One Estonian thoughts about Estonia (and Estonians)

I’m going through photos from this year holiday to Estonia. Here are just some random thoughts with some photos:

  • Until I moved to UK I never lived further than 500 meter from the sea. I always feel home, when I can see and feel seaside. Being of 2 fisherman’s granddaughter I love fish and seafood. In Estonia you don’t have to break a bank to eat fish daily and we estonians are not picky what kind of fish we eating (always have black rye bread with it! ….with everything really 🙂 )

  • You can easily find affordable meals in pubs and it doesn’t mean everything deep-fried. This big plate cost around £5 and you get 1/3 plate of different veg and pickles and 90% of cases you get sour cream-mayo sauce with your food – very Estonian!

  • My hometown Pärnu has lovely sandy beach – my favorite place, with seawater temperatures reaching more than 20 degrees and it’s shallow, which is brilliant with small kids but takes you ages to get far enough for swim.

  • Porridge in Estonia is not just your everyday oats. You get all aisle in the shop with lots of different grains. My favorite this summer was  four grain porridge (contains rye, oats, wheat and barley)

  • The market at my hometown means seasonal affordable food from local farms, gardens and forests. We are lucky to live just 5 minutes walk away from the market,  so I was regular shopper every morning. The meat counter is just amazing – you can buy every bit of animal, nothing is wasted and you can even get free fresh bones for dogs. Lonni was very happy about it!

  • I just love my home in Pärnu, it’s often full of my friends and family and there is no need to call before, just pop in, when we are home our door is always open and there is always reason to open bottle of wine.

  • Freshly smoked bacon and chanterelle from local forest – my favorite and so affordable!

  • Estonians love fresh herbal teas – they are always foraging and preparing for the long cold winter.

  • In Estonia you can buy watermelons size of a beach ball 🙂 and they are so sweet and juicy!

  • My favorite place to enjoy sunset – Pärnu Yacht club – open to everyone for food, wine or live music. And great place to see the sunset.

  • Cake for breakfast is considered acceptable in Estonia – one of my favourite kind of breakfasts!

  • Estonians are very proud of their food and you can dine in countless fancy food places in Estonia, which might not be so affordable else where. Although it’s about to change and prices seem to be catching up with UK.

  • My home town have 2 km long mole and you can walk on it- no health and safety to stop you slip on the slippery stone. You do have to use your common sense.

  • Most Estonians know places to have a wild swim, meaning it’s not publicly open swimming area. 

  • Those black rye garlic breads are must and those are only kind of rye bread my children love. Always accompanied with sour cream-mayo-garlic dip.

  • Estonians love house and flat parties. They are quite low-key but so much fun and always include lovely food and lots of drinks.

  • In Estonia you never know where you end up sending your day away. Your friends usually know fantastic secluded places to watch most amazing sunsets. You definitely wont find those places in guidebooks.

  • Estonians are very keen foragers and there are variety of mushrooms and berries you can find everywhere.

  • Estonians love music and singing and learning an instrument or singing is easily accessible and taught at very high standards from very early age. This is my best friend super talented son, only 15 (16 now) years old. 

  • Those ring donuts have been around since I went to school and the café near my school has been run by same ladies who did it 35 year ago in Soviet time (whoops, did I say 35? I’m not so old)

  • Estonians love their salads dressed richly with sour cream and mayonnaise sauce and I love it!!

  • Estonians are very proud gardeners and most of the gardens are immaculate and quite big compared to standard UK gardens.

  • Estonians love making cakes and they are very creative. This tart has been made from biscuits! It’s very original and I haven’t come across anywhere else. And it’s contains quark (lots of it!) so high in protein. Healthy pudding or what!

  • Summers in Estonia are unpredictable you can get +25 heat and then it drop to 15 degrees. So be prepared for anything!

  • Estonians might come across as serious and not very open at first, but once, when you make a friend with them, they always ready to help you.

Miss you my friends and fam! xxx

1st month of “Project 30”, thoughts about diets and Spicy Carrot Soup.

January is over and very soon February will be over too and I thought I write down few things from the first month of trying to lose some weight for the journey sake.

