tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Thing One and Thing Two

by tableofcolors

I obviously have never been a little boy and to be truthful I was a little nervous when I was expecting Erik as to how I would cope as a Mom to a boy after our girls. My qualms were unfounded. Such sweethearts my boys are even if they do keep me on my toes both in mind and body. Erik often will have facts and quiz me during the day. I took him grocery shopping the evening before his party so that he could decide which chips and soft drinks we should buy. He decided on “Sahara” chips as it had a picture of a desert on the package. As we walked down an aisle, he would stop to inspect a package of macaroni or some sausage and explain his world to me. He told me about how the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem and quized me to see if I knew what prehistoric species are still living after the “turmoil of the dinosaurs” as he calls it. I fortunately had been pop-quized on the subject before and so I passed. If you do not happen to know that the alligator and gar are both prehistoric…and he went on to explain that from the scales of the gar, indigenous people made arrowheads. FYI

erik and snowmenAs we were in the baking section there was a package that had a picture of macarons. He stopped and very dramatically exclaimed, “This is what I have always wanted for my birthday!” And yes, indeed it would be have been a great idea as his cake was to be a hockey cake and so the macarons colored black could have been little pucks. But my time was running short and so I promised that we would try to remember next year. Fortunately he was perfectly pleased with the melting snowmen.

melting snowmenI happened to have about one pound or half a kilo of gingerbread dough still in the freezer leftover from Christmas. This helped speed things up considerably. You may find the recipe to the gingerbread here. I thawed out the gingerbread dough so that it was still cool but not frozen and rolled it out and made cutouts with a round cookie cutter.

Melting snowmen

24 round cookies (ginger, sugar or a cookie of your choice)
2 egg whites
powdered sugar
12 large marshmallows cut into halves
50 g/1 and 3/4 oz dark chocolate, melted

Buttercream
Basic buttercream (from the book, Maailman Parhaat Kakut by Barbara Maher)
125 g/4.4 oz unsalted butter
250 g/8.8 oz confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk or cream to make it more pliable
a few drops of red and yellow food coloring for making the orange noses

Separate the egg whites from the yolks and mix enough powdered sugar with the whites so that the frosting becomes a soft white with some consistency. Make sure that it is not too thick so that ou are able to squeeze through a parchment paper icing bag or a plastic bag with the tip cut off.

First make the outline of the puddle for the melting snowman on each cookie. By the time all twentyfour outlines have been made, fill it in with zig zag line of frosting. You do not need to fill in every spot as the frosting will spread out. If needed, use a palet knife or a butter knife to help spread the frosting out. Place the marshmallow where you would like the head to be. Next melt the chocolate and make an icing bag out of parchment paper. Spoon the melted chocolate into it and make button, eyes, a smile, and stick hands.

Next make the buttercream and color it a desired orange. Make another icing bag out of parchment paper or use a plastic bag with the tip cut off, give each snowman a carrot nose and a scarf.

making melting snowman cookiesDuring the first few minutes of the party, the house was quite quiet and I was just beginning to wonder if the next two hours would actually pass in considerable peace. I shouldn’t have wondered. As they warmed up we barely had to come up with party games as they had a fast paced game of indoor tag so that their cheeks were quite rosy from the exercise. Even some of our girls got involved and soon there were about eleven kids zipping about. I know that photos below are not quite in chronological order with the previous post of Elma and represent the next generation when they were children, but I promise that I will get back to Elma and all of the interesting stories that belong to her era. When these photos of my Grampa and his cousins arrived in my inbox, I felt like they could have just as easily walked in my door for a wild game of tag with their irresistable grins. I kind of felt like I had Thing One and Thing Two come over from the Cat and the Hat, but just add in Things Three through Nine to the count.

Anderson cousins

Anderson cousins

“There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Jim and Don

Jim and Don

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” -Willian Shakespeare

 

Anderson cousins

Anderson cousins

And I do believe that they might have like my melted snowman gingerbread cookies just as well as Thing One through Nine did at the party the other night.

Elma

by tableofcolors

In my last post I started telling the story of the Anderson family. Writing it all down is proving to be an interesting challenge in a pleasant way. First off, everyone has a unique life full of twists and turns, anecdotes and little moments that live on in the memories of family members. But the question is where to start, what to tell and in what order. I have decided that similarly in the way that memories resurface often not following a chronological order, nor will these stories always follow the calendar. I feel extremely lucky that there are so many good quality photographs that have survived. And this is just from one side of the family. I know my Gramma Darlene has photographs and stories from her side of the family as well. Whenever I visit, I walk past the wall of frowning ancestors, as she calls them.

Anderson family about 1900

Anderson family, about 1900

But back to the Anderson family. Their oldest daugher was Elma. As I have understood Elma had a large personality and a big heart and loved children. She never married and perhaps back in her time she might have been called a spinster but today I am sure she would have called herself single. She worked as a stenographer or someone who typed letters and did translation work for the Finnish community. She lived above the store on 238 Humboldt and across the street was the church. I think that the church is beautiful in a very timeless manner. And I keep stopping at the photo as I go through them.

