Gardening On a Hill: Planning, Planting, and New Growth


For the last several winter months, we’ve been spending a lot of our free time working in our Garden.  Because we have such sloped terrain, we decided that we needed to try leveling out the ground to help with erosion (we had several garden plants die last year because the soil washed away from the roots). 

It seemed that tiers would be our best option.  My mom and dad visited in December and my dad, the most talented arborist you’ll ever meet (shoutout to AJEE Woods 😊), helped us take down a couple of oak trees by our house that were damaged in a storm last year.  The trees were tall and had relatively straight trunks, so to save on cost, we decided that we’d use them as our retaining walls.  Oak is such hard, durable wood, that we hope it’ll last for several years before it rots.

We started on the upper tier and wish that we’d set our wall a bit deeper, allowing for easier leveling. We still have a slight slope, but thankfully, it will adjust itself over time. It was a learning process for us, meaning that if we had to do it again, we’d probably do it a little bit differently next time.  Overall though, it’s much better than it was last year. So, Yay!

In addition to the tiers, we decided to bring in a bunch of mulch from trees we’ve chipped over the last several months.  We dumped at least 30 tractor buckets full on the garden and spread it out to help with erosion, improve the soil quality as it decomposes, and, hopefully, to help keep the weeds under control. 

The third project was dealing with our fence. Last year, after installing all the posts, we wrapped cheap mesh-like netting around the garden. We wanted something cheap that was non-permanent because we knew we would be making some changes, we just didn’t know what changes at the time. The netting ended up ripping to shreds at the start of the winter, so it did serve its purpose and kept the deer and other critters out for our main gardening season. We were able to find 6-foot chicken wire and decided to give that a try this year. Husband helped me with the awkward lifting and wrapping of the wire around the perimeter while I followed behind trying to straighten and secure it.  It’s a little wonky, but it should work to keep the deer out.

We’ve also spent a bit of time mapping out where we want our various plants to go this year and deciding if we want to try new growing methods.  We’re gonna try vertical growing for our spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and dessert pumpkins, which will be new for us.  It’ll hopefully help with our pest problems, and it should also lend a bit more space as the vines will grow upwards instead of all over the garden floor.  A friend of ours also told about a cool method for our tomatoes and peppers called “the Florida Weave”. It helps keep the plants more managed and more easily accessible (our tomato stands didn’t do very well for us last year, and our tomato plants were falling all over the place and limbs were breaking, making it hard to harvest them before they spoiled). Stay tuned for pictures in a couple months! We’ll let you know how it works for us.

Because of our mild winters, we’ve been able to do some planting outdoors in the garden already, and we also have lots of little plants growing inside. It’s fun to see all the signs of new and renewed life this time of year.  Little seedlings are popping up in the garden.  My rhubarb plants are filling out beautifully.  My tomatoes are growing delicate, new leaves as they grow taller each day.  Even some of our asparagus from last year are starting to shoot up out of the mulch. Some seeds have yet to emerge, and I eagerly check on them to see if they’re ready to grace us with their presence. I love gardening!

Here are some pictures of the new life emerging. Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by, Friends!

Lettuce, Brussel Sprouts, and Spinach

Asparagus!!!!! We can’t harvest them yet. It takes 3 years to be able to harvest when you plant them from seed. This is year 2.

Habanero Peppers and lots of different kinds of Tomatoes

And of course, rhubarb! My favorite!

Ethiopia: Injera and Memories (taking the good with the bad)

Nearly 9 years have come and gone since I left my town of Mizan Teferi in southwestern Ethiopia—how time flies! Every once in a while, I sit down and look through old pictures.  With my recent blogging and the Great Ethiopian Fast just around the corner, I’ve spent so much time looking at pictures.  They make me smile when I see the faces of my beautiful friends.  They make me cry when I think of how hard and lonely some of my time spent there was.  They make me laugh when I remember some of my hilarious fellow volunteers. Most of all, they remind me of how blessed I am to have gotten to experience two years of life in that beautiful country with some very special people. 

It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. In fact, I would say that there often seemed to be more difficult days than not.  Sometimes in reminiscing, it’s easy to forget the bad days.  The days when I laid in bed until noon because I just didn’t have the courage to face the day.  The days when I longed to just blend in—to be able to go to the market without being yelled at, pointed at, stared at, or touched.  The days when it would have been so much easier to just throw my cloths into a washing machine instead of spending hours bent over a bucket of soapy water, scrubbing them by hand. The nights when I laid in bed for hours listening to the rats in my mud walls and watching their little clawed feet scamper across my tarped ceiling, hoping they weren’t going to fall through.  The days when all I wanted to do was talk to my mom, but I couldn’t because we didn’t have electricity or the phone services were down.

My sweet, resilient friend, Genet.

But, there were a lot of good days too!  The days when my neighbor, Rabiya, would invite me over for dinner, and we conversed as best as we could while we watched her sweet little twins, Ekma and Amar, play. The days when the rain pounded so hard on the tin roof that you couldn’t have a conversation even if you wanted to, but oh, what a beautiful sound!  The days when my sweet friend, Genet, would welcome me into her home and treat me as if I were her own sister.  The days when children raced up to you, so excited to practice their English—you just couldn’t help but smile at their enthusiasm and desire to learn. The Sundays I got to spend with my beloved Russian sisters-in-Christ.  The genuinely joyful ‘hellos’ and hugs from my Ethiopian host family when I would come for a visit.

