tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

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

Searching for the mythical characters of Kalevala

by tableofcolors

I’ve come to realize how much our history and maybe more specifically language has an impact on whole nations of people and the way we think. As a kid, I often heard it said that language defines a culture. I really did not understand the concept at the time. It was not until later that I realized that each language has their own words and phrases that often are difficult to translate because the feeling or experience is unique to that specific environment and surrounding. These expressions hold nuances that tell about the culture and mindset of the people and sometimes even explain the way people act. The Kalevala, which is the Finnish national epic poem, has had a significant part in the development of the Finnish language and identity and has been studied by scholars since Elias Lönnrot. Lönnrot was a physician, botanist and linguist. In the late 1820s and 1830s he made numerous field trips to collect the songs of the Kalevala and oral history that had been handed down from generation to generation but was slowing starting to disappear as Western European culture was making its way into Finland. The youtube link below is a Kalevala song with English subtitles.

The other week, we had a chance with Antti to go hiking in the landscape of the national park, Repovesi. As we walked and climbed the trails covered in small boulders or through the marsh on wooden planks, surrounded by a carpet of the light colored Sphagnum moss that had been used as insulation in houses of yesteryear, I could easily imagine the mythical world of the Kalevala that inhabited this Nordic land.

rahkasammal repovesi

The story begins with the creation of the earth and has characters that go on seemingly impossible expeditions to find a spell in order to acquire a skill such as boatmaking or ironmaking. In addition there are tales of romance, and kidnapping and seduction. In the midst of this all is the magical Sampo, which is like a talisman that brings it’s holder great fortune. As can be imagined it is something that is direly sought after.

boulder

Still today there are aspects of Finnish culture that refer back to the Kalevala. It is very common to meet children with names such as Sampo, Aino or Sampsa or an insurance company named Imarinen, or a jewelry company named Kalevala or an ice cream brand made by Valio called Aino.

forest pondCan’t you just imagine the maiden Aino coming to this forest pond to wash, when all around you is a perfect stillness only interrupted by the chatter of a squirrel and the song of bird?

olhavanvuori2Our destination was Olhava mountain which is very popular with rock climbers. Perhaps it was nostalgic for my husband as he has climbed the wall as an army conscript. I’m not sure I would dare.

At the base of Olhava there is a camp site where someone had forgotten their nearly brand new running shoes in a trendy neon color hanging over a makeshift clothesline. We took out our kuksa, which is a wooden cup made traditionally from the burl of a tree. Perhaps the mythical characters of Kalevala used the kuksa as well. An old tale tells that a kuksa may only be rinsed out in a stream but not washed with soap as you will wash away your luck. While we both had the same tea, my husband’s kuksa has been stained with the many cups of coffee he has had on previous trips and so his drink looked more like coffee than tea.

kuksa collage

making the kuksa, using coffee grounds as a stain

making the kuksa, using coffee grounds as a stain

We had simple fare along, sausages to roast over the fire, a few apples and rye bread with some butter and cheese.

repovesi camp siteI think next time I might pack along a small container of this melon salad that was inspired by my neighbor. I tweeked the original version a bit, but as it is very juicy it does not necessarily need any dressing. I dressed it simply with about a teaspoon or two of grated fresh ginger, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a little black pepper.

IMG_7517Melon salad with Kale and Ginger

 

1/2 of a small or mini watermelon cut into small cubes
1/2 of a honey dew melon cut into small cubes
1/2 of a sweet onion, finely minced
two handfuls of kale, stems removed and finely chopped
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger

Mix all of the ingredients together and enjoy. This salad stores quite well for a couple of days and is wonderful with grilled meat.

repovesi landscape

lichen2

reference source: wikipedia

 

October

by tableofcolors

There is something quite soothing about October. There are still some leaves on the trees although they have become a bit sparse and the foliage has turned quite bright. In another two weeks those leaves will be gone. Up in the sky the geese are flying in a v-shape formation. It is as if nature is giving permission to turn in for the night a bit earlier. The sleep has felt so good and is deep in quality. It is dark in the mornings when I awake and start to make my rounds, gently shaking the shoulders of my sleepyheads. Some of them wake-up easier than others. I’ve thought of maybe buying a wake-up lamp (sarastuslamppu) that gently makes the room brighter replicating dawn. It might be the solution on dark mornings for the ones that just are not morning people.

migrating geeseIn October my kitchen has pumpkins and squash and a bright soup to warm up the chilly afternoons.

pumpkins and squashThe soup is quite simple. I peeled and removed the seeds from both the pumpkin and butternut squash and cut in into cubes. Then I just barely covered the cubes with water and added a container of stock that I had in my freezer. I allowed it to boil until tender. I then added some salt and freshly ground black pepper, a bit of smoked paprika and one container of cream cheese. I brought it back to a boil and thickened it with cornstarch mixed into water and allowed it to come back to a boil once again.