church on humboldtElma seemed to comfortable with who she was. She was not overly concerned with what others thought and I am imagining her to be a free spirit. She was an artist, a poet, told stories to children and listened to their stories in earnest. Although her mother was really quite short, Elma could not be called small. She had generous hips and was on the larger side and was quite athletic, walking, skating and swimming. She smoked in a time when women often did not smoke and I imagine that her office in downtown Minneapolis was filled with the clackety-clack of a typewriter and perhaps sometimes a cloud of smoke since she lived in a time when there were no designated smoking areas. The papers that she would run down to the post office probably had a signature scent that clung to them, that would then arrive in the recepient’s mailbox along with the papers. Really it was not that long ago that not every house had a typewriter or even a camera and now even our grade school kids might have smart phones that have cameras. So much has changed in one hundred years and yet the nature of people stays the same. My perception of the era of Elma, is that it was more proper and society perhaps had, maybe not more rules but different rules that had to be followed. When my Grampa told me that she would walk down to Cedar lake in her swim suit and bath robe I can only imagine that she was breaking some of those unwritten rules. Some would good-naturedly chuckle and smile. She was Elma after all. While I do not want to make implications on anyone, my Isabella keeps coming to mind. I have had people tell me that she is a free spirit with a mission. And she likes to pose just like Elma. But she is only three going on four and so I will let her grow into her own person and decide for herself who she will become.

Elma portraitElma 2

Elma 4

Grampa told me that she had great culinary skills and once when he was a kid their family visited her home. She made them a meal and promised all of the children that the first one to finish their plate would get a prize. Well, Grampa won! And it was a handkerchief that was white with a blue border and white stars. I can just imagine how proud he was with his light blue eyes sparkling, and he claims that he is still good at cleaning his plate. I don’t doubt that statement as they always seems to have delicious food.

Jim Wuollet

Jim Wuollet

I think Elma might have liked these gingerbread muffins. I know that it is past Christmas but I do think the flavors are fulfilling and perfect for any day in the winter.

gingerbread muffins

Gingerbread muffins

0.8 dl/ 1/3 c brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c molasses
0.8 dl/ 1/3 c milk
1 dl/ 1/2 c oil
1 egg
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c apple sauce
just under 6 dl/ 2 and 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (according to taste)
dash cloves
1 tsp salt
100 g /3.5 oz marscapone cheese

A ball of gingerbread about the size of your fist

Frosting

1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 dl/ 1/2 c thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c powdered sugar
gingerbread muffins unbaked

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl with a spoon. In another bowl, lightly whisk all of the wet ingredients and egg together. Make a well in the bowl with dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray and divide the batter amongst the 12 muffin tins. Using two spoons make a small well in each muffin and drop in a generous teaspoon of marscapone cheese. Roll out the gingerbread dough and make small cookies. Place one cookie on each dollop of marscapone cheese. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 15-20 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Allow to completely cool. For the frosting whip the cream and then fold in the yoghurt and finally the powdered sugar to taste. It should not be too sweet and you should be able to taste the slight sourness of the yoghurt. Spoon a generous spoonful of frosting on each muffin and serve with coffee or tea.

gingerbread muffins 2

 

In age order: Elma, Emil, Ann, Wally, twins: Jean and Julie, and the baby Esther --1903

In age order: Elma, Emil, Ann, Wally, twins: Jean and Julie, and the baby Esther –1903

 

In my kitchen in the bleak mid-winter

by tableofcolors

My kitchen is still full of the remnants of Christmas and New Years. The tree in Finland is traditionally taken down after epiphany and so it will be up for a few more days, perhaps a week. When we put the tree up, our Hugo, who is now a year and a half was in awe and WOW and Hieno (nice) became his new words. In January there are still little angels in my kitchen that that fly like fairies across the house and ocassionally giggle very loud and have a sparkle in the corner of their eyes as they jump off the high stool and do many tricks with considerable grace but not necessarily very angel-like in manner. How I love their company.

angel black and whiteIn my kitchen this month I have been spending some time looking through old photographs and reading and rereading emails from my Grampa. The photographs are treasures and when I spend time in the kitchen cooking or putting away dishes it offers the perfect moment of my very own that no one can really steal, to let the mind and imagination soar back into a different era. How I wished as a kid that it might have been possible to travel in time. I suppose back then I had very romantic notions of the olden days. I have sometimes wondered how I would have actually managed, now that I am used to all of the modern conveniences of life and society.

 

Anderson Store in Minneapolis circa 1906

Anderson Store in Minneapolis circa 1906

Like most immigrant groups, the Finns created their own Finntowns in communities. Minneapolis had one of the larger Finnish populations. What was new to me was that many of the Finns that arrived were looking to homestead land in Cokato, which is about 50 miles West of Minneapolis and used Minneapolis as their big city. This took place in the 1860 to 1880s and if I remember correctly some of the Wuollets had also settled in the Cokato area. The pattern of life that was created was that the men would come into the city to work in brick-yards, sawmills and carpenters as well as other jobs and then return home in regular intervals. After the 1880s many of the children of the homesteaders moved and settled permanently in the city. I referenced the History of Finnish Community pages and it mentioned the grocery of Isaac Anderson on 238 Humboldt Avenue. The picture above is of the shop and was taken in 1906. My great-grandmother is the baby in the arms of great-great-grandma Ida Anderson.

Wedding portrait of Isaac and Ida Anderson

Wedding portrait of Isaac and Ida Anderson

There is an interesting story behind the sirname of Anderson. When Isaac and his brother John Kauvosaari emigrated from Finland the official at the port of entrance asked for their name. They replied with their names and I am assuming that the Finnish name of Kauvosaari was quite difficult to the non-Finnish tongue. The official next asked what their father’s name was and when they replied, Antti Kauvosaari the official gave them a new last name of Anderson.

