tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Runeberg day and tarts

by tableofcolors

Yesterday was a day when flags were flown here in Finland. It was the day when Johan Ludvig Runeberg(1804-1877), a national renowned poet and writer, is remembered. He is seen as someone who helped shape and build the Finnish identity along with Elias Lönnrot who is known for his work collecting the epic poetry of the Kalevala. Often, we recognize the greatness in people after they have passed. Runeberg was an exception as Runeberg day was celebrated already during his lifetime. Runeberg wrote the words to the Finnish national anthem, Maamme or Our Land. The video below has the lyrics in both Finnish and English.

According to the legend, Runeberg had a sweet tooth and often requested his wife Fredrika to make something sweet to go with his breakfast along with punsch made from Arrack. The story tells that Fredrika would have made up the recipe for the Runeberg Tart, made with all of the things that could easily be found on hand. While the recipe for the tart has been found in her collection of recipes, it most likely is a version of the recipe created by baker Lars Astenius.

runebergintorttuTo tell you the truth, I have always had a bit of a prejudice towards the tarts as I have often found them a bit dry. My oldest daughter brought home samples from school that they had made in their cooking class. They had the perfect amount of moisture. And so I encouraged her to make a batch and so she did with just the tiniest bit of help from me. Whenever she cooks or bakes at home, she is able to write the cooking or baking project on a sheet in the back of her notebook along with a signature from a parent. This encourages the kids to try out the recipes at home, that they have first learned at school.

The following recipe is from her school book, with a few minor changes. In order to make the tarts more moist, I added to the recipe the traditional syrup that is used in most recipes. We ended up not using the syrup as we didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, but felt that for the perfect tart it needs a bit of moisture.

Runeberg tarts (Erityisen hyvä kotitalous, Kukkola, Linjalahti & Seppänen)

1 dl/ 1/2 c flour
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c bread crumbs or cookie crumbs
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c chopped almonds
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 t baking powder
100 g/3.5 oz butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1 dl/ 1/2 c single cream or milk

Cream the softened butter and sugar together until a light fluffy mixture. Add in the egg and beat well. Add in the almond extract and mix. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Fold in the dry ingredients with the butter mixture. Mix in the cream or milk. Grease and flour a muffin tin. Traditionally the tarts have straight sides, but a regular muffin tin will work as well. Spoon the batter into a tin of twelve. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 8-10 minutes.

Syrup
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c rum or punsch
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c water
2 tbsp brown sugar

Place the water and sugar into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Add in the rum. Spoon the syrup over the baked tarts.

Icing

2 tsp lemon juice or water
icing sugar

Raspberry or apple jam

Mix the icing ingredients and fill a plastic bag or parchment paper icing tube. Using the icing, make small circles on all of the tarts. Place a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each tart.

runeberg tartssnowman Collage

runeberg tarts 2resources: https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runebergintorttu

https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Ludvig_Runeberg

Sun dogs and squeaky cheese

by tableofcolors

The real winter has arrived. None of this sort-of-cold-weather, but a cold front had arrived from Siberia making our eyelashes all frosty white after being outside. It has been just beautiful and the sun has been almost blinding. In spite of the cold, the kids have been skiing in the yard, even the two-year old. But I have been concerned at times for our school children as they leave for school around 7.30 or 8.30 am, depending on their schedule that day and the temperature has at times been close to -30 C/-22 F. We try to drive them whenever possible in this weather, but sometimes that is not an option. So they bike and walk when the car is not available.

sun dogs haloilmiöWe had an incident last week, where our little Professor who is first grade had had skating in gym class right during his last period. He tends to get cold easier, unlike his older sister who didn’t start wearing gloves to school until right before Christmas. Older kids often help the little ones with tying their skates and his were in double knots. The teacher had another class scheduled in a different school and left these little ones on their own to take their skates off outside and leave for home. I know that my feet often get cold when I go skating and so I’m pretty sure his were a bit chilly, not to mention his hands as he was trying to undo the laces. Finally a bigger kid had noticed him and helped him out. Time had passed and I kept looking out of the window to see if he was coming home. I generally do give him an hour to come home from school, since he is the type of kid who stops and watches the swans as they feed on the field or swim in the river. Or once he told me after he had been late to school and I was interviewing him to see if he had taken some sort of a long-cut, “But, Mom. It is much slower to ride my bike on the grass than it is on the bike path.” He never did tell me if he had ridden his bike in the ditches the whole way to school. It may perhaps remain always a mystery as he seemed completelyand innocently surprised when the teacher told him that he has been late once again. I do believe though that he has made it to school on time recently as we haven’t received quite as many notes, but I suppose we will find out tomorrow at conferences.

