A foodie’s balance: Virpi Mikkonen

If you love beautiful and healthy food, there’s a high chance that you’re one of Virpi Mikkonen’s over 153 000 Instagram followers that she runs with her alias, Vanelja. This self-confessed ‘dessert and brekkie queen’ wears many hats. A recipe designer, food writer and entrepreneur, she cooks food and bakes pastries that not only taste and look beautiful but make one feel light and happy. Thus far, she has published four cookbooks and been running her internationally renowned site, Vanelja, for four years. We asked her to design a healthy but tasty version of gingerbread for Christmas moments that are gentle for the body and the mind—and had a chat with her about balance and boundary-breaking food. 

 

“I love problem-solving—the equation of how to bake or cook something that is beautiful, delicious and good for you."


"That’s why I love my job; I get to solve problems and create recipes that work. I look at the world around me with a certain kind of visuality and spend a lot of time thinking about which colours work well together, or how I can bring my culinary visions to life. Styling food goes hand in hand with my keen eye for the visual—I can spend a long time trying to find the golden moment when the dish really comes alive. I share pictures of my creations on Instagram on a daily basis and the social aspect that it brings to the equation is equally important and therapeutic. Cooking is therapeutic and meditative in itself, too. My job is all about balance—different parts that fit together seamlessly. 

Kastehelmi votive 64mm moss green
Kastehelmi votive 64mm moss green
Teema dish triangle 12 cm white
Teema dish triangle 12 cm white
Teema pitcher with wooden lid 0,2 l white
Teema pitcher with wooden lid 0,2 l white

My recipes are all plant-based, gluten-free and naturally sweetened. I don’t believe in any isms and don’t force veganism on anyone, not even on myself as my diet is flexible but conscious. On the contrary—I hope that people can discover the benefits of eating healthy and ethically themselves. Many who incorporate wholesome, low-processed gluten-free and naturally sweetened food into their diets quickly notice a change for the better. If you approach the issue through the positive instead of the negative, it can have an incredibly positive impact on our day-to-day life. I love giving people the small, inspiring push they need to start working towards a healthier and lighter life.

 

When I started my first Finnish wellness blog Kiitos hyvää 9 years ago, I had just entered a gluten-free, vegetarian, highly raw diet into my life. Back then restaurants lacked expertise in vegetarian and gluten-free food. Now, nine years later, it’s much easier to find food for all kinds of diets. Raw, vegan, gluten-free and naturally sweetened food have become mainstream. People always ask me if this is a trend that will pass, but I think this is just the beginning; we are all becoming increasingly aware of where our food comes from, who has produced it and what has gone into producing it. In my opinion, being knowledgeable about food and nutrition will become the new norm.” 

 

Gingerbread cookies 

Gluten free and vegan

125 g margarine (melted)
1 1/2 dl coconut syrup
4 tsp gingerbread spice
3 dl rice flour
2 dl almond flour
1 dl potato flour
1 dl powdered sugar
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Bring the margarine, coconut syrup and spices to a gentle boil in a pot. Take the pot off the stove and let it cool. Combine the flours, powdered sugar, flaxseed meal and baking soda. Mix well to prevent the mixture from becoming lumpy. Combine the mixture with the margarine, coconut syrup and spices. Check the flavour and add spices if needed. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Take a chunk of dough and roll it between two sheets of baking paper into a 3-4 mm thick square. Keep the rest of the dough in the fridge. Cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter. Move the gingerbread cookies onto a baking tray covered with baking paper. Bake for approximately 7 minutes, depending on the size of the gingerbread. Let cool, serve and enjoy.