Humboldt Avenue 238 Minneapolis Anderson store

Anderson store at an earlier date

Inside the Anderson store

Inside the Anderson store

I’m not quite sure exactly the kind of butter-nut bread that they might have been selling, but just a few days ago when we had ice-skating weather I was making a whole-grain bread with spelt and buckwheat. I rolled the dough into a quarter of an inch thick sheet and then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pecans and dried sour cherries. It tasted wonderful after all of the rich holiday foods and the fresh air and tag that was taking place on the ice.

 

pähkinäleipäplaying tag

Whole-grain bread with sour cherries and pecans
3 dl/1 and 1/4 c warm water
1/2 block of fresh yeast (25 g) or 1/2 sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 dl/ 1/2 c spelt flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c buckwheat flour
about 5 dl/generous 2 c whole-grain bread flour with cracked wheat (8% fiber content)
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c olive oil

bread with sour cherries, pecans, spelt  and buckwheat
Mix the yeast in with the luke warm water. I usually have my fresh yeast frozen as I buy it in bulk and that way there is always some on hand and it doesn’t grow old. I learned the trick from my mother-in-law. I just add the frozen block to the warm water and let it sit for about 5-7 minutes and then add in the honey, salt, buckwheat flour and spelt flour. I used my stand mixer freeing up my hands and allowed for it to knead on the lowest setting. It is better to allow the flours to absorb as much of the water as possible, so haste is not encouraged when adding the flour. Add in little by little the whole grain bread flour. The dough should be soft and may be a little sticky. Allow the stand mixer to knead thoroughly or alternatively you may knead by hand. Add in the oil. If the dough seems much too sticky, add more flour to your liking. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Spray a bread tin with a non-stick spray and warm the oven to 200 C/390 F. Once the dough has risen, sprinkle the counter with flour and tip the dough on top. Gently roll the dough out and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with the pecans and dried sour cherries. Roll up the dough forming a log and place into the bread tin. Allow to rise once again and back for about 20 or 25 minutes or so that the bottom of the bread has a nice color and sounds a bit hollow when knocked with your knuckle. Enjoy toasted with butter and maybe even a drizzle of honey. Perfect after skating fare.

angel wingsThis post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series. Check out her blog for links into the kitchens of bloggers from around the world.

Memories of times passed

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The children were all up today earlier than I was. It must be the anticipation and excitement as tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I remember when I was little my stomach almost hurt on Christmas Eve because of the excitement and my appetite was not at it’s best. Christmas is a time of memories of times spent together as a family and of making new memories for our little ones. On Thanksgiving I called my Grampa Jim and Gramma Darlene. I know that they have gathered pictures and studied the family history on both sides. Grampa has been sending me some photos along with some of their stories. In 2015, I would like to share some of these photos and stories with you along with recipes that have been an inspiration.

Grandma AggieI remember Great Grandma Aggie as a smiling white-haired lady with a quick wit. I remember sampling white chocolate truffles in her little apartment as a little girl around Christmas time, and if I remember correctly she preferred white chocolate. From the left is my great uncle Reino, great aunt Ellen, my grandfather Jim and my great aunt Margaret. This is what reading a storybook looks like in our house as well. Everyone likes to listen to the storybooks, even the babies. Some things never change.

gingerbread icecream moldI have been in a time pinch lately even though I have made the effort to take everything extra off the calendar. Not everything can be taken off the calendar as there are always doctor and dentist appointments and events at the schools that are important for both children and parents. The children had their last day of school this past Saturday. Two of them had Christmas church with their whole school and one had a Christmas program at school. We divided the parents and kids as we had to be in two different destinations at 8.30 am. But now we have slipped into our vacation schedule with no effort. We stay up a little later doing things together. Yesterday the kids decorated the tree. It might not look like something from an interior design magazine as the kids had been making ornaments at home and school during the past few weeks, but it has been decorated with love.

filling the moldOur dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner had been lacking inspiration. Due to the time pinch, it had to simple yet delicious and preferably something that could be done before hand to make things more relaxed on Christmas Eve. I happened upon this recipe on a Finnish blog called Heavenly bakings. It was the perfect recipe for my situation. as it couldn’t be easier and the result was both spectacular and not overly sweet. The traditional Finnish Christmas dinner with the carrot, rutabega, beetroot and potato casserole is quite heavy and so having a little slice of homemade gingerbread icecream seemed inviting.

gingerbread icecreamGingerbread Ice cream

 

4 dl/1.7 c heavy whipping cream
1 can (397 g/304 mk) sweetened condensed milk
8 small gingerbread to be placed on the bottom of the bundt pan
16 cookies roughly chopped/crushed, divided into two (8 cookies make about a generous 1 dl / 1/2 c of cookie crumbs)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
7 smaller cookies for garnish on the sides

Using cling film, line the small bundt pan and place the small gingerbread cookies on the bottom of the pan. Whip the cream until thick and fold in the sweetened condensed milk along with the cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Mix in half of the cookies crumbs setting the other half aside.

Spoon the cream mixture into the bundt pan until about 1/3 full. Next add one half of the cookie crumbs that had been set aside. Spoon in more of the cream mixture and then sprinkle the rest of the cookies crumbs. Add the rest of the cream mixture and stick the last cookies along the side in a vertical position.