But back to last week. An hour had passed. It just happened to be a day that I did not have a car to use and I was home with just the little ones. I was just at the point that perhaps I should go look for him as it was really windy day even though the temperatures where not quite so cold , when a pedestrian on a walk called me. He asked me if I was expecting a first-grader home. I certainly was. Our little one was cold and had been crying. It just so happened that a police car was driving by and as we were on the phone, he flagged it down. And so in the end our little Professor  got a ride home with the police. This was a first in our family.

ice crystals

So this week, I have been trying to walk to school at the end of the day to meet him and help him come home a bit quicker. Today I pulled our little one in a sled and Bella ran along side hopping on the sled every once in a while. We had made it almost to the school and I was beginning to wonder where he might be. Well, there he was not far from the school standing on the sidewalk, thinking about something someone had said at school that day, and school had ended an hour ago. Not that this would really matter, but the temperature was below -20C/-4F and there was a little over a mile to walk.

valokeidas metsässäWith a little encouragement, we made it home and had hot chocolate to warm our cold fingers.hot chocolateI thought I would share a recipe that has long traditions in Finland and will warm up any winter day. Leipäjuusto or Finnish squeaky cheese was traditionally made in the summer and fall when milk was available and the English name for it comes from the sound it makes when one eats it. The old way of enjoying leipäjuusto is with coffee. The dessert I will suggest is newer way of serving it and is perfect for these cold winter days.

My childhood piano teacher, Susan, grew up on a farm and with the tradition of squeaky cheese. I think her recipe on the video below is clear and my husband gave it a try before Christmas. It turned out perfect. If you don’t have farm fresh milk available, skim milk works as well. Low-fat or whole milk are not suggested. Click on the link below to see the whole process.

In Finland the cloudberry is very prized as it not the easiest berry to pick. It grows in the marshes, and one may need to cover a lot of ground when picking them. The marsh is a springy surface so it feels like walking on a wet mattress as your foot sinks in a bit with each step. Last summer when we were in northern Sweden and Norway, I was hoping to find some berries to photograph and to eat, of course. But the summer was late in coming and all I found was few late blooms and a few raw berries. The photo below is from wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the cloudberry grows in all of the northern regions across Russia, the Nordic countries across Canada and Alaska.

cloudberry dessert

Cloudberry dessert with Finnish Leipäjuusto

 

Finnish leipäjuusto, cut into traditional diamond shapes or triangles
good quality cloudberry jam or preserves
100 g/3.5 oz white chocolate, melted
cinnamon

Heat a cast iron skillet so that it reaches a medium heat. Add the triangles to the heated pan and allow the pieces of cheese cook until the bottom is a golden brown and the top is slightly melted. Remove the pieces of cheese and place them on dessert plates or alternatively on pieces of thin crisp bread. Drizzle with white chocolate and add a teaspoon of cloudberry preserves on each serving. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon. Enjoy immediately.

spelttinäkkäri ja itsetehty leipäjuusto

spelttinäkkäri ja leipäjuustoa lakkahillolla

The day Christmas left

by tableofcolors

Today Christmas left the house. Well, not quite all of the way. The Christmas stars are still in the windows bringing light into the dark evenings and the Christmas decorations that the children made are still on the wall. But the Christmas tree, which was quite large, nearly 4 meters(13 feet) in height was carried out and burned in a bonfire. All of a sudden it seemed as if the living room and dining area had become more spacious.IMG_2778 This past week has been cold. So cold that I have even given rides to kids on some of the school mornings (-29 C/-20F). Usually they always bike whether it is snows, rains or shines. It has been beautiful during the days, but when you open the door in the evenings you can literally see the cold roll into the house. Today it was only -15/5 F and it felt quite balmy. In spite of the cold weather, the scenery from the kitchen window has given a promise of spring as the sun has been shining so bright.

Christmas leaving and january lightIt has been our tradition to celebrate a birthday that happens to land right in the days in between Christmas and New Year’s on New Year’s Eve. Later we will have a party for friends after all of the excitement of the holidays has died down.

happy birthday kotivinkki joulukakkuI used Jamie Oliver’s simple sponge for the cake and filled it with a mixture of quark and cream and a thin layer of cloudberry preserves. The idea for the decoration of the cake came from the December cover of the Finnish women’s magazine Kotivinkki.

sponge cake with cloudberry

Wintery Cloudberry cake

The recipe for the sponge cake can be found here. Since it is such a versatile recipe, it has been often used for different cakes. This time, I doubled the recipe and baked it on a sheet pan from which I cut three circles. One of the circles was a bit of piecemeal, but after filling the cake, I wrapped it tight with cling film and allowed to rest in the refrigerator.

Filling
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c whipping cream
500 g/16 oz quark
1 dl/ 1/2 c of sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar or exract

Whip the cream until thick. Fold in the quark. Flavor with sugar and vanilla sugar or extract.

