Rainy day sweet day

Fill in the blank: I like being a grown-up because …

… I can substitute the whole days’ meals with desserts and protein bars, and no one can have a say in it. That’s what I did – all it took was a rainy day and a fierce workout to get me in the sweet mood.

Protein pancakes with nutbutter, frozen bananas and cinnamon baked apples. Take that, gloomy day!
Protein pancakes with nutbutter, frozen bananas and cinnamon baked apples. Take that, gloomy day!

Yesterday the fall came with rage – you might know the type of rain that seems to tear your insides out, leaving you just soaking and freezing. That’s far from the sweet, refreshing summer rain, but that’s how it sometimes is here in Finland. Today it even snowed in some parts of the country, luckily not here though. With this rain, you just want to stay indoors, and at least I have the munchies.

Chia pudding with goodies.
Chia pudding with goodies.

Blending berries with chia and topping it with bunch of stuff usually never fails. My favorite blend is chia, lingonberries, maca and some other powders (protein) and some stevia. Topped with coconut, sprouted buckwheat and freeze dried raspberries. Nom.

Yeah, so. The point of this all was to say that the fall is coming here and to be honest, it’s pretty shitty. BUT: all things are so much better when you can replace lunch with the pancakes in the first picture, and have something like the bottom picture for dessert. And lick the peanut butter jar empty. AND know that after the rain, eventually you can go out again to the fresh air. And if it’s not enough consolation, you can just go to Bali.

 

 

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Going bananas (raw banana cake)

One of the various perks of my new job includes the possibility to mess around with different ingredients, and create whatever delicacies comes to mind, from organic, top notch ingredients. Right now we have an abundance of bananas going over-ripe, so besides making banana chips (Excalibur dehydrator, hallelujah!), I decided to make a cake. Forget banana bread, use your left-over bananas for this instead!

4 layers of banana goodness, topped with nut crumble and raw chocolate shavings
4 layers of banana goodness, topped with nut crumble and raw chocolate shavings

Crust
– 1 cup brazil nuts (or macadamia/pecan/walnuts/almonds)
– 1,5 cup shredded coconut
– pinch of salt
– 12 small dates, pitted and chopped

Filling
– 2 cups sliced bananas
– 2 cups (soaked) cashews
– 4 tbs coconut palm sugar
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/3 cup coconut oil (liquid)
– 3 tbs raw cacao powder
– sliced bananas (approx. 3)

Crust, cream layer topped with bananas, chocolate cream and more bananas
Crust, cream layer topped with bananas, chocolate cream and more bananas

Cream topping
– 1 3/4 (soaked) cashews
– 1/4 cup chaga tea/coconut water/water
– 3 tbs coconut palm sugar/honey/agave
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup coconut oil (liquid)

Crumble
– 1/2 cup nuts (pecan/macadamia/almonds)
– 1/2 cup coconut flakes
– 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar/honey
– pinch of salt

Like stones in snow - coconut flakes, brazil nuts and palm sugar
Like stones in snow – coconut flakes, brazil nuts and palm sugar for crumble

TO DO
For the crust: blend the nuts and coconut to a paste, add dates and salt. Blend until puree, press to a cake pan that is greased with coconut oil. Put to freezer to firm up.

For the filling: Blend the banana, nuts, sweetener, salt and vanilla until puree. Add coconut oil slowly, continue to blend.
Divide the filling into two, blend the cacao powder together with the other half. Pour the non-cacao filling to the cake pan, add a layer of banana slices, the cacao layer, and another layer of bananas. Put to the freezer to firm up (approx. 1 hour).

For the cream: Blend everything except the oil, then add the oil slowly while processing the ingredients. Make sure the consistency is puree, not clumpy. Put to the freezer to firm up. After firming, spread onto the cake.

For the crumble: Blend the ingredients, add on top of the cream. If you want more color, grate some raw chocolate on top to finish it all off. Cut from the cake pan when frozen, slice up and store in the freezer.

Who said bananas are for monkeys?
Who said bananas are for monkeys?

Go bananas!

Specialities

Japan is known for its’ peculiarities. Here are some of my encounters during the Christmas season. I have earlier mentioned the Japanese love for (Christmas) cakes and maybe their sweet breads as well, but it’s hard to believe until you see for yourself.

 

I can only imagine the flavor
I can only imagine the flavor of these elves

Christmas trees, elves, houses, snowmen and basically everything else can be formed as pan, which is the Japanese equivalent to bread, which is nothing like what we call bread in Finland. If you buy bread in Japan thinking it is the same stuff you get back home, you’ll be in for a surprise. You never know if there’s spaghetti, curry, sausages or cream inside the fluffy pillowy dough.

Japanese version of a gingerbread house
Japanese version of gingerbread houses

After a while, it is not so weird to see the different characters made of food: the beloved animation character Anpanman has a nose made of pancake, and the super popular bean-paste filled dorayaki pancake gets its’ name from another anime character, Doraemon! The Japanese do love their sweets. And they are big on seasonal treats and specialities.

Individual packing is more a norm than exception
Individual packing is more a norm than exception

After Christmas, no snowmen can be found outside the sale boxes, since now it’s the time for snake everything – this is the year of the snake, so decorations in food and everything else are of course matching the theme. I even found special shop dedicated only for snake year stuff!