I think it’s so important to not dwell on just the bad or the good, but to take it as whole.  They balance each other out.  They form the whole experience—an experience I hope I never forget.

So, what do all my musings have to do with Injera? Well, nothing really. Other than it was, generally, the people who shaped my experiences in Ethiopia. Beautiful people, some of whom I get to call my friends.  A lot of the interactions we had were over food. Friendships were kindled over delicious Injera. We laughed, shared stories, and learned from one another over shared meals. Food brings people together. And in my case, Injera brought me a loving Ethiopian family and a handful of very sweet friends.

My very kind neighbor, Rabiya and her adorable twins, Amar and Ekma.

So, lets jump into Injera: that delicious, sour, spongy, flat, round “bread” that’s served at nearly every meal.  I, unfortunately, never took the opportunity to learn how to make Injera when I lived in Ethiopia. When I came back to the States, I didn’t live in a place that had an Ethiopian restaurant nearby, so, when I craved Injera, I started researching how I could make it myself.  I tried several different methods that I found on YouTube, but this one is by far the best!  It may not be exactly how they make it in Ethiopia, but it has turned out beautifully for me every time. 

The guy who put together the video tutorial, Chad Dykstra, has done an excellent job of explaining the process.  I contacted him recently and he graciously gave me permission to share his video and method here on my blog.  The amounts I’m posting here are for a half batch, because it’s just Husband and me, and we can’t eat that much Injera. The half batch makes about 6 Injeras, which is perfect for 2-3 meals for us (the Injera starts to get a bit stale after a couple days and is just not as good, so unless you’re planning to have a group of friends over, or you have a big family, I would recommend making this half batch amount).  

Beautifully developed “eyes” on the Injera

I highly recommend that you go to YouTube and watch Chad’s video as well! It’s about a half hour long and is very informative.  I ended up buying a Bethany Housewares Lefse griddle as well as a 2-gallon fermenting bucket for the process because I make it enough that it seemed worth it.  If you don’t have these items and don’t want to purchase them, you can use a large 1-gallon pitcher and a large non-stick frying pan, though the frying pan doesn’t produce as good of results, and you have a much smaller Injeras. 

When it comes to the starter, I make sourdough bread often, so am able to use that as my starter for the Injera.  A couple days before I know I’m going to make Injera, I take out about ¼ – ½ a cup of my starter and put it in a new container.  Add equal weights of water and teff flour, mix and let it rise.  I do this a couple of times until I get my 1 cup of starter needed for the half batch.  If you’re doing a full batch, just add a bit more teff/water each time you feed it so that you have a full 2 cups of starter. 

Far from perfect Injera: I’m still a bit of an amateur, but they taste good.

A couple of helpful notes/hints:

  • You’ll want to start the main Injera batter process about 34-36 hours before you plan on eating the Ethiopian meal, so it’s something you definitely need to plan ahead for!  
  • I struggle to find barley flour, so I just substitute it with half white and half teff flour. 
  • As far as the water amounts go, it’s not exact because different flours respond differently to moisture, and everyones sourdough starters are of different moisture contents, so it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how much water to add.  The amounts I’ve listed are just approximately what I use, though it varies slightly each time I make it. A lot of it is determined by feel and look—this is where the video is really helpful!
  • If you’re looking for sides/sauces to top the Injera, check out these recipes for ideas: Ethiopian Misir Wat (Lentil Sauce), Ethiopian Nej Gomen (Cabbage), Ethiopian Ater Wat (Split Pea Sauce), Ethiopian Shiro Wat (Chickpea Sauce), Ethipian Atikilt Ruz (Vegetable Rice), Ethiopian Habesha Gomen (Kale)

Ok, I think it’s time to jump into the recipe.  Happy cooking, my Friends! 

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Homemade Injera

Yield: about 6 16″ Injeras

My Half-Batch Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Teff (325 grams)
  • 1.5 cups All-Purpose Flour (225 grams)
  • 1 cup Teff sourdough starter (mine weighs about 300 grams)
  • I used a little under 1 liter (900 grams or so) of initial water
  • 1 cup Self-Rising Flour (150 grams)
  • Warm/hot Water

*See Below for Chad’s full-batch Ingredients list as he has it in the video.*

**As I mentioned above, our household is so small, that I prefer halve the recipe that Chad does.  If you have a larger family, or you are planning to have friends over for the feast, then I would recommend doing the full amount.  A half batch yields about half a dozen Injeras.  The full batch yields about a dozen. **

Feeding and growth of Teff sourdough starter.

Helpful Supplies to have:


Start feeding your Teff sourdough starter a couple days ahead of time.

Check out Chad’s YouTube Tutorial!

Recommended start time:  34-36 hours before you plan on eating the Ethiopian meal.

Day 1:

Wash your hands and lower arms well because you’ll be doing a lot of mixing by hand.