Place in the freezer for several hours or overnight. Before serving flip over onto a serving plate and remove cling film. Drizzle with caramel sauce.

gingerbread icecream and caramel sauceWishing you a blessed holiday season. Merry Christmas!

holiday card 3gingerbread icecream and caramel sauce 2

Being thirteen

by tableofcolors

Finland is full of Christmas parties or as they call them, pikkujoulu. Our children love organizing a pikkujoulu and last night we had a houseful of thirteen year-olds. Watching your own children grow up often brings me back to when I was the same age. There is something a bit beautiful and at the same time a bit awkward about being thirteen. They are trying so hard to be grown-up and at the same time they aren’t quite there yet. Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand and it is a steep learning curve for the parents to find the fine balance between the two. I notice that it is easy to expect responsibility and at the same time I need to learn to let go and give the opportunity for a little freedom. They don’t learn without practice. How were your teenage years? I remember that the spoken opinions and just as importantly the non-verbal opinions made by my friends were very important. I was very much a goody-goody-two-shoes, which I am sure, annoyed some, and in general wanted to please everyone and never wanted anyone mad at me. While I still am that way deep down, I would like to believe that I have learned that not everyone can be pleased and unfortunately you can’t be everyones’ best friend.

pikkujoulu collage

recipe for the date cake treats can be found here

I remember going to the mall with my friends when we were about twelve or thirteen. It was right before Easter. We spent a good amount of time discussing if we were too old to take our picture with the Easter Bunny. Someone might think that we actually still believed in the Easter Bunny and…Gasp! That would have been disastrous! In the end we decided that we could take our photo with the Bunny and I have a copy of it in my album as a keepsake. So glad we dared!

The evening was fun and even our little ones joined the games. At first our Erik was complaining why the whole house was full of girls and no boys but he was satisfied after he was able to have first dibs at the table. Later when they played a game where one had to keep a straight face, he told me “Easy, I can do it no problem” and so I told him to go join. He is used to girls and so he had no qualms joining in and pretty soon everyone else was laughing but him. I had a hard time keeping a straight face as well.

pizzas in a tin collage

These pizzas-in-a-tin work great with the younger crowd but you could serve them just as well to youthful adults. I thought they were pretty good if I may say so myself and at the party they disappeared quickly. The dough is soft due to the mashed potato flakes.

 

Pizza-in-a-tin (makes about 35)

Crust
6 dl/2.5 c warm water
1 block of fresh yeast (50 g) or one sachet of dry yeast
2 dl/just under 1 c potato flakes
generous 1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c rye flour
about 9 dl/3.8 dl flour
2 tbsp olive oil

Sauce
500 g/17.5 oz pasta sauce (homemade or if you’re in a pinch ready made from the store)
500 g/17.5 oz crushed tomatoes
1 package (170 g/6 oz) bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
pepper, salt, oregano, basil

Grated cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and emmental)

pizza in a muffin tin

Pour the warm water into a large bowl and add the yeast and brown sugar to it. Allow it activate for a few minutes. I usually use frozen fresh yeast and I just put the frozen block into the warm water and wait for it to thaw out (about 5 minutes). I use the dough hook with my kitchen aid but you could knead the dough by hand just as easily. Next add the salt, potato flakes, rye flour and half of the flour. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Add more flour and continue kneading. I never add all of the flour at once. If the flour is drier it will absorb more liquid than if it contains more moisture. The dough will be slightly sticky but still workable. As the dough is forming elasticity add in the oil. As I was in a pinch for time I did not allow it to rise, rather I rolled it out immediately and cut circles out with a cutter. I let them rise once in the tin.

I made the sauce while the kitchen aid kneaded my dough, but if you may let the dough to rise while making your sauce. Fry the bacon and chopped onion on medium heat until cooked but not crisp. Add the sauce, crushed tomatoes and seasoning. Allow to simmer on low so that some of the liquid has evaporated and it has slightly condensed. Remove from heat.

Spray muffin tins (I had three on hand) with non-stick spray and place the circle of dough on the bottom. Next spoon one tablespoon of sauce in each muffin tin and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Bake at 175 C/350 F for about 8-10 minutes or so that the bottom of the mini pizza has slight color.

Enjoy warm!

blue moment

blue moment–sininen hetki

 

Eighteen days until Christmas

by tableofcolors

There are eighteen days until Christmas if you ask the Finnish kids and if you ask the American kids there are still nineteen days. Today in the kids’ entryway where the calendar is on the wall, there was a little spat between two of the girls. One claimed that there are eighteen days and the other nineteen days. Both were right, it just depends how one counts the days.

huuteinen peltoYesterday the field was tousled like a messy mop of blond hair. Today in the morning it was covered with a heavy layer of wet snow. It was cold enough that it made everything look white. This is what our children have been waiting for. When it is dark before four in the afternoon they often come and complain that there is nothing to do. Perhaps it was the lack of fresh air that instigated the spat in the entryway. It all changes with a little snow and head lamps. They can easily be outside for hours and come inside with rosy cheeks and in much better spirits. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the snow stays.

Finnish flag and independence day

Today is the 97th independence day of Finland. Peace arrived in the mid of winter. Last night at our literature club we discussed the well-known novel, The Unknown Soldier (Tuntematon Sotilas) by Väinö Linna. I received a copy of the English translation of the book at the young age of eighteen from my honey. Now after living here in Finland for almost fifteen years I am glad to be reading it again. I have come to learn how society has been shaped by it’s history. The book tells the experience of war in a rather truthful unglorified manner. All of the stress, fear and feelings can be sensed. My almost six year old in the picture above has been asking me recently why we have wars. One day we were discussing the Ukranian situation with kids, when my eight year old asked me why Russia needs to be so greedy. Difficult questions to answer. I understand the need for the armed forces as their primary task is to protect and defend and in all truth, soldiers are probably the last ones to actually want a war. Always in wars someones gets hurt and families become split and it is a sure test of the human spirit. Below are two links to the Finnish song, “Veteran’s Evening Call”. The first is accompanied by a slideshow of photos from the Finnish wars. The second youtube link is of the same song, but is sung by a compilation of men’s choirs of which many of them are eldery and there are many war veterans standing in the front rows. Almost all of the rest standing behind the veterans are children of veterans. Jorma Hynninen is the solist and their powerful memories of the war is transmitted to younger generations. They are passing down history in the age-old tradition of singing. I think the performance is very powerful.