 

Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!
Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!

Example of the speciality craze: Pepsi co. launched a special seasonal drink, Pepsi white, to be sold only during this season. This mikan (mandarine) flavored drink is/was available in 6 different snowman style for a limited time – gotta catch ’em all, eh? I had a sip, and that was it for me. Drinking something that was a) pepsi, therefore carbonated but b) white and c) mandarine flavored was just messing with my brain a bit too much. I do feel special now, and less disappointed for missing the summer’s Salty Watermelon Pepsi! I wonder what’s next, both on the beverage field as well as in the “bread” section.

PS: I have discovered the Japanese fondness of KitKat chocolate bars. In Finland, we only have the basic version, but after doing some research, I found quite many different kinds during my trip. So, maybe I will get into the chocolate bar craze later on. I also have interesting omiyage (souvenir) package pictures and texts to share.

“Little by little you will be filled with happiness when relaxing with these delicious sweets.” Who could say no to those Cheese cookies from Yufuin?

Kurisumasu Japanese way

My New year’s celebrations resembled the Finnish Christmas since I spent days indoors, surrounded with family and eating heaps of special foods almost non-stop. The real Christmas in Tokyo was rather unlike what I am used to, but it was definitely interesting, too!

The essence of Christmas: Fried chicken (combini style) and a santa suit, only thing missing is the strawberry cake!
The essence of Christmas: Fried chicken (combini style) and a santa suit, only thing missing is the strawberry cake!

 

The Japanese have adapted some parts of Christmas that suit their taste: the holiday is just like any other day, except for the fact that Christmas cakes are aplenty, restaurants are filled with couples or groups of friends, and the Christmas jingles are everywhere.

Jolly Santa with no presents
Jolly Santa with no presents

It was a bit last-minute, but I ended up spending my Christmas eating the most fabulous and abundant buffet possible (thank you Intercontinental Hotel), with live music and the most wonderful company possible: my father. I was sleeping in a nice hotel, in a Western bed with a real pillow for the first time in months. What a better way to spend the most important holiday of the year! On Christmas Day we went for a walk in Yoyogi koen, watched the crowds sitting in the sunshine in Harajuku, got lost trying to find our way to Roppongi Hills, and had a terrific dinner in an izakaya (6 days for dad in Japan without eating sushi, it was about time to have some on the last night!).

Since there has been enough food porn on the blog lately(and surely there will be plenty more to come), I will not post pictures about the Christmas feasts. I am not sure if your imagination will do justice to the delicacies, but oh well. I do have pictures of other things than food, too!

Blending in with the locals
Blending in with the locals

My dad traveled from Thailand to meet me, so his presents from Finland  had suffered a bit on the road and in the heat and moist climate. I can say that before I could have never imagined eating this, not to say enjoy it, but different sorts of salmiakki candy mushed and melted together, blended with scrapes of the paper bag they were packed in, served from a shower cap was rather enjoyable. I finished the whole kilo, and licked my fingers afterwards. This is what I call patriotism!

My goodie bag for Christmas, with an unconventional presentation
My goodie bag for Christmas, with an unconventional presentation

 

Swedish Christmas in Japan

Christmas just isn’t the same without certain things. Here up in the mountains, I have been isolated from all of the Christmas hassle that is going on in the stores and around the “civilization” (pun intended), which has maybe been a good thing. Good thing because the Japanese way of (not) spending Christmas is so very different from what I am used to, look forward to and love.

Gift game after dinner: I got socks!
Gift game after dinner: I got socks!

 

Luckily, the Swedish girls who are also exchange students are big fans of Christmas, and their way of celebrating the best holiday of the year is pretty similar to ours back home. So, I got a chance to have a small, sort-of Christmas after all this year!

What's Christmas without a tree?
What’s Christmas without a tree?

 

Eating anything and everything with chopsticks comes quite naturally now, and it didn’t even feel weird. The Swedish Christmas food was surprisingly different from the ones we have in Finland: it was more like something we would eat other times of the year (or on a Swedish cruise!). Something both countries have in common: mandarines, glögi/glögg (glühwein) and chocolate, last two of which are pretty good quality here in Nippon, too!

Essential for Christmas: overdose on chocolate (because you have to try as many different kinds as possible!)
Essential for Christmas: overdose on chocolate (because you have to try as many different kinds as possible!)

Japanese confectionery selection: highly approved. In stead pineapple, the staple in the Finnish boxes, there was mango. Other options included salty caramel, green tea, darjeeling tea, marron, bitter (my favorite, surprise surprise!) and espresso. Plus about 20 other flavors.

Hostess cooking self-made köttbullar (meatballs), pile or mandarines and self-decorated mugs
Hostess cooking self-made köttbullar (meatballs), pile or mandarines and self-decorated mugs

We sang songs (both in Swedish and English), played a gift game, and enjoyed the jolly atmosphere for 6 hours. As everyone was stuffed when leaving the table, the Christmas feeling was just as it’s supposed to be.

Christmas spirit all around
Christmas spirit all around

Who needs snow anyways?