Good quality cloudberry jam or preserves (I like to use Meritalo brand)

generous 1 dl/ 3/4 c milk for moistening the cake

Topping
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c whipping cream
sugar to taste

Make the filling and set aside for a bit. Take the three circles of cake and place one circle on a cake stand or dish of your preference. Lightly moisten with milk. Spread a thin layer of cloudberry jam on the cake. For a stronger flavor of cloudberry, apply a bit of a thicker layer. Spoon a generous layer of the cream mixture on top of the cloudberry jam and place the next circle of cake on top. Repeat process until the last layer of cake is placed on top. Remember to moisten the top layer of cake with milk and a thin layer of cloudberry jam to act as a crumb sealer before the cake is frosted with whipped cream. The cake is at its best if allowed to rest in the refrigerator for several hours or even overnight. Decorate right before serving with crushed candy canes and pine trees made from paper and glued onto wooden sticks. If you have kids, they will be happy to help with part of the project.

ice blossoms

january afternoon

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series that is now hosted by Maureen at the Orgasmic Chef. Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial is taking a break from hosting. Stop by Maureen’s blog for links to kitchens all around the world.

The sparkle in the eyes of children

by tableofcolors

Christmas at home

Photo by LAAVU, Kaija E. Wuollet

Can’t you just feel the anticipation in the faces of the children in the photo above? It was finally the day that they had been waiting for months and a mark that spring would arrive after the darkness as the Winter Solstice, which was on December 22nd this year had been passed. I’m not sure if they had actually been called to the table yet, but they couldn’t really help themselves. Afterall, Joulupukki or Santa Claus magically knows when we have eaten our dinner, and will not arrive before that time. Little did they know, that Joulupukki was actually sitting at the table with us, eating dinner.

Hugo waiting for dinnerSitting on santa's lap joulupukkiThe days before Christmas are often so full of things to do that it seems to me, that the Mother’s Christmas begins after the presents are unwrapped and everyone is playing or admiring their new things. But without the waiting and the anticipation, the pleasure of Christmas or the relaxation that can be almost felt in the air, be so great.

ruispipareitaBefore Christmas I promised a recipe for rye gingerbread cookies that I tried for the first time this year. Their flavor was delicious, and the cookie was a bit softer than the traditional gingerbread and chewy. The dough is bit more tricky than the traditional version and it needed quite a bit of flour when rolling out. This year I also made a traditional batch of dough, as gingerbread cookie baking is something that the children always enjoy, and the regular version of the dough is easier for little hands to handle.

gingerbread cookie baking
Rye Gingerbread Cookies

200 g/ 7 oz butter
2 dl/ 1 c molasses or cane sugar syrup
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp allspice
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
2 eggs
3 1/2 dl/ 1 and 1/2 c rye flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 dl/1 c almond flour/meal
5 dl/just over 2 c flour
dash salt

This recipe is originally from the Finnish food blog Kaikki äitini reseptit. I have changed it a bit to make it easier on the baker.

Put the molasses, sugar and spices into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to bubble for a few minutes so that the sugar begins to melt. Remove from heat and add in the cold butter, stirring it every once in while until completely melted and combined. Add in the eggs one by one and stir until incorporated. Add the baking soda and salt to the rye flour and combine with the molasses mixture. Next add in the almond meal and finally the flour. Mix until it forms an even cookie dough. It will be very sticky at this time. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

When rolling out the cookie dough, I recommend that the dough is rolled out twice. It allows for more wheat flour to be absorbed into the dough and that way the cookies do not spread too much on the cookie sheet. These cookies will spread a bit more than traditional gingerbread, but only a bit more if rolled out twice.

Bake for about 4-6 minutes at 200 C/390 F.

rye gingerbread

Hoping your Christmas season was peaceful and a Happy New Year 2016!

Christmas is coming in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

On top of our wood buring oven is a pile of chocolate advent calendars and each morning the children open another window in the calendar and savor their piece of chocolate. Our two-year old had shaken his calendar at the store with so much vigor that most of his chocolates have dropped out of their allocated spots and are sitting at the bottom of the calendar causing it to bulge. He just wouldn’t give it up and insisted on holding it all the way to the register. I didn’t feel like arguing over such a minor detail. In the end, it probably does not really matter to him if the chocolates are not all in their places as long as he gets one everyday. It is countdown to Christmas, and everyday the children ask if we will be putting up a new decoration or Christmas light or perhaps do a little Christmas baking.

making christmas ornamentsThis year we decide to make ornaments out of salt dough for the teachers. First of all, almost all kids love playing with dough and so this was the perfect way to let them become involved. Our two-year old sat at the table perfectly entertained for probably an hour shaping his own piece of dough. Other than a bit of effort, these ornaments are easy on the pocketbook and you can let your imagination run.