Traditionally on the Finnish independence day two candles are placed at the windows. The exact origin of the tradition is not known but according to wikipedia, the burning of two candles was used on the February 2nd to commemorate the Finnish poet Runeberg as an action against Russification. The two candles in the window was also used in 1915-1918 to designate safe-houses when Finnish jaeger soldiers secretly made their way from Finland in to Sweden and continued their way into Germany to receive training. It seems as if the two candles in the window are a symbol of independence.

 

In my previous post I promised a recipe for a gluten-free no-bake pumpkin cake in just a few days. It has been more than a few days now but I promise that I have not been sitting lazily on the sofa. In fact it has been quite exciting. I have been creating a new blog that I will be writing in Finnish called, Jenkki mutsi maalla. Jenkki in Finnish is a slang term for American and it probably derives from the word Yankee. Mutsi is slang for mom and maalla means countryside. In other words the name means, Yankee Mom in the Country. I will be working with Kluuvikadun Coffee Roastery and Leipomo J. Martin which is a bakery. I will definitely continue tableofcolors and the intention is that they will not be copies of each other. They may occasionally have the same recipes and perhaps sometimes even the same story but they will live lives of their own.

gluten free pumpkin cake

This cake was originally made for the reception of my friend, Kaisa Peni and the debut of her Christmas recording, Ihme. In my previous post is a sample of her singing. If you click on her name it will bring you to her website. For the English version click on the English tag on her website. It could make the perfect Christmas present for someone special that enjoys peaceful music.

 

Gluten-free Pumpkin Cake (no-bake)
150 g/5.3 oz gluten free gingerbread cookies (I used one package of Semper gluten-free cookies)

Crust

One half of the package of cookies is for the crust and the other half is mixed into the filling
25 g/just under an ounce of melted butter
1 tbsp sugar

Filling

2 dl/1 c whipping cream
2 dl/1 c quark (or other sour dairy product)
1 and 1/2 dl/ 2/3 c pumpkin purée
0.6 dl/ 1/4 c sugar
0.6 dl/ 1/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of cloves and ginger
3 gelatin leaves
1/2 package of gluten-free gingerbread cookies (set aside one or two for garnish)
1/2 dl/ 1/3 c boiling water

Line one 15 cm/6 inch springform with parchment paper. Melt the butter and crush the gluten-free gingerbread cookies and divide into two. Place one half of the crushed cookies into the lined springform. Melt the butter and mix with the crushed cookies in the spring form. Add sugar and mix. Pat firmly to form the crust. Set aside.

Place the gelatin leaves into a bowl with cool water. Allow to soak for about 10 minutes. Make the filling meanwhile.

For the filling whip the cream and then add the quark. Next fold in the pumpkin purée, sugars, the other half of crushed cookies, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Next boil the water. Remove the gelatin leaves from the cool water bath and gently squeeze excess water away. Place in a small cup. Pour the boiling water over the gelatin leaves and mix until melted. Pour in a stream into the cream and quark mixture mixing continuously until incorporated. Pour the mixture into the springform and cover with cling film and place into the refrigerator or freezer for a quicker set. Allow to set in the refrigerator for about four hours or in the freezer for an hour.

Ganache

1 dl/just under 1/2 c of whipping cream
160 g/5.6 oz quality dark chocolate

Bring the cream to boil in the microwave. Add the roughly chopped dark chocolate to the hot cream and stir until smooth. Remove the springform place cake on a rack. Pour the ganache over the cake. Garnish with a gluten-free cookie or two. Enjoy!

Ihme

by tableofcolors

The Christmas season is almost here. It is nearly pitch dark here at quarter after four in the afternoon and across the fields and on the road there is just the lighest dusting of snow barely making the gravel look white. The other Saturday after the sun had set, my friend Kaisa Peni released her second recording, called Ihme for the Christmas season. Ihme could be translated as Miracle or Wonder. Click on the youtube link below and pretend to be with us at the recital as you read this blog post and perhaps you will feel the peace of Christmas.

I have found it to be the perfect music to play early in the morning as I have lit a few candles and go uptairs to wake up the sleepyheads for school. I am nearly as much of a sleepyhead. Maybe I am not really a morning person even though for years I really liked to believe that I was.

ihme julkaisu debuteAs I listen to the music, the house is peaceful for once and I have a fuzzy feeling in my stomach. Maybe it is anticipation. This is what Christmas is supposed to feel like: a gentle, relaxed atmosphere in the soft light of candles with your loved ones.

ihme collageKaisa is accompanied on the recording with baritone Elja Puukko, her daughter Jatta and her friend Sanni. Ilia Kalioujnov-Salminen is the very talented pianist. In addition to traditional Christmas music, Ilia has composed and Kaisa has written the words to two new original pieces. I think they just might be my favorites as I found myself humming the melody as I was doing things around the house.

ilia kalioujnov-salminen collage

kaisa peni ihme 3

For the event I made pumpkin squares with a gingerbread mousse filling and a gluten-free no-bake cake. Usually when baking for an occasion, I try to make the gluten-free option complimentary in flavors so that no one needs to feel left out. As we were celebrating a Christmas recording I thought the pumpkin and gingerbread flavors would have both a traditional Christmas flavor as something a bit different usually not found here as pumpkin is not very common. On the recording there is a bit of an international flair as well. There are two songs sung in Russian and one in English. You may remember if you have followed the blog for some time that a year ago Kaisa published her first recording Rauha. A year ago I made Sacher squares with homemade apple jam made with locally sourced apples.

ihme leivos pumpkin square

Pumpkin squares

makes 45 5×5 cm squares

For the pumpkin squares and gluten-free cake, I used the purée of one small pumpkin. It comes out to about a total of 3 dl or 1 and 1/3 cups of purée.
For the pumpkin sponge cake I used the recipe by Joy of baking which I tweeked a bit. Here is the link to the tutorial video, but below are the amounts and the recipe.