Mix the Teff and All-purpose flours together with a whisk in the fermenting bucket.

Take your starter (lit), and add it to the flour mixture. Squish it around with your hands until it’s well mixed—it’ll be a bit dry and crumbly.

Slowly add lukewarm water, and keep mixing and squishing with your hand. Continue to add water until you have a firm dough ball.  Knead it for a couple of minutes. 

After kneading, slowly start to add more water to it, working it with your hands, until you have a fairly runny batter.  (I use a little less than 1 liter).  You’ll want to really run your fingers through it to make sure that there are no lumps.

Once the batter is nice, smooth and runny (runnier than a pancake batter but not as runny as crepe batter), use a little bit of additional water to rinse your hand and the sides of the bucket. Don’t mix the newly added water.  Just place the lid on and fill the airlock with water.

Let it sit for 24 hours in a warm place.

Day 2:

24 hours later, place a tea kettle on the stove to heat up.  Turn it off just as it starts to whistle/boil.  Remove the lid from the fermentation bucket.  You should see a fair amount of water on the surface of the batter and a ring about an inch above the water level.  Don’t stir the batter at this point!

Before 24 hours of fermentation vs. after 24 hours of fermentation

Carefully pour the water off of the surface, making sure not to pour the batter itself out.

Once you have the surface water removed, set the bucket aside.

In a separate bowl or pitcher, place 1 cup of self-rising flour.  Add hot water (not so hot that you can’t touch it with your hands though).  I add 1-2 cups of water.

Mix the flour and water until it’s a pretty runny consistency.  Self-rising flour gets quite lumpy, so Chad recommends using a blender to blitz the self-rising flour mixture to help get rid of the lumps.  I do it this way, and it works great!

Pour the blended self-rising flour mixture into the bucket with the injera batter.  Stir it with a spoon so that it’s well combined. 

Beautiful, dark, rich Teff flour

Lastly, you’ll slowly add the hot water from the tea kettle (about 300 grams).  Make sure to add it little by little and stir it well with the spoon.  Add enough water to get to that “runnier than pancake batter, but thicker than crepe batter” consistency.  It’s okay if you end up adding a little too much water. You’ll have one more opportunity to pour it off just before we cook the Injeras. 

Place the lid back on the bucket and set it in a warm place for 4-5 hours.

After 4-5 hours, move the bucket to a cold location (I put it in my fridge) for 4-5 final hours (the times are dependent on when you plan to eat dinner).

Cooking the Injera:

Pre-heat the Lefse griddle/Mitad to 450 or 475 degrees. (I prefer 475)

Remove the batter from the fridge, and take the lid off. You should see that the batter has once again separated, with a layer of water on the surface.  Pour the water out, carefully like before, but this time, pour it into a small pitcher or cup so that you can add some back if it’s too thick.  You can always add to it, but you can’t take water out once you’ve mixed it, so make sure to remove some to start with. If the batter is too thin, it doesn’t cook properly.

Batter ready to be poured

After removing the water, stir the batter.  If it seems like the right consistency, then we can go ahead and start the cooking process.  If it seems a bit too thick, slowly add some of the water that you poured off back into the bucket, stirring, and checking the consistency again before adding more. (I often use my hand again to really feel how runny it is.)

Pour the ready-to-cook batter into a large pitcher (for easier pouring).

Use about 1 cup of batter per injera.

Pour in a circle, starting from the outside and working your way to the inside. It’s a bit of an art.  I’m pretty terrible at it, but am getting a little better each time I make it.  Have patience with yourself, and remember that it’ll still taste good, even if it’s got bare/holey spots.

Let the Injera cook uncovered for 30-60 seconds, or until about half of the batter has developed “eyes” (the little dimpled holes), then cover it to finish cooking it (with your pizza-pan lid).  I keep mine covered until I stop seeing steam coming of the sides (maybe 1-2 minutes—its not a long cook at all). 

Chad has a sefed (the flat, woven mat) to cool his Injera on.  I don’t have one of these, so just place the cooked injera on a clean, cotton tea towel.  Once they’ve cooled, you can stack them on top of each other.

Serve the Injera on a large tray (again, I just use a round 16” pizza pan) with whatever toppings you’d like.  Eat it with you fingers (right hand only) with your family and friends.  What a great way to celebrate community!

Happy Eating, Friends!

Chad’s Full-batch Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Teff flour
  • 2 cups Barley flour
  • 2 cups White flour
  • 2 cups Teff Sourdough Starter
  • Warm water
  • 2 cups Self-rising flour
  • Additional warm/hot water

**I struggle to find barley flour, so I use 4 cups of Teff and 3 cups of all purpose when doing a full batch.

The Ethiopian Great Fast (Abiye Tsom): Bayaynets and Vegan Diets

This year, the Ethiopian Great Fast starts on March 8th and ends on Ethiopian Easter, which is May 2nd. This fasting period is called Abiye Tsom in Amharic. It’s a 55-day fasting period before they celebrate Easter (similar to Catholic Lent, but longer).  During this fast, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians only eat 1 meal per day in the late afternoon or evening, and they cannot partake of any animal products, making their diet entirely vegan.