Overall good start: I was 3.4 kg lighter on 3/02/17, which makes it average loss 0.85kg/week. My plan is to loose 0.5kg a week so I can be pleased with myself. Actually I lost it all during 2 first weeks and next 2 weeks my weight was stationary, which annoyed me bit, but to look on the bright side I didn’t put any weight back on. I’m most pleased about 7cm loss on my waste line – that what really matters. I had few PB-s at CrossFit and couple of brilliant tennis sessions. I’m happy!

I came across following article about diets and science behind them  and I’m so glad that it backs up what conclusion I have come over the years trying out different diets. 

Few years ago I tried Paleo diet and I think it has great ideas and you can find lot’s of wonderful recipes. I lost weight, felt great but after few months I got really bored, not that there is shortage of ideas, but I didn’t really have any reasons do avoid milk and grains. I don’t use lot’s of milk products every day, but I love cheese, quark, cream, even I don’t eat them daily. Mentally I didn’t want to feel guilty, when having them occasionally.

I also found that I ended up eating huge amounts of nuts. Nothing wrong with eating nuts, but if you love baking and everything is replaced with nut flours, it’s bit limiting to your options and … whatever the peanuts done to anyone?? You can’t have peanut butter in Paleo diet, have to opt to more expensive nut butters!

Saying that, my meals are still quite paleo friendly without following any meal plans. I love veg and meats and fish and eggs. Saying that, I also like some rice, seeded bread, buckwheat, quinoa, potatoes and there is no real reason not to eat them times to times.

So, now I don’t really follow any diet or clean eating plan just trying to use knowledge what suits me best and what makes me feel happy.

I love cooking, I love process of the cooking, I love cookbooks (and I have 100s of them) and I always love to try new things.

  • I’m using the MyFitnessPal at the moment to keep my portions under the control as it’s too easy to overeat with snacking and extra helpings on mealtimes. It also helps me keep my macros on track, so I get right amount protein, carbs and fat. I use it on weekdays as I’m glued to the computer anyway. I try to use my common sense 🙂 on weekends. Tracking, what you eating over some periods of time is a good way to get your habits under the control again.
  • I try to stick with 3 meal times and 2 fruit snacks between. Breakfasts are simple usually including 2 eggs, sometimes avocado, with some seeded or rye toast, some salad and coffee with cream.( I only have one big cup of coffee a day)
  • I take lunch with me to work, either I have prepared it specially but more often it’s leftover from last night.
  • I haven’t forbidden anything to myself but if I had slice of bread for breakfast I won’t have it with my lunch or dinner. If I have some pasta at lunch I won’t have any with my dinner. When I have pasta or rice with my meal it’s just a little bit. I just don’t want to cut anything out totally and I found if it’s not off the limit, I quite often choose not to have it, when rest of the family have theirs. I just have meat or fish with veg.
  • I eat until I start to feel full, trying to take slowly and really listen my body. Even if it’s my favorite food I really try  not to stuff myself. 70% of time it is successful.
  • 2 pieces of fruit a day
  • I have a slice of cake if someone makes extra effort to bake it, but say no to bought sweets and biscuits if someone brings them in the office (ok, not always, but most of the time) and I forbid myself to buy any snacks from work vending machines or deli bar. I do bring some chocolate from home if I decide have any.
  • Some weekends I bake and then I have a slice of cake (who I’m kidding – quite few slices, but it doesn’t happen every weekend)
  • I have couple of glass of wine on the weekend but not always, depends how I feel and I won’t, if I train on Saturday morning – most Saturdays I do.
  • I try to get 7 hours a sleep everyday – it makes huge difference and really should be top of the list. I used to be night person and never go to bed before midnight, since starting the CrossFit I have really changed my habits. I try to get bed by 10pm (which is not easy if your children are not ready for bed by 10pm) , it’s especially important when I train at 6am
  • I also have been part of the LJL Coaching Facebook group, which my friend runs. She helps with healthy eating plan, fitness and personal training and it has been great motivator.