pumpkin soup collageWe have had some freezing weather during the nights. The kale is still in the garden as it can handle a bit of frost. Some say the flavor is better after a little frost. What is your experience with growing kale? After all of our attempts to grow little seedlings, we watched them get eaten by little black beetles and so we nearly gave up. We threw the rest of the seeds into the planting box and just let them grow even if the little bugs tried to get at them a second time. I guess we just needed to be patient as they have been growing big and strong into the autumn season. kaleThis past week has been surprisingly full of variety from the regular week. We had a chance to go hiking with my husband at the nearby national park, Repovesi. I will share those photos in my next post. It was a beautiful day. Sometimes the unplanned turns out the best. And this past weekend I had a chance to spend the day with my sister. We stopped by my favorite coffee roastery in Helsinki, the Kluuvikadun Kahvipaahtamo. They are selling their coffee online as well and you are able to select your own mix of beans. Perhaps soon their site will be in English as well. This past Sunday was the perfect kind of day for spelt scones with blueberry and their Autumn blend which is a medium roast coffee.

sunday spelt sconesIn the soft October light there are coffee cups for two, Antti’s is almost full and mine has just a little as I am so sensitive to caffeine. There is juice for the children. In the middle of the upper cupboards is a shelf for all of my favorite cook books and even the rough draft version of my own. Perhaps it will become an e-book or even printed on paper. I followed my Grampa’s recipe for the scones but made a couple of changes to fit the mood for the day. Two-thirds of the flour is spelt and the sugar I replaced with brown sugar as spelt has more nutty, wholesome flavor.

Spelt scones with blueberries

150 g/5 and 1/3 oz spelt flour
75 g/2 and 2/3 oz flour
2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
110 g/4 oz butter, cold and cubed
2.4 dl/ 1 c milk
2.4 dl/ 1 c blueberries

Mix the spelt flour, flour, baking soda and powder along with the sugar and salt. Cut in the cold, cubed butter until it is about pea-sized in texture. Mix in the milk and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Last, add in the blueberries. Using a spoon, divide the dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 220 C/425 F for about 16 minutes or until golden brown.

autumn blend spelt scones

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series that she host every month at Fig Jam Lime Cordial.

 

Modesty is sometimes overrated

by tableofcolors

Until recent days, paper mills have been at the heart of everyday life in Kouvola for thousands. According to Wikipedia, paper has been produced in Finland since the 1600s although it was not until the 1860s that the industry started to grow. We live in Valkeala which used to be an independent county, large in area but small in population right next to the cities of Kouvola and Kuusankoski. A few years back politicians decided to join the counties and along with a few other to make one large county now called Kouvola. The making of large counties in the name of saving expenses has been strongly trending in recent years. Whether this will be a good long-term decision can be determined perhaps in a few years as we will all be so much wiser in hindsight, as the case usually is. Finland has long been and still is a welfare state, but things are changing. And with change there is always some good, some bad.

kymintehdasalueI actually think that it is probably a good thing that more room is made for the private sector, giving space for healthy competition. Maybe the best thing would be to have the best of both worlds. A safety net for those that need it as we might all be in that situation someday but an environment that encourages entrepreneurs and hard work. One of my largest criticisms of the current Finnish systems is that unemployment benefits are so good and seemingly endless that some decide it is better to just stay at home doing nothing instead of working. My second criticism is that modesty is over-rated. Finns are really quite good at many things. They need to believe that others might think so as well. One good example of this collective way of thinking is Angry Birds. For the longest time after Rovio succeeded with their angry chicks the following collective comment could be heard, “Just wait and see, it won’t last long.” Slowly this attitude has changed towards Rovio and it has attained an iconic status. Why do you think the Swedes succeeded with their IKEA and H&M? Finland is full of wonderful little companies full of new designs and ideas.

old paper millsThey just need to own it.

brick wallThese old Kymintehtaan paper mills would not have ever achieved what they did without some risks. Operation first began in 1874 and it has continued until recent years. Industries, societies and economic situations change. Today some of the buildings are empty but quite a few are being used by small business. One building is full of creative entrepreneurs. In another building there is one of my favorite organic bakeries called Tuomon Luomu. They make the best handmade rye bread and I really think that they would really have potential to grow.parkway kymintehdasThe entryway into the area is a bit forbidding as there is an old guard house with mirrored windows. For the longest time I did not even know that the area was open for the general public. The area is much more friendly after passing the entrance as it has a lovely parkway with old trees forming a canopy over the lawn. Partially hidden behind the trees is an old house that reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.

vanha talo kymintehdasI tried to do some research and find out the history behind the house and it’s name but it has remained a mystery. Perhaps it has been used for company social occasions and receptions. On one side of the wall was a hydrangea overflowing with blooms.

hortensia hydrangeaMy new favorite food is perfect for fall when the mushrooms are in season. I bought a package of portobello mushrooms from the grocery and thought to make burgers from them for lunch. I searched online and found some inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie grilled his burgers but I broiled them in the oven as our cook-out season has pretty much come to a close. The version below is slightly different to Jamie’s, as I used what was on hand.