I believe that, throughout the year, there are around 180 “mandatory” fasting days for those who are part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Food-wise, all these fasting days are handled similarly to the Great Fast, meaning, that for nearly half of the year, they are on a vegan diet!

Photo: the hills near my “hometown” of Mizan Teferi.

Last year, I posted several vegan sauce and side recipes that are often eaten during Abiye Tsom. They are eaten on injera, which is a staple carbohydrate served across most of the country. It’s primarily made from a grain called teff. I’ve heard some people describe injera as being similar to a crepe. Please people, STOP describing it this way. It is NOTHING like a crepe in taste or texture, and if you’ve never had it and go into it thinking that’s what it’ll be like, it could very well ruin your first impression! In actuality, it’s a spongy, dimpled, flatbread that has a sour taste due to fermentation. Does that sound like a crepe to you? um, NO! Ok, rant over, lol. 😉

In Ethiopia, if you’re invited to a friends house or go to a local restaurant during any of the fasting days, they usually only have vegan food available. The most common “dish” that’s served is called a bayaynet. It’s a large roll or two of injera placed on a round tray and adorned with half a dozen or so vegan sauces and sides. When the Orthodox Church is not fasting, restaurants will serve injera with various types of meat dishes as well as Ethiopian cheese.

Photo: A fairly typical bayaynet with lots of vegan sides and sauces

It’s an interesting dish because they are often a little different everywhere you go, and sometimes, they’re even different from one day to the next at the same restaurant! It just depends on what’s available at the markets or what each household has in their kitchen.

Next week, I’m going to share a great method for making your own injera at home, so that when the fast starts on the 8th, you can try your hand at this delicious Ethiopian cuisine.

Here’s a list of the most common vegan sides/sauces that I was served on bayaynet platters. Give them a click if you want to try making it yourself:

If you’re interested in learning more about this fasting period, check out this website for more information).

Photo: the Ethiopian and Oromo flags flying in my language/culture training town of Menagesha

Risgrynsgröt: Delicious Swedish-style Rice Cereal

I’ve been on a breakfast kick lately, trying my hand at different kinds of granola, muesli, hot porridge-style cereals, pastries, and even bagels.  All the experimenting reminded me of one of my favorite breakfasts as a kid: rice cereal (or risgrynsgröt in Swedish).  Now, don’t be fooled—when I say “rice cereal”, I’m not talking about Rice Krispies 😉. 

This Swedish porridge is sometimes served at the Christmas Smorgasbord, though in my family, we opted for Swedish Rice Pudding around the holidays and served this porridge for breakfasts throughout the year. 

There are two methods to making this delicious, hot cereal.  This is the fresher, more common version in Sweden.  The second method is to use already cooked rice as your base, which is a great way to use up leftovers!  Both are delicious, but today, I’ll be coving the “from scratch” method.

Risgrynsgröt directly translates as rice grain porridge.  This “low and slow” cooking of the rice in milk makes it so creamy and delicious. 

There’s no sugar in the recipe, so any sweetness is added at the end by each individual in the form of cinnamon and sugar.  We also like to add a little dollop of butter to our bowls just before eating it.  Mamma would say that adding the butter is not how she ever ate it in Sweden, but, Pappa’s side of the family, which hails from Norway and Sweden both, always add the dollop of butter.  So, maybe it’s a Norwegian thing…??? IDK.  I just had to keep it in this recipe because it adds a wonderful, buttery flavor!  With all these recipes though, just do as you wish—the most important thing is that you enjoy what you’re eating!

And no, this isn’t a Valentine’s day treat 😉. I just happened to have a nice, red table cloth and this cute heart-shaped bowl, so I capitalized on the fact that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.  Any reason to celebrate, right?!?!  Happy cooking and eating, Lovelies!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Risgrynsgröt (Rice Cereal)

Yield: about 6 cups (4-6 servings)


  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 TBSP Butter
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 cup Rice (I like to use Jasmine)
  • 4 cups Milk of your choice
  • Cinnamon/Sugar mixture for garnish
  • Butter for garnish (optional)


In a thick-bottomed sauce pan (at least 2 quarts in size), add your water, butter, salt, and ¼ tsp cinnamon.  Slowly bring it to a boil and then add your rice.  Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. You’ll want to stir it often because it will start to stick a little towards the end when most of the water is gone (whisks like these are my favorite tool for projects like this!).

After the water’s been absorbed, add the milk.  Leave the burner on low heat and let the milk slowly come to a simmer (it will probably take about 5-10 minutes to do so if the milk is straight out of the fridge). 

Let it simmer on low heat until the rice has softened (about 15-20 minutes from when the milk starts to simmer).  You’ll want to stay close to the stove, and stir it the mixture ever couple of minutes with a whisk to help prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom the pan.  The milk will thicken up some throughout the cooking process.

Once the rice is tender and cooked through, spoon a ladleful into cereal bowls.  Place a dollop (about ½ a TBSP) of butter on top of the steaming rice cereal, followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar (however much you put on just depends on how sweet you like your porridge).  