This soup is easy to make, seasonal and very tasty

Spicy Carrot Soup with Quinoa and Feta

2tbsp olive oil

1 onion

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1kg carrots, grated coarsely

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 sp hot smoked paprika

1/4 tsp mild chilli powder

1 litre vegetable stock, fresh or made from cube

100 g quinoa

1-2tsp sherry vinegar

fresh mint

100 g crumbled feta cheese

  1. Heat the oil in the saucepan over the medium heat. Fry onion and garlic gently over the medium heat for few minutes. Add the grated carrots and spices and fry stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
  2.  add the stock and 500 ml boiling water, season well and simmer for 10 minutes
  3. Same time cook quinoa on the separate saucepan, drain and set aside.
  4.  Remove he soup from the heat and whizz in a blender with 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar, until smooth. Add a splash  of water if needed.
  5. Ladle into bowl, topping with the quinoa, mint and feta cheese. Drizzle with a splash more sherry vinegar before serving

 (Recipe from Waitrose calendar)

Christmas madness and almost perfect gingerbreads

   The Christmas is probably busiest time to lots. I always end up running around trying to make everything perfect, like there is no opportunities after the 25th of December. I have grand plans how I will be super organised and start to get ready weeks before the big day. The truth is I do everything few days before Christmas Day, hoping that I will get everything done on time.

The gingerbreads were ready on time but got decorated few days after the Christmas, which means I’ve eaten most of them as guests, who they were meant to, were gone and I like them too much. I have lot’s of gingerbread recipes but I think those are the closest as they should be by Estonian standards and would pass Mary Berry test to snap properly, even after the few days they are still crispy.

Old Style Gingerbreads

2 dl sugar

3/4 dl dark syrup ( I used treacle, but you can also use Golden Syrup or make your own by melting the sugar on high heat until it ‘s desired colour)

1sp cardamom

1sp cinnamon

1tsp cloves

1sp mixed spice

150g butter

2 eggs

7dl flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Measure sugar, syrup and spices to the saucepan. Cut the butter in to the small pieces and add to the saucepan. Heat it up to the boiling point until the house is filled with the divine smell. Mix it well. Take it from the cooker and put the saucepan in the bowl filled with the cold water so it will cool down quickly.

Add slightly beaten eggs

Mix flour and bicarbonate of soda  and mix well. Cover the saucepan or wrap the dough to the cling film. Keep it in the fridge 3-4 hours or even better, overnight.

Next day roll it out thinly on the floured table. Cut out the gingerbreads with cutters and place them on the baking sheet, which is covered with baking paper.

Bake them on Gas mark 4 (175C) about 10  minutes.

Cool them and decorate.

 I have to say, that they have disappeared rather quickly from the plate, while enjoying all the Christmas lights – gone bit mad this year, but I really hate this December darkness and it really cheers our house up.

Bye 2015!

The 2015 is over! Year of changes, finding myself bit more and hopefully preparing for the things the 2016 has to offer.

January.

Like many years before January starts with welcome the New Years lunch at Simons brothers house, followed by Timo’s birthday and Sallys birthday,

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sprinkled with other things like cooking/baking – in January I always feel urge to try new recipes, photograph them and post them to the world to see 🙂

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February.

Starts with my birthday – year on, I care less of the number and value experiences,  every going year leaves behind. Had a lovely walk in Alfriston, picturesque village where Simon proposed me 12 years ago.

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Went to see Estonian Oscar nominated film “Tangerines”, which restored mu faith to modern Estonian film.

Cooked for crowd for Estonian Independence Day in London.

Beautiful Liis serving my Vana Tallinn Cakes

Beautiful Liis serving my Vana Tallinn Cakes

March

Continued with the Paleo and cooking and realizing that I’m too much of a food addict to stick with restricted diet and dropping some of the food groups totally from my menu. So my aim is trying to stay on healthy side but indulge myself times to times and not to feel guilty about it.

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April

More food/paleo/cooking/taking pictures/sharing. Did some catering,

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trained Lonni and have some lovely walks

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We had our yearly Easter family get together

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and my lovely cousins and her friend came to visit. Unfortunately we were burgled, while they were here and some of their stuff was taken, but I’m strong believer of karma so I’m sure one day the baddies will be sorry.

May

The month, I started Crossfit. I didn’t  think something can change your life so much, but it can. I got addicted to it, I managed to drag Simon into it, who has really committed to it and lost more than stone as the result, also he was chosen as most improved athlete in the box. Who could’ve believed it back in May –  not me!

Other things in May – Simon’s birthday, Keiti’s birthday with the trip to Cornwall – love this part of the country.

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June

More testing recipes,

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taking part of local beer festival, lots of sitting around on the cricket matches, which I don’t really mind, if the weather is good and food available.