For the 45 servings I made three sheets of the pumpkin sponge. Two of them were layered with the filling in between and the third was cut in half, filled and then layered.

The recipe below is for one sheet of pumpkin sponge

1.8 dl/ 3/4 c (95 g/3.4 oz) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 dl/generous 1/2 c (150 g/5.3 oz) sugar
1/2 dl/1/3 c (50 g/1.8 oz) brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 dl/ 2/3 c (150 g/5.3 oz) pumpkin purée

Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper. Lightly butter it or spray with a non-stick spray.

Place the room temperature eggs and sugars into a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until light and fluffy. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a separate including the flour, baking powder, soda, spices and salt. Mix the vanilla extract with the pumpkin purée. Click here for a recipe on how to make your own pumpkin purée.

Fold in the dry ingredients into the egg batter. Last fold in the pumpkin purée. Pour the batter on the lined baking sheet and bake at 180 C/350 F for about 8 minutes.

Once golden brown and springs back to the touch remove from the oven and let cool just slightly. Take another sheet of parchment paper and place on the table. Sprinkle with sugar. Now flip the baked sponge cake onto the sugar so that the top is on the sugar. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake (that is now facing to the top). It pays to do this step while the cake is still warm as the parchment paper is so much easier to remove. The sprinkled sugar assures that the cake does not stick to the other sheet of paper.

Filling for 45 servings

1 liter of cream
24 small gingerbread cookies crushed (90 g/3 oz)
5 gelatin leaves
800 g/28 oz quark or a thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt
1 dl/ 1/2 c (105 g/3.7 oz) packed brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c (85 g/3 oz) sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash of following: ginger, cloves and nutmeg

Place the gelatin leaves in a bowl of cool water. Let soak according to the package instructions. Bring some water to a boil and set aside. Crush the gingerbread cookies. Whip the cream and fold in the quark. Next fold in the cookies and check for taste. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves and place into a very small bowl or dish. Pour a little bit of the boiling water over the gelatin leaves and mix until dissolved. Fold in the gelatin by pouring it in a stream and constantly stirring.

Spread the filling on the cake and place other sheet cake on top.

Cover the cake with cling film and place into the fridge while the ganache is being prepared. You may also let the cake rest overnight.

 

Ganache

I have noticed that working with white chocolate is a bit more tricky than dark chocolate. The cake nearly absorbed the first batch of ganache. I would suggest sealing the cake with a very thin layer of apricot jam.

2 dl/ 0.8 c heavy whipping cream
340 g/12 oz white chocolate

Pour the cream into a bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute or so that it boils. Roughly the chop the chocolate up. Remove the boiled cream from the microwave and mix in the white chocolate. Stir until a smooth consistency.

Pour the white chocolate over the cake. Melt a few squares of dark chocolate in a separate bowl. Form a piping tube out of parchment paper and pour the melted dark chocolate into. Make thin stripes all along the cake. Using a knife, pull the tip of it through the stripes, alternating the direction every other time.

ihme leivosI have a confession to make. I have been writing this post now for about five days, trying to find those little fuzzy-tummy candle-lit moments. Those moments have not come by nearly as often as I would like. First there is a simple explanation. My husband has been away recently on business, meaning that I am running the household.  Originally I had been planning to write my blog after the house is quiet and with everyone asleep. No such thing. My two youngest are night owls by nature and keep me entertained until the minute I go to bed. And since I have started writing this post, the landscape has turned into a wonderful winter wonderland that just invites us all outside.

The night of the recording debut, I also served a gluten-free no-bake pumpkin cake that turned out delicious. I think it would work perfect for Thanksgiving as would these pumpkin squares above. So instead of working on this post for a week, I saved the cake for my next post. I am planning on posting the new recipe in the next few days. Hope everyone has a wonderful week and Happy Thanksgiving!

kaisapeni.com

All my little pumpkins

by tableofcolors

holiday 1

I had been waiting for the right opportunity. And it just so happened that all of the pieces fell into place the other weekend. The light was right, it was not raining, the kids were all home and not at school since it was Saturday and as an extra added bonus there was a little frost that made the tips of hay in the field look like they had been sprinkled with powdered sugar. We were about to take our Christmas card photos. I had been discussing it with the kids for a few days and our Erik definitely wanted us to try redo the idea from our 2010 card below. He was just a little squirt back then and stole the show.

christmas2010I agreed that we could give the idea another try. The way I usually photograph kids is to try get them into their most natural environment. In other words I encourage them to act like kids. I think it brings out the best expressions and their personal nature. As you can imagine it took quite a few shots to get the perfect one.

holiday 5holiday 6As we were getting ready, some were quicker than others as is usually the case and kept asking if they could go outside yet. I was trying to slow them down, knowing that since the temperature was just a bit below freezing, they would be inside complaining about the cold before the slower ones even made it outside. Finally, we were all ready. Which one do you like?