Meat Loaf: My Ultimate Comfort Food

Do you ever have those days when a little bit of comfort food goes a very long ways? I sure do! And when those days hit, meatloaf is my go-to!

As a kid, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and peas were my favorite food. Okay, lets me honest, they still are (followed closely by a good cheeseburger). And now, even though I’m all grown up, Mamma still indulges my inner “meatloaf addiction” and makes it whenever I come for a visit. 🥰

The first time that I ever met Husband, meatloaf was on the menu, courtesy of my future sister and mother-in-law (for those who don’t know the story, here’s the Cliff Notes version: Husband’s sister coached soccer with my dad in small-town Nebraska.  I met Husband’s sister when I came home from Ethiopia, and we became friends.  She introduced me to her brother, and the first time I got to meet him in person was at her house for dinner.  And, she served meatloaf 😊.  Husband and I were married 3 years later. ❤)

Mamma’s meatloaf is my favorite.  Husband is partial to his mom’s recipe.  So, I decided to take the best of both and make a “mashup” of the two.  We love it!  I hope you will too, Friends!  Happy comfort eating!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Favorite Meatloaf

*Serves 4-6*



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the brown sugar and ketchup in the bottom of a loaf pan (like this glass Pyrex one).

In a separate bowl, place the remaining ingredients.  Dig in with your bare hands and mash it all together until it’s really well mixed.

Scoop the meat over the top of the ketchup/brown sugar mixture in the pan. Don’t press too hard or the mixture will squidge up the sides.

Put the loaf pan in the preheated oven, and bake it for 1 hour. 

Carefully remove the hot meatloaf from the oven, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to cool slightly. 

I like to use a knife to run around the edges of the meatloaf to make sure that it’s not stuck to the pan at all.

Turn it upside-down onto a large plate or platter. The ketchup/brown sugar will have caramelized into an almost bbq-style sauce that will coat the meatloaf.  (You can also carefully drain some of the liquid off into a small pitcher before flipping it onto a plate, if you’d like.)

Garnish with fresh parsley (totally optional), and serve warm with mashed potatoes and your choice of vegetables (peas, in my case 😉).

Swedish Oven Pancake (Ungspannkaka)

Have you ever wanted a breakfast recipe where you get almost nothing dirty?  A recipe that takes 5 minutes or less to prepare? A recipe that has the flavor of pancakes, but is magically puffy and cloud-like?

Well, my Friends, look no further! These oven pancakes are all of that and more!  It’s a recipe you can prepare and be eating in 40 minutes or less!

My mom used to make something similar in the dorm, though she said that she didn’t really have it in her home growing up. I have no idea where this kind of oven pancake originates from. They’re very common in Sweden, and we grew up calling them Swedish Oven Pancakes, but when I look online, there are similar recipes from Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany too, so who knows?!?  Maybe they should just be called “Scandinavian Oven Pancakes”???

The only things that get dirty when I make these are my blender, 1 measuring cup, a knife to cut the butter, and the skillet (note: I don’t usually wash my measuring spoons and cups if they are just being used for dry ingredients…don’t judge me…lol). 

All you have to do is toss everything in the blender, blend for just a minute, throw it in the oven, and voila, it’s done!  It’s just that easy!

Happy blending, baking, and eating, my Friends!

(P.S. Don’t mind the black specks…my cast iron oil finish happens to be pealing up at the moment…sigh)

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Swedish Oven Pancake (Ungspannkaka)

*Yields 8 slices—a good amount for 4 adults*



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place a 10” cast iron skillet in the preheating oven.

When the oven is about halfway done preheating, remove the skillet and, using 1 TBSP of butter, grease the sides and bottom of the skillet. Place the 2 remaining TBSP in the bottom of the skillet, and put it back in the oven. (I’ve greased and put the butter in the skillet at the beginning of the preheat before, but the butter often burns, so I prefer to do it partway through. Try either way if you’d like).

Place your eggs, milk, flour, sugar, salt, and 3 TBSP of butter in a blender.

Blend on high for 1 minute.

When the oven has finished preheating, pour the batter into the hot skillet (the butter should be completely melted in the bottom).

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely puffed and golden-brown in color.

Remove the skillet from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving (the puff will slowly fall).

Cut it into 8 slices.  We love eating this with Lingon Berry jam or our homemade Cranberry Sauce (side note: if you live near an IKEA, you can buy the Lingon Berry jam at a more reasonable price than on Amazon).  It’s also really good with regular syrup or your favorite jam, jelly, or fruit with a dollop of whipped cream. 

Congolese Fuku/Sadza

Sadza is just a generic term for cooked meal that has been ground into a fine powder.  The meal can come from lots of different sources, like corn or manioc.  The word ‘Sadza’, I believe, originates in Zimbabwe.  In Lingala, one of the trade languages in Congo, it’s called Fuku. 

Lots of countries and cultures across Africa have their own versions of this porridge-like starch. The ingredients and method depend on the country, region, and time of year. In the area of Congo where Pappa was born and raised, the Congolese would primarily use corn flour, but as the dry season progressed, and their corn flour storage began to run low, they would start mixing ‘songo’ (called ‘gari’ in West Africa, which is ground manioc/cassava root) in with the corn flour, and by the end of the dry season, often times, they had no more corn, so their Fuku was made only with manioc/cassava until they could grow, dry, and pound a new harvest of corn.

