Green Expectations:  Musque de Provence Pumpkins
For many years I have celebrated my birthday in part with some element that I call "Happy Birthday to Me!"  One year it was a brand new backpack for overnight treks into the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.  One year it was as mountain bike.  Another year, a day off to wander around exploring the city of Seattle, doing whatever suited me at any given moment.  Of course the birthdays also included cake and friends and family - and a joyful "Happy Birthday" song (sometimes sung deliberately off-tune or with improv harmony).   Birthdays are a celebration of us, and a celebration of the years behind as we think about expectations for the years ahead.

Expectations.  Odotuksia, in Finnish.

Cafe Regatta in Töölö, Helsinki, Finland
Life is Good.
Odotuksia is the head title for today's food page in the Helsingin Sanomat - a page which is, in a way, a "Happy Birthday to Me!" as well.  For the first time ever - I've been published!  The recipes there are mine.  And while the foods there aren't ground-shakingly unusual:  One is for Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes or as translated Amerikkalaiset mustikkapannukakut and the other is for Apricot Almond Granola or Aprikoosi-mantelimysli, the recipes themselves are ones that I have worked on and adjusted and tasted and served to my loving (did I mention patient?) husband to get the flavors and textures just right.  In the world of American breakfasts, there are hundreds of versions of pancakes and granola - tweaked and adjusted for individual tastes.  For a morning where we want to relax and enjoy breakfast slowly - pancakes are often the choice.  For a standard weekday morning breakfast at my house, Granola, Mysli is standard fare.

Expectations.  Odotuksia.

The Helsingin Sanomat article was created and written to celebrate Mother's Day.  I was asked to fulfill the culinary expectations of two pregnant women - or as we say in English:  two women who are expecting.  That is, expecting their child's arrival any day now.   They each had a wish for the type of breakfast they would like on Mother's Day this year.

I am not a mother.  I don't know how it feels to wait for the birth of a new baby - to watch your body change and your stomach grow day by day, as a life forms inside you.  I have friends who are now waiting for their first child with great joys and hopes.  For them, I wish a beautiful, delicious and lovingly prepared breakfast this Mother's Day!

I know of expectations of other kinds, though - we all have them.  Life is full of goal setting, and waiting, and expectant, hopeful, thoughts of desired outcomes.  As we get older, our expectations can still be great and the waiting for them can still be long, but as I celebrate my 37th birthday, I know that expectations need not be large and expensive and expansive in order for their fulfillment to make me happy.

I have long expected the arrival of Spring here in Helsinki.  Winter lasted 7 months.  Spring is here!  It is a glorious thing.  I spent all of yesterday evening out wandering in the forest, enjoying the fresh, bright green of nature.

Fratello Torrefazione:  the best.
Every morning, I look forward to a cup of coffee.  It is a ritual that makes me smile every single day.  We buy good coffee for home:  JJ & I have decided that we want to take care to include in our lives things that add joy to the every day.  For us, coffee is one of those things.  It's a small thing, but its importance is sharply underscored on the days we run out, forget to buy new beans, and face a very sad, coffee-free (and caffeine-free!) morning.  Not good.  Good morning coffee is an expectation.  Indeed, a good life is made not of a few large wonderful things but of the many small very good things.

A strong and dominant component of expectations is the waiting.  Waiting for something we are hoping for.  Waiting to see friends and family, near and far.  Waiting for good news, waiting for the train or plane to arrive bringing a welcome visitor or taking us somewhere.  It is waiting for the closure of one thing, the celebration of another, the beginning of another:   a birthday is all of three of these.  And for me, today's Helsingin Sanomat Ruoka sivu with my name printed small next to the title Odotuksia as the author of the recipes was the perfect "Happy Birthday to Me!" for this year.

And for you, as a celebration of Spring, I share with you the recipe for Granola/Mysli that I created for the article.  The recipe below yields a much larger batch than the one printed in the newspaper - when I make Granola, I like to have it around to enjoy for a while.  You can easily reduce it.  Also, for the Helsingin Sanomat article, the flax seeds have been omitted as pregnant women shouldn't eat these.  If you are pregnant and therefore not eating flax seed, you can replace half of the flax seed with almonds and the other half with sunflower seeds.

Apricot Almond Granola
10 dl iso täysjyvää kaurahiutaleitä/ 5 cups old fashioned oatmeal (big flakes)
2 dl mantelia / 1 cups almonds, chopped
2 dl aurinkokukansiemeniä / 1 cup sunflower seeds

1 dl sesame sieminiä / 1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 dl rouhittaja pellavansiemeniä / 1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 ruokalusikkaa kanelia / 1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teelusikkaa kardemumma / 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
½ teelusikkaa inkivääriä / 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teelusikkaa muskottipähkinää / 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Set aside.
1 dl hunajaa / 1/2 cup honey
1 dl farini sokeri / 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 dl oljy / 1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 teelusikkaa vanilja sokeria / 3 teaspoons vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teelusikka suolaa / 1 teaspoon salt
Heat the mixture on the stovetop or in the microwave until it comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and pour over the oat mixture.  Stir well until the oat mixture is completely coated. 

125 g kultarusinaa /1/2 cup golden raisins
250 g kuivattuja aprikooseja / 1 cup dried apricots, chopped small

Yield:  approximately 3.5 liters / 14 cups

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