Salt dough

3 dl/1 and 1/3 c flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c salt
1.5 dl/ 3/4 c water

Mix all the ingredients and allow to rest for a bit wrapped under cling film. Gently sprinkle the counter top with flour and using a rolling pin an cookie cutters make different shapes. We used clean letter stamps for the words and a dinner knife to cut around them. Remember to make a hole through which a piece of string or twine may be later pulled through for hanging.

Bake at 100 C/210 F for a couple of hours. A couple of days later we painted ours white with acrylic paint that had been thinned with a bit of water. Spray paint might be even easier for an even and thin coat of paint.

The idea for these came from a Finnish women’s magazine Kotivinkki, but the original Finnish recipe that I used can be found here. The internet is full of salt dough recipes, some that have a bit of oil and some that do not. I noticed that best results are had when the oven is not too hot.

christmas ornaments made with salt dough

christmas ornaments made with salt dough 2During the past few months we have had a facebook group in the Kouvola area that organizes that local food producers are able to sell their products directly to the consumer, similar to a farmer’s market. It takes place about twice a month. So far we have tried out an ostrich egg, which really peaked the interest of the children. The past time I bought different kinds of flour from a local mill with the intention to do a bit of holiday baking.

raussilan myllyn jauhotpiparitalkoot making gingerbreadHere is the recipe for my classic gingerbread cookies. Next time I will share a recipe for rye gingerbread cookies that have a bit of almond flour in them. Definitely delicious!

I would like to share a bit of the sounds of my kitchen. Yesterday was the 150th birthday of the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. The other week we visited a Jean Sibelius recital put on by young music students. The children and youth were all dressed in the time period and represented children of Jean Sibelius and their various cousins. Their teacher played the part of Aino Sibelius, wife of Jean and told little historical stories along with photos and between each bit one of the children would perform a short piece by Sibelius.

 

terveisiä ainolasta

And what was even better was that the children have started recognizing the music of Sibelius when it is played on the radio. They might come up and say, “I think this is Sibelius.” The following piece is one of their favorites.

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series that she hosts every month. Be sure to drop by her blog for a reference list of bloggers all around the world and their kitchens.

 

November Light

by tableofcolors

The day before yesterday, the kitchen was full of little people. Everyone wanted to participate in some way and I was needing to use my imagination in creating cake-making jobs of equal importance. Equality was the theme of the day. One of the kids remembered who had made most of the Mother’s day cake and in her opinion it would be unfair if this wrong was to be repeated again. Diplomacy skills were in need and of course a bit of organization. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a human right’s lawyer.

father's day breakfastIn November my kitchen is full of soft light that quickly disappears in the afternoons and yesterday we had a Father’s day breakfast that supposed to be prepared quietly but in fact, but due to the excitement the children didn’t always remember to be so quiet. Erik asked at one point if he could go wake up Bella, as she would prefer to sleep in every morning, just pulling the blanket a little higher and requesting for just another little cat nap before getting up for the day. He crept upstairs, and climbed to the top bunk to wake her up. She must have not protested this particular morning as soon I heard a giant thump and a scramble as they were probably racing to see who reached the stairs first. But they did creep down the stairs again, to try not wake up Isi this morning.

isänpäiväHe probably was awake when we finally made our way upstairs with our tray of breakfast and a song, but he did his best to pretend to be asleep so that the children could wake him up. Happy Father’s day! You are so very important to us <3

making no-bake mango cheesecake

Lemon-Mango No-bake Cheesecake (to be made the day before serving)

Crust
about 14-16 digestive cookies or 12-13 graham crackers, crushed
50 g/1.8 oz butter, melted
3 tbsp sugar

Filling

2 dl/1 generous cup of heavy whipping cream
400 g/14 oz marscapone cheese
500 g/17.5 oz quark
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
2-3 tbsp lemon curd
zest of one lemon
five gelatin leaves

(boiling water to dissolve the gelatin leaves with)

mango topping
250 g/9 oz puréed mango
1 gelatin leaf

mango no-bake cheesecakeThe Father’s day cake had to be simple enough for the kid’s to make by themselves with a little help and guidance. This cake is easy.

Place the gelatin leaves into a bowl full of cold water to soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile crush the graham crackers or cookies and line a 10 inch spring-form with baking paper on the bottom. Place the cookie crumbs in the lined form along with the sugar and melted butter, stir to combine and them pat down using the bottom of a glass to form a crust. Next whip the heavy whipping cream until thick and fold in the marscapone cheese, quark, sugar, lemon juice and zest and lemon curd. Taste and add sugar if you prefer a sweeter tart.

Boil water in a teapot or saucepan and while it is coming to boil, remove five of the gelatin leaves from the cold water. Squeeze the gelatin leaves to remove excess water and place in a very small dish. Pour in just enough boiling water to dissolve the leaves and fold in the hot gelatin mixture with the filling. Pour the cake filling on the prepared cookie crumb crust and smooth the top.