pumpkin puréeMeanwhile in my kitchen I have been experimenting with pumpkins and squash. The thing is that in Finland you cannot really find proper canned pumpkin purée and the stuff I have found is the already spiced variety. Nearly every trip to the States I have taken a can or two back with me. This last time my suitcase was so heavy that I had to do a quick re-pack at the airport counter. I could just blame it on the baby and all of the things he needs, but the truth is that I have not mastered the skill of light packing. I always feel that I should take all those necessary things with me just in case, not to mention the eight pairs of shoes that I had with. That number did not include the baby’s shoes. Almost every autumn I have tried making pumpkin purée and I think I finally learned the trick. My problem in the past has been that it is quite watery and when added to recipes the result is quite bland. The secret is to allow the oven roasted pumpkin to drain for an hour after it has been puréed.

Pumpkin purée

1 pumpkin, cut into half and seeds removed
a large oven pan with sides
water

Line the large pan with parchment paper. This will make for easy clean-up. Cut the pumpkin into half and remove the seeds. I like to use a melon scoop as it is sharp enough to cut the strands surrounding the seeds. Pour about a 1.5 cm or half and inch of water into the pan and place the pumpkin halves cut side down into the pan. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the pumpkin feels tender when poked with a knife.

Allow to cool and remove the skin. It should come off very easily. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and purée with an immersion blender. Place into a sieve over a bowl and allow to drain for at least an hour. Your may gently press down once or twice with a spoon to help release excess water.

spaghetti squash collageThis past week I found a spaghetti squash at our local supermarket. It was a rare find indeed in this part of the world and since there were only two left on the shelf I thought that I must purchase it now, for it might be soon gone. Soon after Halloween, there were no pumpkins to be found at the grocery. Pumpkin just isn’t a thing here. I read a few blogs and then tried my own experimentation. I followed the same steps as with pumpkin purée above.

Spaghetti squash gets it’s name from the strands the flesh forms after it is baked. I used a fork to pull it out of the skin. It would work great with a sauce or sautéed with some garlic and butter. If I was to do this again I would not bake it as long, rather allowing to be al dente as it continues to cook when sautéed and mine turned almost to a mush at that point.

Spaghetti squash with garlic and kale

 

1 spaghetti squash, cut into half and seeds removed
water
knob of butter
handful of kale, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper
blue cheese, crumbled

Line a baking pan with sides with parchment paper and pour about 1.5 cm/ 1/2 inch of water. Place the squash halves so that they are facing cut side down. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 40-45 minutes or so that it feels tender but not too soft. I baked my for an hour and it was too long.

Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Turn the squash over and using a fork remove the inside of the squash and set aside. Mince three cloves of garlic and heat a generous knob of butter on a frying pan. Add the garlic and squash and sautée for a bit. Add the chopped kale and parsely. Last add in a sprinkle of blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Check for flavor.

sautéed spaghetti squashholiday 10

The Tiger and the Superhero Princess

by tableofcolors

Have you every gone shopping with a tiger and a superhero princess? I have, and let me tell you it was a one-of-a-kind experience. We had driven to Kouvola, about ten minutes away and parked our car on a lot that is on the roof of the shopping center. We had several errands, an eye check-up for one, a new lense cap for the camera as I had lost it in the field earlier in the morning and a little something for our new little niece. I had four with me and everything had gone just fine until the last stop. Maybe I should have been smarter and known to stop earlier but I decided that since we were out and about we might as well get the last thing on the list taken care of. We entered a clothing store that has cute little things for babies and for bigger kids and my two little darlings age three and five transformed into a tiger and a superhero princess, as they called themselves.

tiger and superhero princess editHere they are helping in the kitchen but as we went into the store, the superhero princess ran off with squeals and the tiger was soon after her with growls that only tigers know how to make. Pretty soon they were under a rack and another customer at the counter was giving me The Look. I gave her an apologizing look and proceeded to remove the tiger and the princess from under the hangers full of new clothes. For a few minutes the situation seemed to settle down and so we moved on to the baby section. As I turned my back to them, they started touching everything and suggesting what we should buy for cousin Alva. As I turned around there they stood right next to each other with a gleeful expression. They were having a squealing contest. At this point I decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest to exit the store as soon as possible. We headed to the cashier who was so very friendly and said that there is always room for noise in the world. We paid and left. Once we made it to the elevator, they had a little tussle over who gets to push the button. Fortunately there are two buttons to push, the up-button to call the elevator and the P-button inside the elevator for the parking ramp. I was glistening by the time I got everyone into the car, but as I put my seat belt on a large smile spread over my face and the frustration melted away as I realized that this would make a great blogging tale. Made up stories rarely beat real life. And so I sat by myself in the front seat of our Volkwagen Transporter with seats quite high that separates the front from the back quite efficiently, turned the radio on and secretly chuckled to myself.

chai latte spelt cookies

When I came home I thought I had earned this homemade chai latte and a spelt cookie with dried cranberry, dark and white chocolate and rough chunks of walnuts. The latte is made from a strong chai tea and fluffy milk using the trick I learned from Saskia at One Equals Two, and a bit of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It is an occasional treat perfect for dreary November afternoons, when the outdoors is drizzly and gray. The cookie is great because the balls of dough can be frozen and then baked off in a mere 8-9 minutes. The trick is to not over bake. Don’t mind it if the center looks still a bit undone when removing from the oven.