Enjoying dinners in our garden. Lovely walks in our woods with Lonni, getting unexpected presents.

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July

Strawberry picking picnic with family in the local farm.

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Annual get together and camping in the seaside cottage near Deal – lots  of food/drink and walks. Break in Richmond, visiting theatre over very long time to see Lady in black and spending day in Kew gardens.

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Lots of baking.

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Going to the  Tom Jones concert by Thames boat thank to my dear friend in London.

August

The road trip to Estonia

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– good food, new places, hot weather, old friends, home beach, posh restaurants,

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August festival in my home town,

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driving back home through Scandinavia.

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September

Getting over the holiday blues, but luckily my dear friends came to visit us

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October

My first big football match to see at Wembley. Luckily Estonia didn’t score. I sat next to some England fans, who were quite scary so probably I wouldn’t show my support to Estonia too loud 🙂

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November

Cooking and more cooking! We were at Scandinavian Christmas market and couldn’t keep up with the demand for the “Mulgi Puder” – I think we peeled near 150 kg potatoes over the weekend, but it was absolutely brilliant.

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December

Preparation for the Christmas as every year  – gingerbreads, turkey, family, wine, games, walks, fun.

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2016 – I’m ready for you!

Lent and Paleo

First time ever I decided to give up something for the lent. There wasn’t any religious reasons, but seem that in England it’s very popular to give up something, so I decided to join in. Even children do it and promise not to eat chocolate or sweets. If lucky, they last few weeks 🙂 I’m really proud of my daughter who managed to give up fruit juice for six weeks, she has been addicted to it since she was baby and unfortunately most juices you get nowadays have added sugar and lots of it. Now I buy only pressed fruit juice, it is more expensive so I don’t get it as often, but it’s so much nicer. As I said rather have real stuff!

I think I was at stage, where I needed some change in my life. I felt tired, always rushing somewhere, no time to myself. Wednesday 5th of March I gave up alcohol, coffee, sweets and everything else containing sugar (I kept fruit), white flour and TV.  It also helped that group of people in FB decided to go through with the detox, so it was interesting to follow people, who were in the same boat.

After few weeks I came across with Paleo diet. I’m very sceptical of all sorts of diets and I’m firm believer of balanced diet and eating real thing, not diet products and low fat rubbish, which are full of sugars and sweeteners. I have been going to WW meetings for the year now and I really like the system, it isn’t really diet but lifestyle. Even I don’t like their products and I don’t agree concentrating low fat menus, but I like their meetings and it helps me keep under the control. Especially, when you know that meeting coming up so you don’t want to be disappointed with the numbers on the scale display.

Anyway reading about Paleo I decided have a go on their 30 day challenge I found on their Estonian webpage http://paleo.ee/2013/01/paleo-30-paeva-valjakutse/ Basically you don’t eat any grains, no milk products, no beans (including soya beans), no sweets and sugars, but you can have organic honey, no processed meat. In English there is really good webpage, which helps you find out which food is Paleo http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/.

I truly enjoyed this 4 weeks, I felt so in control and I tried lots of new recipes. I didn’t count how much I ate just had foods which were aloud – lots of fruit and veg, meat, fish and nuts.

My favourites are home made mayonnaise, ice-cream from banana and mango and coconut milk, no oats porridge was absolute divine. I managed Ok with feeding my family – I just had meat and veg, when they had maybe pasta or rice as well.

By end of the week 4 I felt bit sorry that it was over. I’m definitely will try to follow it in the future maybe 70 % of the time. I can’t do it all the time -then all my cookbooks would go to waste and all those lovely food blogs I follow would be bit useless 🙂 What I like about Paleo, was I didn’t’ feel like snacking all the time and I wasn’t hungry at all.

I did get bit addicted to those:nakd-raw-chocolate-1

They only include nuts, dried fruit and bit of cocoa and they are LOVELY!!!!

Here is on typical Paleo side dish I had – beetroot with salt and pepper and olive oil, I couldn’t take picture of full plate as it disappears too quickly but look at the colours!