Take the last gelatin leaf and squeeze it free of excess water. Repeat as done above with the boiling water, making sure not to use too much water. Mix the gelatin mix with the puréed mango and spread over the cheesecake filling. Refrigerate.

father's day breakfast 2Father’s day breakfast menu: Popovers, one filled with a dab of butter, Maasdam cheese, lettuce and tomato and other filled with a dab of butter and cloudberry preserves. Blueberry smoothie with kale, mango cheesecake and the coffee was freshly ground Kaffa Roastery’s Indian Monsoon Malabar Barista Blend.

While the children where making the no-bake cheesecake, I decided to roast my two pumpkins I had on hand. One was of the Hokkaido variety, which I tried out for the first time. The pulp was much more denser in comparison to my other pumpkin. The other pumpkin had served double duty as a decoration waiting to be oven-roasted, drained and then puréed. They will become our Thanksgiving and Christmas pumpkin pies.

I noticed that the one pumpkin was filled with little holes made with pen or pencil one morning. I asked the kids, who might have made little holes into my pumpkin? Our two-year old Hugo heard the question, walked over and proudly showed me with swinging motions of his arms of how he had made the holes into the pumpkin. He doesn’t speak much yet, but he understands everything and manages quite swell with a few words, expressions and impressive sign language that he has made up himself. His smile was so wide and his bright blue eyes shone. How could I be mad. Afterall they were going to be roasted and the outer skin was going to be discarded anyways. Recipe for making homemade pumpkin purée can be found here.

roasting pumpkinsroasted pumpkinMy kitchen in November is full of yellows and oranges, candlelight to light the dark mornings and evenings and the soft light from outside. Sometimes the outside light is a shade of gray as it was today and sometimes it too, has golden hues and bright blues.

morning sunNovember morning sun from our dining room window. Happy November!

 

This In My Kitchen post is part of Celia’s monthly series hosted on Fig Jam Lime Cordial, providing links to kitchens around the world.

Little Angel

by tableofcolors

little angel

This weekend Halloween is here, but in many cultures in different areas of the world, All Saints’ Day and the Day of the Dead is celebrated. It is a day of remembrance of our loved ones who have passed before us. Even in Finland, traditional Halloween as known in the United States, has made its way into mainstream culture. Schools host Halloween parties and yesterday I had meeting in Helsinki and I had to quick come up with a costume plan for the party-goers, long-distance. We happened to have some cheap, white curtain fabric from Ikea that had sat in my cupboard for about 11 years, never serving the purpose they had been intended for. And so my husband used it to make the kids into mummies. Cheap, effiencient and I got another space in my cupboard cleaned out.

 

syysusva

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

excerpt from the poem, For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Tomorrow the stores will all be closed and so I just returned home from a quick last minute run to the grocery. The lines were long. I suppose everyone else had the same idea as well. As I drove to the grocery store that is close by, I drove by the large white church surrounded by cemetary. It was already dark and so the whole church yard twinkled with the lights of hundreds of candles. Such a calming sight.

As I was driving, the news was playing on the radio. We have had a very different October weather-wise. Traditionally in Finland, October and November are quite dreary and it might rain and the sky might be gray for weeks on end. Or that is how it feels. We have had more sunshine this month than ever has been previously recorded. Of course in between the sunny days there have been a few misty ones as well. Along with the coming of fall, it has felt good to eat and drink things that hold a bit of sunshine and are full of vitamins to help make it through the darkest time of year.

green smoothiesGreen smoothies for two

juice of two oranges
juice of one lemon
3 cm/1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into smaller pieces
1 or 2 leaves of kale, with the stems removed and ripped into bunches
1 banana
ice

(for a change in color, add some blueberries (frozen or fresh) to the mix above)

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.
kale smoothieenjoying green smoothies

little angel 2May your weekend be peaceful and may the angels accompany you.

I Heard your Voice in the Wind today -unkown

I heard your voice in the wind today
and I turned to see your face;
The warmth of the wind caressed me
as I stood silently in place.

I felt your touch in the sun today
as its warmth filled the sky;
I closed my eyes for your embrace
and my spirit soared high.

I saw your eyes in the window pane
as I watched the falling rain;
It seemed as each raindrop fell
it quietly said your name.

I held you close in my heart today
it made me feel complete;
You may have died…but you are not gone
you will always be a part of me.

