Upgrade Your Day: Chocolate cereal

Many people swear by starting their day with oatmeal, if not for its’ divine taste, then because of the various nutritional benefits it provides. I have got my share of porridge/oatmeal already in my childhood, where although not every day, I ate a lot of it. Always made with water and never with milk, eaten with a blop of butter in the middle and sugar sprinkled all over, or then with frozen berries, berry soup or cinnamon and apple. I could consider eating overnight oats or porridge made with other grains than oats, but I’d rather start my engines with something else.

Elovena, the image of Finland
Elovena, the image of Finland

Enter the fast, easy and cheap savior of all moms, common enemy of health freaks, the industry with plastic by-gifts and endless, more or less ridiculous and misleading health-claims: cereals, muesli, granolas and all the other sugar, fat and other additive-ladden grain products! I have to admit, I was once a junkie of the Coco Pops, Frosties and Honey O’s (the last eaten plain, without milk), then “upgraded” to the “whole grain family” of Special K, Fitness and mueslis. After realizing what crap I was eating, how un-nourishing and addictive it was, I started feeding my cravings with better stuff, i.e self-made granola. Success! The only downside with making my own batch of granola, no matter how healthy it may be, is that I have never been really good at portion control. Uh-oh.

With all this interesting history to my habits (listen to the coco pops pop, drink the chocolate milk and complain to my brother for wasting his milk), I present you an alternative to your morning routines and everyday-oats, in case you ever get sick of it. I am sure there are thousands of variations how to eat it, but stepping out of the box and into another bowl is sometimes in place. So, here goes:

Ultimate (raw) Choco Pop Cereal

– Cacao mass
– Raw honey, agave syrup, coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener
– Coconut oil
– Quinoa/amaranth/buckwheat pops or sprouted and dehydrated “buckwheaties”, if you’re super DIY
– Milk of choice (optional)
– Spices if desired, i.e vanilla
– Cocoa nibs, if you’re feeling indulgent or it’s the weekend!

IMG_9086

Melt the cacao mass in a water bath, and add desired amount of sweetener and a tad of coconut oil. Adjust the sweetness according to taste. If you want honey cereal, just skip the cacao! Stir in the cereal. If you want to make “rice krispie treats”, increase the amount of coconut oil, and add so much pops that the mixture becomes sticky. For regular cereal, you’ll know the right amounts when it looks like something you’ve seen in your childhood, yet less processed. Put to your breakfast bowl, top it off with desired milk (or eat plain), and go down the memory lane. It may not come with a toy and pop like rice krispies, but it’s still way better!

If you are a coffee drinker, I suggest swapping your regular bulk brew to at least an organic variety. You’ll taste -and know- the difference. If I ever get addicted to coffee and start drinking it at home, I will definitely get an aeropress.

Quality coffee at Johan&Nyström
Quality coffee at Johan&Nyström

If you are wondering where to get the amazing substitute cereal for rice pops and nutrition-stripped (GMO) cornflakes, you should be able to find amaranth/quinoa pops in health stores. In Finland, Stockmann Helsinki has a variety of different supergrain pops in the bulk section, and they’re way cheaper than anywhere else! I made a mixture of different pseudograins, and it definitely does the trick. Gluten-free, protein-packed and delicious!

How do you start your day? Do you have any childhood favorites?

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Lately

Bakery went to make sand cakes
Bakery went to make sand cakes

Somehow recently I have had other things in mind than posting here.

Coffee and hand-made raw treats in Johan&Nyström
Coffee and hand-made raw treats in Johan&Nyström

I visited Helsinki and spent some quality time with some quality friends

Essence of summer and Finnish design
Essence of summer and Finnish design

Besides Helsinki, I went to Kuopio and to our summer cottage, visited relatives and celebrated my cousin’s confirmation. Other than that, I’ve been pretty happily occupied with sweets.

Raw protein bars with and without chocolate frosting, banana chocolate cake and other raw treats
Raw protein bars with and without chocolate frosting, banana chocolate cake and other raw treats

Succeeding in “baking” and making people smile when they taste my creations is incredibly rewarding! Recently I have also enjoyed exercising (kettlebell, wohoo!) and berry picking. I keep on finding new spots with raspberries, yay! Still no blueberries in the freezer for the winter, though…

In the near future I will be in Helsinki, working in Flow Festival. After that, my future is pretty blank. There is an itch to move, but I am not sure about the destination. Any suggestions?

Smart cider
Smart cider

Mökki party

There are roughly half million summer cottages in Finland; I suppose we just can’t get enough of our nearly 200,000 lakes, plus we need some more space and privacy, and some time off from our neighbors. I am still learning how to love the cottage life in our family summer house near Kuopio, but sunny, warm weather and parties like the one last weekend certainly make it easier to go to the woods and listen to the mosquitos.

The "White House"
The “White House”

Vaajasalo, our cottage, hosted a summer party of 63 people: we even had a military tent in the yard to accommodate the residents, since the guests occupied all the indoor space! I didn’t know pretty much any of the guests (most of who were over 50), but it was still fun!