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Ad here is the recipe for the no grain porridge, I have to confess I had 2 portions and would’ve have 3rd one – not so good if you try to loose some weight 🙂

Paleo porridge

Handful walnuts

handful pecans

2sp linseed

0.5tsp cinnamon

ground nutmeg

ground ginger

1sp almond butter ( I used ordinary butter)

1 mashed banana

3 eggs

60 ml almond milk ( can be more, it depends how you like your porridge)

to serve: 2tsp pumpkin seeds, goji berries or any other berries, desiccated coconut or anything else you like, I had bit honey.

Put all nuts and seeds to  the food processor and grind ( not too fine).

Beat the eggs and almond milk add mashed banana and butter and blend all together. you can make those two mixes night before as mornings are rush anyway.

Add nuts to egg mixture in the saucepan and heat it slowly, mixing all the time until porridge is how you like it.

Serve with berries, seeds, almond milk and honey. Nammmm!!

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Dish a day 2. Spelt Flour Cinnamon Pancakes

Here the second day of the challenge and I need use up some spelt flour. Spelt is very similar to the wheat but it has so much more taste and it’s healthier. You can substitute wheat flour in most of the recipes with the spelt and it has such a lovely nutty taste. Even so I could go on about spelt health benefits; my family didn’t think much of it mostly because of cinnamon. I have grown up with cinnamon and it was added almost to any pudding. I had semolina porridge with sugar and cinnamon, apple cakes sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, “kringel” made with cocoa and cinnamon and so on. So I love the smell and taste of it, but not my family 🙁  My husband said he grow to hate it when he was in America at summer camp, children aren’t just not very eager to get know new tastes but I enjoyed them with all my heart and felt like being back in my childhood.

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The recepie idea comes from Signe Johansen book “Scandilicious”.

Spelt Flour Cinnamon Pancakes

350 g spelt flour ( or 250 g wholemeal spelt flour and 150 refined spelt flour)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp golden caster sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

350 ml milk

50 ml soured cream (or plain yogurt)

50 g melted butter

2 eggs

butter and vegetable oil for frying

Stir all dry ingredients together. make a well in the middle, add all the liquid ingredients and stir all together. Set aside for 30 minutes – it allows flour to expand and helps to make thicker pancakes.

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature so you could keep pancakes warm.

Melt 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp vegetable oil together in a large frying pan. Once it’s hot, put small ladleful of batter in the centre of the pan and then fry them over the medium heat. The batter will be quite thick and bubbly. Flip it over, when it starts to turn golden.

Serve them with some crème fraiche and fruit compote, or Greek yogurt and blueberries, golden syrup or with your favourite jam (thanks Peter for your wonderful Wild Plum Jam).

Unfortunately they won’t be made in this household very often, but do try if you up for healthier version and bit of a difference.

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Dish a day!

I have wanted to start this blog long time ago and always found excuse – mainly I have no time, which is not strictly true as I have plenty of time to watch some rubbish TV. So from today for a month I’ll post one dish or meal I had on the day. So there will be 30 dishes coming on your way 🙂 Also I try to use one ingredient from my cupboard, which have been hiding behind everything too long.

Ttoday the first thing I found was cornmeal and with cup of tea some Bacon – Chilli muffins sounded perfect for me.

2 eggs

350 grams of plain yogurt + 100 grams of soured cream (can be all one or other, it was combination I founded from my fridge)

50 g butter

65 g plain flour

2 tsp or maybe less if bacon is salty

1 tsp biocarbonate of soda

275g cornmeal (I used fine one)

4 rashers of bacon

1tsp chilli flakes or use fresh chilli if you preffer

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Before

First grill or fry bacon and crumble it to small pieces. Whisk 2 eggs in a big bowl then add yogurt or sour cream or both. Add also melted butter and whisk everything together. Sift flour, salt and soda together and add to the mixture. Then add cornmeal gradually, crumbled bacon and chilli flakes. 1tsp chilli flakes makes quite hot muffins so add bit less if you want them bit milder.

Grease muffin tray with bacon fat left over from cooking or with bit of oil. Fill to about 3/4 with the muffin mixture and bake on Gas Mark 6/ 200C for 20 minutes.

I enjoyed them with roasted onion cream cheese and Red onion chutney and delicious it was!

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After – Bacon – Chilli Muffins

 

 

UPDATE! Our Labrador Lonni has finished them off as we left them stupidly on the table. Mhm…how the digestion goes with this chilli – burned bum me thinks 🙂