In our little corner of Congo, the variety of corn that they used was extremely hard to pound when fully dry.  They didn’t have stone-grinding technology, so pounded everything with mortar and pestle.  In order to make the corn easier to pound, they would soak it overnight to soften it.  During the soaking process, the corn would start to sour a little bit, making the Fuku from our area unique in its slightly sour flavor. 

***You can’t buy the soured Fufu (Fufu is the word for the dry flour, Fuku is the word used when it’s cooked) here in the states from what we’ve been able to find, but you can make it sour by either adding 5-6 TBSP of vinegar to the water, or you can substitute the water for whey from straining homemade yogurt.***

To make things simple, we just do a 50/50 combination of songo (gari/manioc/cassava flour) and corn flour. 


**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **


This recipe serves 4-6 people when served with a sauce/side of your choosing.


  • 5 cups water
  • 2 ½ cups Gari/Manioc Flour (white or yellow is fine)
  • 2 ½ cups Yellow Corn Meal (try to avoid course-ground corn meal)
  • You can make it sour by either adding 5-6 TBSP of vinegar to the water, or you can substitute the water for whey from straining homemade yogurt.


Heat your water in a 2-quart pot.

In a separate bowl, combine your two kinds of flour. Stir them well so that they’re evenly mixed.

Once the water is boiling, slowly add your flour, stirring constantly.  You want to make sure that there are no lumps! Once it’s all mixed, continue to stir until it becomes a firm mass, similar to stiff mashed potatoes (it’s an arm work out, lol). Then turn off the heat. 

Spoon the Sadza into a large shallow-bottomed serving bowl.  Press it in as tightly as you can and place a large dinner plate over the top to keep the steam in.  Let it sit for a few minutes. 

Invert the bowl onto the plate, and lift the bowl off of the mixture.  You should be left with a bowl-shaped form of Sadza/Fuku.

Use a large spoon to scoop portions for each individual.  It’s not the most flavorful on its own, so is always accompanied with a sauce or side of some sort.  Eat the Sadza with your fingers, dipping it in your choice of sauce (this Peanut Sauce is my favorite!).

Peanut Sauce: A Taste of Congo

Pappa was born and raised in the northwest corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  His parents were missionaries—both teachers in local Congolese schools.  He was a bare-footed, soccer-playing, tree-climbing, joyful little boy.  He loved to hunt, had an incredible gift for language-learning, and made friends easily.  He’s still all of these things and more (still loves soccer, climbing trees, hunting, he’s still incredibly gifted at language and is one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet—Mamma calls him “Tigger”). 

Mamma and Pappa got to come visit for several weeks, now in December.  It was wonderful!  We spent lots of time talking, having fika (Swedish coffee/tea time), working outside, watching movies, cooking, and just enjoying being together.  Pappa has always been really good at cooking African food from our area of Congo, so when he was with us, I asked him if he’d show me how to make a couple of my favorite dishes. 

Peanut sauce is a dish that’s made all across Africa, in many, many different countries.  There are lots of names for it, like chicken mwamba/muamba or groundnut stew, and lots of different ways of making it.  Pappa said that having specific recipes for different foods was uncommon in our part of Congo, so they would often “Africanize” French words to create names for what they were making. So, in Lingala, the closest name that this recipe would have is “supu na soso”, if you’re using chicken as your meat base (soso means chicken in Lingala).  Another example is “supu na ngolongolo”, if you’re using bushbuck meat.  I made this recipe again this week but used venison from a deer that my Love shot a couple weeks ago.  The closest comparison to a US deer would be a bushbuck, thus “supu na ngolongolo”.  And so on. You get the picture 😉.

This particular dish is one that Pappa learned from his Congolese friends.  The ingredients that make it stand out as “more unique” to Congo are the generous use of red palm oil and the tomatoes.  With Congo being such a huge country with so many different ethnic groups, it’s very probable that it’s made differently and called by different names all across the country, but this is how we make it.

Some of the ingredients can be a little hard to find, but I would encourage you to look for your nearest African or West African store.  Most larger cities have at least one, and they usually carry a pretty wide variety of items from all over the continent. I’m also attaching links to some places that you can buy them online, which is super convenient, but unfortunately, a bit more expensive. It’s nice to have the option though, especially with COVID.

I hope you’re adventurous and try this delicious dish from our little corner of Congo!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Congolese Peanut Sauce

**This recipe uses a crock pot and yields 6 cups of sauce.


  • 2 14 oz cans petite, diced Tomatoes (or 3 cups freshly chopped)—don’t drain the liquid off!
  • 1 6 oz can Tomato Paste
  • ½ cup Red Palm Oil (When cold, the oil will get very hard. You’ll need to heat it up to get it out of the container. I actually transferred mine to a glass jar so that it would be safer with multiple heat-ups and cool-downs.)
  • 1-2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
  • 1 lb Stew Meat, cubed (you can pick your choice of beef, chicken, goat, venison, or whatever suits your fancy)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper, ground
  • ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper, ground (you can also use Mitmita, Berberi, or Pilipili if you have them)
  • 5-6 medium Garlic Cloves, minced (~ 2 TBSP)
  • 1 medium Onion, finely diced (~ 1 cup)
  • ½ cup Peanut Butter (chunky or smooth)
  • ¼ cup Dry Roasted Salted Peanuts


Turn your crock pot on to high heat.  Put your tomatoes (with juices), tomato paste, and palm oil into the crock, and stir it until the tomato paste is smooth and no longer lumpy.