portobello mushroomPortobello burgers for two

2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 small onions or one large onion sliced into fine rings
three glugs of olive oil
juice of one lemon
sprig of fresh rosemary
salt
black pepper

2 good quality rolls of bread
olive oil
two cloves of garlic, halved

four sundried tomatoes in oil
black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh oregano and chives and a few leaves of fresh spinach
a few slices of your favorite cheese (optional)

Place all of the ingredients into a plastic bag and shake until the mushrooms and onions are coated. Allow to marinate for about fifteen minutes. While marinating heat the oven to 200 C/390 F at the broil setting. Place the marinated portobello and onions on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Take two good quality rolls of bread and slice them into halves. I used the Fazer grain ciabatta. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with a clove of garlic cut into half. Place the halved garlic into an air pocket of the bread and place on the baking sheet alongside the portobello and onions. Bake for about ten to twelve minutes, removing once the onions and bread have attained some color and the mushrooms have released some liquid. Make sure to keep watch that your rolls do not burn. If using a very light bread, remove the rolls after five minutes.

While the the mushrooms are baking, finely slice the sundried tomatoes and sprinkle with black pepper. Once the mushrooms and onions are done, remove from the oven and assemble the sandwich. Place two slices of cheese on the bottom half if preferred. Next place the mushroom and then finish with the onion and sundried tomatoes. Garnish with a few sprigs of herbs and spinach.

Enjoy!
portobello mushroom burger

Blini in the sunset

by tableofcolors

A couple of weeks ago my husband made his annual hunting trip to the Swedish Lapland. This time it was only three gentlemen and three dogs as the rest had conflicting schedules. In the north where they were, the foliage on the ground was starting to turn colors while the trees were quite green. I have been impressed as they do real cooking everyday. They usually make one crockpot meal and on other days they might make premium burgers that would make a fast food burger pale in comparison or roast chicken. Yes, the meals tend to be quite masculine in that they have plenty of meat but on the other hand they are trekking in the forest of the nordic fell all day and eat their main meal after they return to the cabin. The time that the ladies came along two years ago, we were served plenty of greens. So I suppose their meals are quite well balanced. That time as well, they took care of the meal planning and cooking. It was a true vacation.tunturin syksy Since I began blogging a little over two years ago, this has become a family project. So my husband took these photos of northern Sweden for me to share. Back at home we had an abundance of apples received from friends and coworkers. Our three little apple trees were just planted this summer and fall and so it will be some time before they grow to become good climbing trees full of fruit. Some of the apples were pressed for fresh apple cider and some apple sauce was made in the crockpot and a couple of apple crisps were made as well. Did you notice the apple that jumped out of the basket and rolled across the patio? This time I happened to be at the right place at the right time and snap the shot as well. It doesn’t always quite work out that way.

jumping applesWhile the men were gone we enjoyed a meal of what I thought was Blini but was actually Oladji, as one dear reader pointed out in the comments. Blini are the thin and crêpe-like and Oladji are thick and hearty. Mine were the thick and hearty version and served with savory fillings might be just the perfect meal after a hunting or fishing trip. I used only buckwheat which makes them completely gluten-free but if preferred you may subsitute some of the buckwheat flour with regular wheat flour. The dough is thick and includes yeast and must be made into a large bowl as it will rise and be full of air bubbles.

blini doughThe reason why I thought these would be a perfect part of their menu repertoire is that the dough can be mixed in the early morning and then placed into the fridge for the day to rise. Then when they make their way back to the cabin in the evening, only a hot griddle is needed with some butter and a savory topping that can be easily mixed by the others while one fries.

bliniIn Russia, these round blini symbolize the sun and are quite rich. Traditionally they are served before Lent with melted butter, sour cream, caviar, jam and really, the list could go on. I served my blini with shrimp and a dollop of sour cream that had a bit of red onion and dill in it. You could use your imagination and serve your blini with what suits your fancy.

 

Blini or more correctly Oladji    gluten-free (makes about 15)

recipe from Viljatuote buckwheat package

3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c Greek or Turkish yoghurt
15 g/ 1/2 oz yeast (I used fresh yeast)
2 dl/ just under 1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp sugar
1 dl/ just under 1/2 c hot milk
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter
1 yolk
1 egg white

Warm the yoghurt until it is luke warm. Stir in the yeast until it is dissolved and then add the buckwheat flour and sugar. Allow the dough to rise for a couple of hours at room temperature or for longer in the refrigerator. Before frying the pancakes add the hot milk, salt, melted butter, egg yolk. Whip the egg white until fluffy and fold into the batter. Fry the blini in a knob of butter at low temperature in a frying pan or a blini pan. Serve hot with a topping of your choice.

Topping

2 dl/1 c sour cream
juice from a half of a lemon
1 small red onion, finely chopped
small handful of dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper

Shrimp

Mix all of the ingredients except for the shrimp. Spoon a large spoonful of sour cream topping on the blini and serve with shrimp.

sunset in swedennordic fellswedish lapland landscape

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