As long as the sun shines…
the wind blows…
the rain falls…
You will live on inside of me forever
for that is all my heart knows.

little angels 3

Friendship in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

My kitchen often reaches a state of mess, or perhaps I should state it another way. It attains a lived-in feel. As I write, I can hear my oldest and fourth and fifth oldest making carrot sticks and dip for a snack and the youngest is asking for samples. Occasionally his voice becomes high-pitched if the hand-outs do not come fast enough. With so many little ones and hands, messes are bound to happen. But all around the kitchen are little tokens from friends or from my children. Tokens of friendship and love, and they brighten up my kitchen even if there is a grand mess to greet my eyes. Messes can fortunately be cleaned up.

hay papertowel holder and flower stand

I used to have an issue with my paper towel roll, that I would tuck it into this drawer or that cupboard. It just didn’t look appealing to my eye, until I received this Hay paper towel holder from some friends for my birthday. Everyday I enjoy this little thing in my kitchen and move it around to where there are sticky little hands and bright eyes looking at me, or a spot of juice on the floor. Underneath the flower pot is a blue wooden flower stand made with love by one of my daughters at school. She had chosen the paint color and thought it might bring a pop of color.

japanese graterThis Japanese grater was a gift from a friend and a souvenir from the Helsinki design expo, Habitare. The idea has been brought from Japan, but the grater has been made locally about an hour and half away, in Porvoo. It is so pretty that it can hold a block of parmesean cheese at the table so that each may grate their own cheese on to their pasta or salad.

green tea marimekko teapotOne day a friend stopped over and brought me a little bag of the most heavenly tea. Many teas smell wonderful but often the flavor does not match up. This green tea with little pieces of dried strawberries tastes like it smell. It is from a little tea shop in Helsinki called The Ounce. And as the name suggests, they sell tea by the ounce which is certainly a rarity in Finland. The Marimekko teapot is one of my favorite little things and is perfect for brewing tea as it has a ceramic sift on the inside that is easy to remove and wash. The pot came to be ours by accident. We were buying a group Christmas present and I noticed that they had great sale at Marimekko in November that was held on only that particular weekend. So without consulting any of the others, I popped in and bought it. Well it came to be, that not everyone was as keen on the idea of a teapot and together we came up with another good idea. And so in the end, I had a teapot all wrapped up pretty perched on my wood-burning oven. I asked my husband, if it should be our Christmas present that year. Really I didn’t mind, as I was in love with the pot and had been eyeing for a few years already.

party cakes with chocolate garnish

Last weekend we celebrated my father-in-law’s sixtieth birthday. My mother-in-law had made the cakes, but asked for a little help with the garnishes. With a little help of a youtube video I decided on these chocolate circles.

circles for chcocolate garnishes

Lay a sheet of foil on your work surface. Next, using a piece of parchment paper, cut out circles of different size. Melt and temper your chocolate. I feel that tempering the chocolate is the most challenging part of the process. Basically tempering chocolate involves melting chocolate that is not higher in than 70% in cocoa solids, and then cooling it down while mixing or working the chocolate. Basically what happens is the fatty acid crystals separate and in the tempering process they brought back together giving them all of the wonderful qualities that are desired of chocolate. In Finland, I usually use the Fazer taloussuklaa or baking chocolate which has a cocoa solid percentage of about 55%. I’ve noticed that chocolates with a higher percentage do not behave the way I wish. I have used these two sites as my tempering guide when working with chocolate. Chocolate tempering guide by cookbook author David Lebovitz and Chocolate #101: Tempering at home, by the lovely Celia who also hosts In My Kitchen every month.

diy chocolate garnishesThen very carefully remove the paper and allow to harden.

drying chocolate garnishes

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably. –William Penn

Aggie & Ray's cousins etcTo end I thought to share a couple of keepsake photos that I have been looking at. The one above is of cousins having a good time. I wonder what the occasion might have been, might it have been a wedding? They certainly were dressed up splendid.

Elma & SofieAnd in many previous posts I have followed the travels and stories of great-aunt Elma. Perhaps some of the photos that have survived can be attributed to Sofie Wuollet who is standing next to Elma in the photo above. Sofie was a photographer capturing many images that had an every-day quality to them in a time where most photos are quite posed. But how lucky we are today to have these photos. Friendship carries, even if your kitchen is a mess.

“My best friend is a man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.” –Aristotle

This post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series, check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

 

Sand sculptures and picnic lunches

by tableofcolors

School was about to begin and we decided with another Mom friend of mine to take the kids on one last outing before they would need to go to school. Just about an hour away is Lappeenranta, which is right next to the Russian border and is has been built on the shores of the great lake area, the Saimaa. Every year the city opens a park full of sand sculptures. This year the theme was heroes. There were all sorts of heroes featured, superheroes from the comic books, athletes and everyday heroes such as doctors. Since the beginning of the summer had been so rainy, some of the sculptures had suffered a bit and were being fixed up.

lappenranta hiekkalinna

It was not long after we arrived and it was almost noon, so we decided to give the kids a little snack of watermelon, as we would have our picnic lunch later in the afternoon. My four year old was sitting on the bench eating her watermelon when a reporter for the local YLE (Finnish national public radio) radio station stopped by and asked if she interview one of the children. Bella just happened to be right there.