Dice your meat, and place it in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle it with the salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (or your choice of hot pepper).  Mix it so that the spices coat the meat as evenly as possible. Drizzle 1 TBSP of oil over the meat/spice mixture and stir it well. 

Heat a medium frying pan on high heat (I like to use cast iron!).  Once the pan has heated up, add the cubed meat and sauté it on high until it’s nicely browned.  Place browned meat in the crock pot. 

Add the chopped onions and garlic to the frying pan with an additional drizzle of oil as needed and lightly brown (2-3 minutes).  Once they’re tender, put them in the crock pot.

Stir it well so that all the ingredients are evenly mixed.

Let the sauce cook on high for 4 hours.  About every hour, stir it to keep things well mixed (especially the palm oil—it likes to pool on the surface).  Once you get close to 4 hours, check on the doneness of the meat.  We want it to be soft and tender, but not completely falling apart. 

Add your peanut butter and let the sauce cook for another hour (5 hours of total crock pot time).

While the sauce is cooking, you’ll want to work with the roasted peanuts. On a cutting board (or in a plastic bag), place your roasted peanuts and crush them with a rolling pin so that you have chunks of peanuts that are all different sizes.

At the very end, once the sauce has finished cooking and the meat is perfectly tender, add your crushed peanuts. Stir it well.

Serve this peanut sauce hot with your choice of a carb: Fuku/sadza, rice, couscous, etc.  Check out my Fuku/sadza recipe for an authentic pairing to this Peanut Sauce! Happy Eating, my Friends!

Marta’s Chocolate Slices (Choklad Pinnar)

My mom has this Swedish book.  It’s a cook book.  A cook book devoted entirely to cookies and pastries. My mom made a joke that American cook books only have little sections in them dedicated to cookies, but in Sweden, they have whole books, lol.  When it comes to cookies, Swedes know what’s up. 

In Sweden, there’s a tradition where, if you’re inviting someone over for coffee time (fika), the mark of a good hostess is to provide 7 different kinds of cookies for your guests to choose from.  Around Christmas time, one is expected to have at least 11 different kinds of cookies arranged on beautiful platters for all to enjoy. Isn’t it wonderful? This cookbook in Swedish is called “Sju Sorters Kakor”, which translates to “7 kinds of cookies”. So, there you have it—your cross-cultural lesson of the day.

This recipe comes from page 94 of this Swedish cookbook.  (You can actually find it written in English now too, and you can even buy it on Amazon!). 

It’s a classic cookie that has been around for a long, long time.  Mamma had them as a child, and served them in our home for as long as I can remember. They are just too good not to share.  It has a different name now than what we used to call them when I was little. We always called them “Choklad Pinnar”, which means “chocolate sticks”.  The newer Swedish version calls them “Märtas Skurna Chokladkakor”, or “Marta’s Chocolate Slices”.  I’ve tweaked it a little bit (mostly adding more chocolate ?), but for the most part, I stick to the original Swedish measurements and ingredients.

Enjoy this wonderful season of baking, my Friends!

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Marta’s Chocolate Slices (Choklad Pinnar)



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, 1 egg, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (except for the pearl sugar). Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix it until you have a smooth ball of dough.  Depending on how soft your butter is, you may want to refrigerate the dough for a little while to stiffen it up and make it easier to work with.  If the dough isn’t too sticky, you can proceed with the next steps more easily.

Divide the dough into 4-6 equal parts (I usually do 4, but the original recipe says 6. It doesn’t really matter which you do). 

Roll each section out with the palms of your hands, creating a “logs” that are roughly 12-14 inches in length. Place each log onto a greased cookie sheet.

Using your pointer finger and middle finger, start at one end of the log and firmly press it down, diagonally, so that you have a partially flattened oblong.

In a small cup, whisk an egg.  Brush the egg over the flattened dough.  Finally, sprinkle them with pearl sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes (I stick closer to 12 minutes because that yields deliciously soft cookies—we don’t love crunchy cookies in this home…lol).

Remove the pan from the oven, and while they are still warm on the cookie sheet, cut them diagonally, about 1 inch thick (This pastry scraper works great for this!). Using a spatula, gently slide the cut cookies onto a cooling rack.

Enjoy with a steaming cup of hot tea or coffee.

White Gowns, Candles, Music, and Sankta Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussebullar)

As a child, December 13 was a very special day in our home.  It was a day that I waited for with excited anticipation.  A day when we were awakened by Mamma’s angelic voice, garbed in white with a red sash, a candlelit wreath adorning her lovely head—a tray filled with decadent saffron rolls in her hands for us to enjoy in our beds.  It’s Sankta Lucia, one of the most celebrated traditions in all of Sweden. Lucia is the bearer of light in the dark northern winters.