Muurinpohjalettu, flipping pancakes from a bucket
Muurinpohjalettu, flipping pancakes from a bucket

We had food including traditional summer dessert, “muurinpohjalettu” pancakes, followed by sauna and swimming in the lake…

 

Partying in sweatpants, cottage-style!
Partying in sweatpants, cottage-style!

3 sets from a 5 person band playing in our front porch, followed by a rave with popping champagne…

Who needs festivals when you can have your own
Who needs festivals when you can have your own?

All in all, not your typical a) weekend or b) summer party.

By the way, in case you are ever in Kuopio or in the near-by area: there’s a winery in the same island as our cottage (Vaajasalo). They have a smelly, huge pig, some peacocks and an ostrich. He (she?) Was a weird-looking fella.

Weird neck and bigger eyes than brains
Weird neck and bigger eyes than brains

Ostriches are the fastest 2-legged species. The kick of an ostrich can kill (not surprised). Usually they live in Africa. I wonder, if the one in Alahovi winery goes to Africa for winter holiday…

 

 

Tila Kaupungissa, growing organic food movement

It makes me happy to see that people in Finland too are starting to pay more and more attention to the (too often low) quality of their food. Even if going back to the roots and eating foods your grandmother knew to be good to eat is just for the sake of being oh-so-trendy and because everybody else is doing it, I still think it’s a win-win situation: small producers get much needed income and support, people get to know what real, near produced food is, and they maybe appreciate the valuable ingredients more. There is a big difference between frozen, prepacked and slices veggies to fresh ones straight from the farm. Some state that there is a difference between soy/corn fed and grass-fed meat, let alone wild game, too. Go figure! Once you know how you want to take care of yourself and others, the next thing is to figure out how to do it. Luckily, the options are growing and the selection is getting wider.

 

More farm fresh and organic products in Tampere
More farm fresh and organic products in Tampere

Yesterday I visited the opening of Tila Kaupungissa(Space in the City), a new sort of organic incorporated store in Tampere. For 100€ you can buy a share of the store, which entitles you to certain discounts as well as events. Some of the products come from owner farms, in addition to the imported organic items. The shop is open to anyone, not just the owners.

 

Got greens?
Veggies from a near-by farm

The opening of Tila was filled with people (mostly older), and I believe there is strong demand for this kind of action. Currently there are only few organic stores in Tampere, and not many of them sell organic produce. Somehow it seems like all the organic stores are located in the same small area, too; good for the customer to be able to shop in different places at once, but may be challenging for the entrepreneurs in terms of competition. Though the organic movement is improving, the majority of the supermarket chains still keep on advertising food like products as opposed to veggies, and they don’t offer substantial organic selection. The strength of these small, person-run stores lies in their personality and character. It is always nicer to go to a store where you talk to people, maybe have a cup of coffee or tea, and know that you are supporting a good cause.

 

Space in the city
Space in the city

In addition to Tila Kaupungissa, one can find good produce and great food ingredients as well as natural cosmetics and products around Tampere, for example the following:

Vegetarian/vegan stores

  • Ruohonjuuri, in Keskustori. Besides offering the most variable selection of packaged superfoods and organic food products for almost all possible needs, Ruohonjuuri has some organic frozen products as well as produce and dairy. The store also stocks a large selection of natural cosmetics, bodycare products as well as essentials for cleaning, babies and pets. The store has become my second home since moving back, because in the corner just happens to be my other workplace! So, with your shopping you can also enjoy delicious, organic raw smoothies, cakes and chocolates made on-site.
  • Runsaudensarvi, in Kauppakatu (behind the City Hall). My go-to place for bulk items: nuts, seeds, beans, flours, trail mixes and fruit treats, superfoods, etc. The bulks are cheaper than in other stores, and you can choose how much to buy, win-win! They have a great selection of other vegan cooking products, too. The staff is very nice, and there is a tea corner with some books and (vegan) magazines to read, too. 10% discounts to members of certain assocations (i.e Animalia), product samples and small gifts with a purchase over 5€!
  • Punnitse&Säästä, in Kuninkaankatu (Next to Anttila). Largest variety of bulk items, including candies, sugar coated fruits and non-vegan items. In my experience it is more expensive than Runsaudensarvi. The abundance of selection can make you go nuts over nuts, and besides getting sugar high you end up emptying your wallet.

Local food & organic stores

  • Ruokapuoti Lempi, in Tammelantori. Lovely interior and a cafe corner, this store offers produce, meat and dairy products as well as some bakery items from near-by farms. Great place to stop by when visiting the Tammelantori market. If you are in the area, also check out Kahvilla cafe, which is on the same street as Lempi.
  • Luomukauppa Ani, in Kauppahalli. If one visits Tampere, they simply must go to Kauppahalli (market hall). Just for the sake of the atmosphere.

Now is the best season for spending some time in the outside market – something I always want to do, no matter where I am. Too bad the season in Finland is so short, so you must make the most out of it! Nothing so far has beat the combo of sunshine and strawberries!

Moomin hut
Moomin hut