Have you been here before? “Yes, many times.”

Did you think the sculptures are better this year than before? “Yes, much better.”

Which is your favorite sculpture? “That castle over there” (It was the only sculpture that we had had a chance to look at since we had just arrived.)

What is your favorite thing to do here? “Eating” (munching on her watermelon, all through the interview)

I do have to mention, that she had never been to Lappeenranta before nor had we ever visited the sand sculptures before. She just conveniently came up with answers to the questions. After the interview, we had to let the reporter in on this little detail. I’m not sure I would have handled an interview so smoothly at four years old. At least she did give her correct name and age, when asked! And I forgot to take a photo of the whole deal. I was concentrating so hard on listening to her answers that I completely forgot even if I was holding my camera the entire time.

lappeenranta sand sculpturesrakuuna dragonlappenranta finland sand sculptures

It was quite late into the afternoon before we left the sand sculptures and went to find a greener park with shade for our picnic. We found a park that had a pavilion that the kids enjoyed creating their own performances and large trees that brought us a bit of shade after being in the sun all afternoon.

IMG_1745
roasted vegetable salad

I had made a salad bar style salad, with a basic salad base and then different options all in their own containers. This was the most convenient since we had different age eaters and sometimes the little ones haven’t really learned to eat nuts or if there is someone with a dietary restriction everyone is able to build a salad to their taste.

Roasted Vegetable salad

Roasted vegetables

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 generous handful of string beans, washed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepapre the vegetables. Peel and cut the sweet potato into sticks. Wash the string beens and cut the tips off. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until tender and the vegetables have gained a bit of color at 180 C/ 350 F. Allow to cool and then place into a separate container.

Salad
Mixed greens (Romano, kale, curly endive lettuce, spinach…)
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Grapes, sliced in half
Cucumber, cubed
A few sliced strawberries (I happened to find a few last strawberries in my patch)
light vinaigrette dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, handful of parsely, or other gardern herbs, finely chopped)

Toss the salad and place into a larger container.

In separate containers pack with: roasted and shelled peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries, cheese cubed, pumpkin seeds, or anything else that takes your fancy.

picnic lunch

Lappenranta picnic

fixing the sand sculptures

I’ll be back someday

by tableofcolors

norwegian fjords fauskeThis time for In My Kitchen, I thought to share a bit of our trip to Norway. While we were in the wilderness in Sweden (previous post) and camping in Norway we used a Jetboil that boils water very quickly to which it is easy to add dried packaged food or oats for oatmeal. I was actually a little worried if we would have enough to eat as my husband can go for hours between meals, but I usually eat every few hours to keep my blood sugar in balance. We did have a trailmix with that we made before we left and I had bar of good quality of dark chocolate as well as some hearty rye bread and butter. Beyond the pictures are the inspiration that I felt once returning to my own kitchen. You may indeed be surprised. I made English muffins and they were delicious even though they did require a bit of effort.

We arrived into Norway in the evening and the sky was taking on shades from the setting sun. We drove to Fauske, visited a grocery store and even found some lefse. Certainly not quite as good as the homemade ones that Gramma Renie would make for Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was a child. Once I find her old recipe or another one that works great I will share. Since we were camping and have a big car, we decided to pull over at a rest stop for the night and sleep in the car. Not necessarily the most glamourous way to travel but we were on a budget and our scenery was certainly beautiful. My sister and her family lived in Norway for a couple of months this past summer and she had told me before hand that Norwegians are really into their hi-tech sports gear and you will see people walking around town in good quality sports wear. I figured we might just fit in.

norwegian fjords fauske 2There was something so peaceful in the shapes of the fjords and the water nestled right next to each other. I could just feel my soul rest.

2015-07-22 07.38.00

Morning sun in Fauske, Norway

The next morning, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the soft pastels of the evening before had changed into intense blues and greens.

bodø

We drove to the small coastal city of Bodø which is on the Artic Sea and was about an hour away from Fauske.

bodø harborI could have easily spent a few more days or a week here if we would have had the time. On the other hand this just whetted my appetite and I certainly would like to go back.

Artic Sea in BodøWe didn’t go swimming in the Artic Sea, as the water was quite chilly and air was cool, but we did dip our hands in the water. Perhaps if the day had been different we might have attempted swimming.

old train station and bridges in Fauske

It would be interesting to know the story behind the boat that was situated behind what looked like an old train station used for industry.

scandinavian mountains CollageI was quite ready for a hearty meal after eating our camping foods. In Finland they do not sell ready made English muffins and for some time I had been toying with the idea of making of my own. So one Saturday I set out to try my hand at it and the result was delicious even if the process was quite tedious. Next time, instead of doubling the batch I think I will quadruple it so there might be some for the freezer as this time they were all gone by the next day, except for two which I stashed away. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they kept until the next day. Nearly as good as on the first day.