This is a Lussetåg (Lucia train). This precious set used to be in Mamma’s home when she was a little girl.

When I grew old enough, I got to participate in the tradition.  My sister wore the crown of candles and carried the tray of fragrant bread. I trailed behind her with a candle of my own. It was such a special tradition.  Mamma has always been so intentional about bringing these beautiful aspects of her Swedish heritage into our home.  My siblings have even passed the tradition on to their sweet girls, and every year, I look forward to the pictures they send of their kiddos dressed for the occasion.

Today, I wanted to share Mamma’s recipe with you all.  These are very special rolls, not only because they are part of the Lucia Celebration, but also because they have Saffron in them. Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.  I read one article stating that Saffron costs $5,000 per lb!  My jaw just about hit the floor when I read that.  Thankfully, a very little bit goes a very long way, so don’t let that scare you into not trying this delicious bread! The aroma that the saffron gives off is just incredible—oh the memories that it stirs in my mind.  

Even if you don’t normally celebrate this timeless tradition, I still encourage you to try making the bread.  It’s a marvelous treat to have with friends and family over a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea.  

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Sankta Lucia Saffron Buns



  • ⅓ cup Milk (82 mls/80)
  • ¼ cup Butter, softened (57 grams)
  • ¼ cup lukewarm Water (60 mls)
  • 1 package Yeast (~ 2 ¼ tsp or 7 grams)
  • ¼ cup white Sugar (55 grams)
  • 2 Eggs (*save 1 for brushing the buns just before baking)
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp partially crushed Saffron
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose Flour (350-400 grams—I use closer to 350 than 400)
  • 1 TBSP Water
  • 24 Raisins


Heat the milk up in a small saucepan over low heat.  You just want the milk to be hot enough to melt the butter, but not so hot that it boils.  (You can also do this in the microwave, just be sure to keep a close eye on it.) Turn off the heat.  Cut the butter into small pieces, and add it to the warm milk.

In a separate small bowl or mug, add your warm water (~110 degrees Fahrenheit) and yeast, whisking it together with a fork.  Set it aside for about 5 minutes while the yeasts activates.

Check the temperature of the milk/butter before moving on to this next step.  The milk should be no hotter than 115 degrees Fahrenheit, or it will kill the yeast.  If it’s cool enough, pour the milk and water mixtures into a medium mixing bowl.

Add the sugar, 1 egg, and salt.  Next, measure out your ¼ tsp of Saffron.  Crush it slightly with a mortar and pestle or spoon so that the flavor and color gets well distributed (we don’t want it to be a fine powder).  Once it’s crushed, add it to the mixing bowl.  Whisk the ingredients together.

Add half of the flour and whisk it again until it’s nice and smooth. 

Slowly add the remaining flour and knead it for about 7 minutes. You should have a beautiful, smooth, ball of dough that springs back at you when you gently poke it.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and let it rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in size (about 1 hour, depending on how warm your home is).

Punch the dough down, and divide it into 6 equal sections. Divide each section in half, and with the palms of your hands, roll each half into 10-inch ropes.  Here, you can be creative and make many of different shapes.  The following are my 4 favorites!  (This website has lots and lots of different designs if you want to try something different.)

These are my 4 favorite designs!
Julgalt (Christmas boar/pig)


The following are the best descriptions I could come up with for shaping these rolls, though when in doubt, check the pictures…my descriptions leave much to be desired…lol?

Method 1: Lussehjärta—Lucia Heart

Using one dough rope, create a loop/V at the center. Curl each end downward, creating two small coils. Bring the left side upwards, and cross the right over it, keeping the “V” shape as best as possible. Tuck the curled ends into the two looped lobes. Place a raisin at the center of each curl.

Method 2: Juloxe—Christmas Ox

With one rope, form a loop, or a “U” shape. Curl each end tighly in the opposite direction on either side of the “U”. This forms “oxen horns” on each side of a longer oxen face. You can either place the raisin on the face portion, like eyes, or you can place them in the center of the tight circles of the horns.

Method 3: Julgalt—Christmas Boar/Pig (this has been the most common in our house)

Form a backwards “S” shape, and coil the ends into tight circles.  Place a raisin in the center of each curled.  The raisin are the eyes, and the design represents a pig’s face—you gotta just use your imagination ?.

Method 4: Gullvagn—Golden Carriage/Wagon

This is the same base as the julgalt above, but you make two and crisscross them over each other, making four “wagon wheels”.  Place a raisin at the center of each “wheel”.


Once the buns are formed, place them on a greased cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between them.  Cover them with a tea towel and let them rise for 30-45 more minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small cup, beat the 2nd egg with a TBSP of water.  Gently brush the egg mixture over the tops of all the buns.  Decorate them with the raisins, and bake about 15 minutes, or until they turn a light golden-brown color. 

Place them on a rack to cool.  Enjoy with tea or coffee. 

God Jul, mina Vänner!

(Merry Christmas, my Friends!)