season a little with salt and pepper.

Serve with potatoes, meatballs and lingonberry jam.

Lihapulla - Finnish meatballs

My notes about the recipe:

If you don´t like the oven method, you can fry the meatballs in a large skillet. Make batches and keep the ready ones warm until you are ready to serve.

It is possible to make patties with the same mixture. Adjust the cooking time according to the size of your patty.

You can freeze the meatballs, raw or already baked. They are both good but I prefer freezing them ready. They keep well for about 3 months in the freezer. To use, I simply add the ready ones straight to soups, sauces and “warm” them up. For bentos, I defrost and gently reheat using a frying pan.

Some people would mix the ready meatballs to the sauce before serving but I prefer offering them separately. Others would add cream to the gravy.

Hello Kitty pasta Bento

September 16, 2010

Hello Kitty pasta bento

My girls haven´t been so hungry lately and the reason might be they are still recovering from being sick this week. Pikkusiili ( that means “little hedgehog”, our 3 yo ) didn’t sleep well last night and today I am very tired too.

I wanted to make something easy and light with vegetables. Luonnonvoima (that means “nature force”, our oldest daughter ) asked me to have strawberries and I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry out her wishes.

Contents of the boxes: bow-tie pasta with vegetables (zucchini, carrot, tomatoes, onion and sun-dried tomatoes) , basil and parmesan cheese, carrot sticks, grapes and strawberries. HK head made with bocconcini mozzarella , nori and a cheddar flower.

Hello Kitty pasta bento

Hello Kitty is always a good option to uplift little girls isn’t she?

Little monkey couple bento

September 1, 2010


Today´s bento is built up with food I cooked for dinner. My family like meatballs a lot and the homemade type are the best ones in our opinion :) (plus, I can build up a very good freezer stash )

The Finnish way of making meatballs differs a bit from the usual meatballs recipe. I mean.. at least I use “kermaviili” ( the finnish curd cream. It is something in between crème fraîche and yoghurt ) to moist the breadcrumbs before adding the rest of the ingredients. Trust me, it is very good!

This time I used chicken mince, breadcrumbs, oatmeal and chopped parsley to make the balls ( *shh* don´t tell my girls! ;)

The contents of the boxes: homemade chicken meatballs (monkey head shaped), rice, cooked edamame, corn, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, boiled carrots tossed in butter and a container with a little ketchup.

The faces of the little monkeys are made with cheese and details in nori.

Aren´t them cute? ^_^



Cold soba bento. Duck pond

August 30, 2010

Cold soba bento . Duck pond

Since Summer I´ve been craving for cold soba.  I didn´t have soba noodles at home when it was very hot here and the main japanese grocery in Helsinki was closed for vacations.

I could have tried to get it from some other asian shops downtown, but I didn´t bother to go to search for it ( call me lazy, yep).

Now that I finally bought the noodles  the weather got cold!  Oh well, anyways.. ;)

The contents of the boxes: soba noodles, thinly sliced carrots , turkey ham, cucumber, omelette strips, cherry tomato, green grapes, peach slices and a bottle of tsuyu sauce. The ducks are made from gouda cheese. Before eating I sprinkled nori strips on top.

Cold soba bento . Duck pond

They look much more a salad than the proper “Zarusoba” (the japanese dish of cold soba with dipping sauce). For the “adults” version I added toasted sesame seeds and grated ginger just before serving.

Cold soba bento


Yellow Submarine bento

August 26, 2010

Yellow Submarine bento

Today hubz and I had rice and japanese curry for dinner. It is one of my favorite foods and it always brings me very good memories from my childhood and my mother.

Anyways, my girls don´t like it :/.   I hope someday they will learn to like it as much as I did when I was small.

So I made them bento. It was (almost) a mistake.. I mean, I didn´t have much in the fridge and quite nothing of vegetables. I´ll try to be better (promise)  next time :D.

And  let me explain the theme. Lacking inspiration, suddenly I remembered my girls singing The Beatles´ Yellow Submarine the other day. It is so funny when they sing! It goes like ♩ “wee aw liv ni na yelow Sammarin, welow sammarin, yelow sammarin”♫♪

It made a very good theme, I admit!

The contents of the box: Mixed grains rice (zakkokumai), furikake, edamame, carrots,  green and red grapes, cucumber and chicken frankfurter-sausages “octopuses”. The submarine was made with nori and two types of cheese.

And do you see the gorgeous star picks and the forks (matching with this ocean theme)? I got them as a gift from a very kind and special bento friend. (Thank you!! ♥)

oh.. and don´t ask me about the bunny, I really don´t know how did it end up there ;).

Yellow Submarine bento