I used the recipe for my English muffins from the Food52 website and tutorial was great. If you would like step-by-step photos of the whole process visit their site. My recipe is slightly changed below and mainly because I did not have buttermilk in the fridge so I substituted it with yoghurt (which in Finland has a very buttermilk-like consistency, in other words it is drinkable). Many recipes that I found used milk, but I preferred the slight tangy sourness the buttermilk or yoghurt brought to the dough.

  • 2 1/3 tablespoons active dry yeast (a little less than the contents of two 1/4 oz packets)
  • 1/2 dl/ 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 dl/ 1 3/4 cups buttermilk or yoghurt
  • 9.5 dl/ 4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 dl/1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 70 g/5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • Cornmeal or polenta

english muffins going into the ovenCombine the yeast and water into a bowl of a standmixer with a dough hook. Mix until yeast is dissolved. Microwave the buttermilk or yoghurt for about 20-30 seconds, just so it loses it’s refrigerator chill. Add it into the water and yeast mixture. Add in the flour, sugar and salt and mix until it becomes a droopy dough.  Add in the room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Make sure the butter is room temperature so that you do not need to overwork the dough. At this point it will not form a ball. Knead for 7-8 minutes until is starts to hold its shape but is still tacky.

Lightly spray a large mixing bowl with oil and move the dough to it and cover with cling wrap and allow to rise for one hour. After if has risen, place the bowl into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill. This will make the dough easier to handle. While the dough’s resting, line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and then generously cover with cornmeal or polenta. Next, very lightly dust your work surface with flour. Turn the dough over on your work surface and knead it a few times to remove the air bubbles. Form it into a fat log. Pinch of pieces about he size of a handball (60 g) and roll into a ball. Once it has formed into a ball, transfer on the baking sheet with cornmeal and slightly flatten and then gently flip it around so the other side gets a coating of cornmeal as well. At this point you may cover the baking pans with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutesif you like, for easier handling and if you do not have time to bake the English muffins at the moment, they keep in the fridge up to three days.

Heat your oven to 120 C/250 F and take out your cast iron skillet. In the photo above the four on the right have been toasted on the cast iron skillet and are ready for the oven and the row on the left are still waiting for the cast iron skillet treatment.

The original recipe recommends baking them in the cast iron skillet for 4-5 minutes on one side until it domes on very low heat and then flipping them over for another 4-5 minutes and then continuing at a higher heat, flipping every 2-3 minutes. I did not skillet bake them as long, as my skillet is fairly small and a double batch would have taken all day. Instead I opted to for the first stage of skillet-baking for 4-5 minutes per side and then moving them back onto the baking sheet and baking them in the oven for a longer time of 15-20 minutes instead of the 10 minutes prescribed in the original recipe. Do as you feel is convenient in your kitchen.

Fortunately I had a Sloppy Joe filling ready to go in the refridgerator that had been leftover from our dinner the night before, and so we had Sloppy Joes with our English Muffins and everyone loved them.

sloppy joes

Sloppy Joe filling
500 g/18 oz ground beef
1 onion
5 dl/2 c broth (or you may substitute with one package of organic onion soup and 5 dl/ 2 c water)
300 g/10 oz crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef with onion. Add in the broth or onion soup, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Allow to simmer until the consistency becomes thicker. Mix in the balsamic vinegar and season to taste. Spoon a generous spoonful on an English muffin half, garnish with grated cheese and put the top into place. Enjoy with a freshly tossed garden salad.

diy egg mcmuffinWhen I was a teenager, I worked at McDonald’s for about three years. I must say that it was a great job that taught me lot about producing food that always had the same consistency. And while some may scoff at a job at McDonald’s I feel that the training I received created a base for the work I am doing now. I haven’t had an Egg McMuffin for years. I’m not even sure I had one when I worked there but I thought to make my own DIY version. The stash of two that I had stuck quick into the freezer became a lunch for me and snack for my son after he returned home. And he ate the whole thing even if he is not real big on eggs (unless they are hardboiled) and cheese.

DIY Egg Mcmuffin
Split two English muffins and toast (butter is optional, I didn’t miss it at all)
Slowly cook two eggs, sunny side up
sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper
slice two slices of good quality cheese of your taste
a few leaves of spinach and parsley for garnish

Put your sandwich together with the cheese on the bottom and next the warm eggs and finishing off with the spinach and parsley. Enjoy!

 

owl eyes eggs in a panSo this month in my kitchen I had a set of owl eyes in my cast iron pan, a bit of adventure and comfort food for the days that are whispering fall. (And since I only had one egg form, I used a cookie/pastry cutter for the second one and it worked quite well.)

Travel expands your horizon a little wider

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series that she hosts each month allowing readers peeks into kitchens around the world.

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