 

Homemade Chai latte

Brew a strong chai tea, using your favorite kind. ( I have been using Mokkamestarit brand sold at Punnitse ja Säästä )
Heat milk in a pot so that it is hot but not scalding. This is the crucial step to making your own frothy milk. I take it off the heat as soon as it is steaming just a bit and forming a couple of bubbles on the sides. Pour the heated milk into a French press, filling only half way. Place the plunger on top and move it up and down incorporating air into the milk. Once the milk has doubled in volume set aside for just a moment. Pour the tea into a warmed cup so that it fills one-third of the cup. Add a teaspoon or two of honey and gently stir. Remove the plunger from the French press and pour over the tea. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with a bit of honey.

 

Double chocolate Spelt cookie with cranberry and walnut (inspired by the recipe found on Sally’s baking addiction blog)

170 g/ 3/4 c (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
150 g/ 3/4 c dark brown sugar
50 g / 1/4 c sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
250 g/ 2 c flour (one third spelt and two thirds white flour)
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
100 g/3.5 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100 g/3.5 oz white chocolate, roughly chopped
60 g/2 oz dried cranberries
60 g/2 oz roughly chopped walnuts

Beat the softened butter and sugars until light and fluffy. I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat strongly until incorporated. Mix the spelt flour, white flour, corn starch, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl and fold into the butter mixture. Last add in the chopped chocolate, cranberries and walnuts. Using a cookie scoop make small balls and place into a freezer container or bag. My scoop makes a 30 g/1 oz cookie which I find to be the perfect size. Place the freezer bag or container into the freezer. If you desire a thicker cookie, allow the balls of dough to freeze. Heat oven and place the pre-made balls of cookie dough on a lined baking sheet. There is no need to thaw them out. I usually make a double batch to have some cookies ready to go for any surprise situations.

Bake at 175 C/ 350 F for 8-9 minutes.

 

 

kiddo lehti

Along with my rare quiet moment in my Movember kitchen is a stack of mustache kitchen rags that I found at Tiger (4 for 2 euros) and copy of the newest Kidd.o magazine which is a Finnish lifestyle magazine. It is thick and with filled with wonderfully inspiring photography and interesting articles. Glorious!

chai latte and spelt cookies 2This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series. Visit her site for a collection of blogs that showcase their kitchens every month.

A treasure hunt in the forest

by tableofcolors

Today is the perfect type of day to write a blog. In my room that has the computer, the blinds have been pulled up completely letting in the soft light of late October. Today is a rainy, windy and gray day and although I prefer to spend some time outside everyday, it is not especially enticing today. The leaves have now fallen and so the splashes of color that decorated the horizon is now a mere memory. It has been a little while since I wrote my blog last. The children had their fall break and all of the days were full of activity as we visited their grandparent’s a couple of hours away and had company visit us at the end of the week. And during that time our little one, almost not a baby anymore (although I still consider him one), learned to give little kisses.

little loveThe other week our family went on a mushroom picking trip with another family that we have been close friends with for years. The weather was quite warm and the kids thought it was almost like a treasure hunt. We only had a few hours and after scavenging one area of the forest, our Erik asked why were were quitting so early. Once you find one yellowfoot or funnel chanterelle, usually there is a cluster of them and the picking is quick if the spot is good.

picking yellowfootsuppilovahvero yellowfoot collageWe came home with about ten liters. Yesterday I read in the newspaper that even after our cold spell last week with freezing temperatures, the experts are saying that yellowfoot could still be picked since the warm and wet weather returned. So we will have to see if we make it into the woods once again before the snow falls.

I think the best way to store the mushrooms is by sautéeing them for a bit in a little butter and then vacuum packing them for the freezer. Most of the mushrooms we ate fresh and made a sauce for our Sunday dinner but some I saved for mushroom tarts this past weekend. This would be the perfect holiday fare and could be made with other mushrooms as well.

mushroom tart suppilovahvero piirakkaMushroom tart with leek  suppilovahvero piirakka
makes one large tart about 25 cm/ 9 inches or two smaller tarts

one portion of pie crust (recipe by Weiland and Tierney)

3 dl/1 and 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
115 g/4 oz unsalted cold butter cut into cubes
1 and 1/2 tbsp cold lemon juice
2-3 tbsp ice cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. I like to use my kitchenaid for this with the paddle attachment. Add the cold lemon juice and water and work the dough until it forms a ball. Allow to rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling. This pie crust freezes very well and can be prepared well in advance.

Filling

230 g/8 oz sauteed mushrooms
1/4 of a leek, finely chopped
240 g/8.5 oz sour cream
2 eggs
65 g/2.3 oz sharp cheese of your choice, grated (I used a mature Präst cheese)
salt
black pepper
oregano
marjoram

Sauté the cleaned and roughly chopped mushrooms and leeks until the liquid begins to evaporate. Add salt, pepper, oregano and marjoram and check for flavor. Remove from the heat. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, Präst cheese, salt and black pepper. Set aside for a few minutes.

Roll out the pie crust and place into the tart pan or pans. Prick the bottom with a fork. Add the mushrooms and leeks to the sour cream mixture and stir until combined. Pour into the tart pan and bake in the oven at 175 C/350 F for about 15 minutes if making two smaller tarts and 20-25 minutes for a larger tart. Allow to cool a bit before serving with a salad.

two little onesThe little one has a mind of his own. He has been taking steps for almost two months now when we encourage him, sometimes even twenty at a time, but he has not still decided that he is ready to walk. He thinks walking on his knees is the way to go.

girls picking musrhooms

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