tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Last Lazy Days of Summer

by tableofcolors

School has been in session for two weeks now. Life has regained its order as now everyone must get up early. Although the weather has changed and nearly everyday there has been a short thunderstorm or rainfall, it still has been fairly warm. We have been madly trying to do all of the summer things one last time as soon the water will be too cold and it will be gray and drizzly. Last Sunday we had one more opportunity to go kayaking with my brother and his girlfriend. We paddled to Verla which is an old historic paper mill that is not in use. I had to admire the details of the building and thought of how many hours of work they all required. I wonder how much the craftsmen were paid and I am quite certain that they did six day weeks instead of the five that are prevalent today. Today it is a local tourist attraction and a place to host cultural events and art exhibitions.

Verla, old paper factory built in 1893

Verla, old paper mill built in 1893

verla collageThe day before school started a couple of school friends were over. The kids organized a circus show and they had at least ten performances, hand-made tickets and money with which to buy the tickets. It brought back memories of my childhood. I loved make-believe games. All of the performers were very sure of themselves and at the end of the show they informed that they would be passing out signatures. A glass jar that had been painted yellow was the microphone and it really worked. I had a grin going from ear to ear. And I definitely asked for signatures on the back of my ticket.

circus ticketsAfter the circus show we decided to head to beach. I had baked a little end-of-the-summer treat for us to take with. This blueberry cake can certainly be made well into the fall as it is not only really quite simple but perfect for those gray days that are sure to come. It also freezes well and is the perfect thing to have on hand to serve with a little vanilla ice cream. I received this recipe from a friend at least eight or nine years ago and I often come back to it, especially if I am in a pinch. All of the ingredients are ones that you most likely have on hand. I’ve made a few slight changes to the original version.

last lazy days of summer collageBlueberry coffee cake–Mustikkapiirakka
Makes a round 23 cm/ 9 inch or square cake or tart pan.

Mix the ingredients below in a large bowl with a spoon.

200 g/7 oz melted butter
1.5 dl/ 2/3 c flour
3 dl/1 and 1/3 c rolled oats
2 dl/ just under 1 cup sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt

Remove 1.5 dl/ 2/3 c of the crumble and set aside. This will be your crumble to be sprinkled on the cake later. To the rest of the batter add the following ingredients.

2 eggs, gently whisked
1 dl/ 1/2 c flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c rolled oats

Pat the batter into a greased cake or tart tin.

3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c berries of your choice (may be frozen)

Sprinkle with berries of your choice and sprinkle with the crumble. Place into the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C/390 F. Use a tooth pick or test skewer to check if it is done. Enjoy by itself or with ice cream.

For an extra large cake, double the recipe and bake in an oven sheet pan with slight edges.
mustikkapiirakka

Katariina's Park, Kotka

Katariina’s Park, Kotka

Enjoying Omar Toffee Triangles at 2am

by tableofcolors

We have had 38 days of hot weather and like usual, it always comes to an abrupt end. Last Sunday at the country fair it was still hot and on Tuesday morning as the kids left for their first day of school it was raining. The hot days are gone. It will still be warm but the breeze is a bit cooler and holds the slight chill of autumn; foretelling what is to come. But we’ll enjoy these cooler beautiful days and remember the warm summer beach days. On our trip this summer we visited some very dear friends and family up in Rovaniemi. My husband’s grandmother lives in this northern artic city. She has a cabin on the Kemi River. There is something quite rustically beautiful about the region. The gently sloping nordic fells, the gnarled and stunted trees and the summer so short. This year they also had a warm summer, but some summers it never really becomes truly shorts weather.

kemijokiAt the cabin, on the same lot is a little tiny white cottage not in use anymore. It is hidden among the birches and is right at the top of the river bank as a remnant of days gone passed. Right at the bank of the river, the water is shallow making it perfect for wading and for telling the best fishing tales.

empty cottageSeveral days we spent with our friends Elisa and Mikko. Elisa is an artist and I loved their home full of little details. Mikko is an artist in his own right. He is a very skilled carpenter and built their house. I tried to take some of the inspiration home with me. As soon the darkness will be here and it is then a perfect time to work on little projects around the house.

 

art work by Elisa Ahonen

art work by Elisa Ahonen

Before we came, their daughter had baked the most delicious little triangles that just melt in your mouth. I think we had a couple each morning with our coffee and tea then again in the evenings after the house had quieted down. We have a tradition with them that during the days we do things as a family with an occasional short outing for the just the ladies or men. In the evening we stay up late savoring the quietness, adult companionship and delicious food. And since we were in the artic, the sun would slightly dip around 1am but by 2am the sun was coming up again. We saw the sun rise every evening. Tara's triangle cookiesTara’s Triangle Cookies
250 g/8.8 oz butter, softened
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c sugar
2.5 dl/1 c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
5.5 dl/2 and 1/3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 bag of Omar toffee candies (220 g/7.8 oz)
slivered almonds

Beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Cut the Omar toffees into small chunks and mix with the dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients with the batter. Pat onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet with small sides. Sprinkle with almonds and place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake at 175 C/350 F for about 18-25 minutes. Do not let them become too dark or else they will be difficult to cut. Let cool before cutting into triangles.

summer fun rovaniemiI thought the Triangle cookies would the perfect thing to bring to a virtual blogging get-together that Angie at The Novice Gardener hosts on Friday. If you are looking for inspiration for the weekend menu, click on the Fiesta Friday badge.
Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

IMG_6611

There are bees in my kitchen

by tableofcolors

It is a clear sign of August when the bees take over. In July, they leave us alone and mind their own business but it seems as if they know the calendar. As soon as the August arrives they come in if the patio door is left open and I end up chasing after them with my vacuum cleaner. It is the most efficient way to dispose of them. When I went to go pick a few sprigs of mint for the photos this morning, the mint flowers were covered with bees. They had decided that the mint belonged to them and so I, ever so cautiously waited for a bit of a flower to free up and slipped in my scissors to claim a sprig. The other day I made a mint pesto for a potato salad inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. He uses mint often and I find his cooking to be quite ingenius. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try a new flavor combination. It really worked out quite nicely and the mix of mint and peppermint from my patio planting boxes brought the perfect amount of freshness. I actually got enough of the mint pesto to freeze some of it in a penguin shaped ice cube tray for later use.

 

mint pesto CollageI just recently had a birthday and the potatoes were from my neighbor next door from their own potato patch. Another friend had brought over some the fresh produce from their garden as a gift. In my kitchen is trayful of fresh, organic treats waiting to be used. Both gifts were perfect for a foodie like me.

fresh produceMy next day after my birthday turned out to be quite exciting in more ways than one. It had been quite windy all morning and afternoon and the weather forecast was promising thunderstorms. We had been planning a kayak and canoe excursion with some friends. My husband who had made all of the arrangements decided that we are not going to give up and cancel. Afterall, it was my birthday present. Sometimes the thunderstorms pass over and may be quite local. And sometimes the weather forecast may be inaccurate. We loaded up in our van to pick up the trailer with the kayaks.

kayaking and the storm CollageAs we arrived to the rental place, the wind picked up and the storm arrived. A tree right behind the trailer came down and it rained so hard it felt like we were in a car wash. Finland usually does not have very strong storms. This storm was quite strong. I really wasn’t sure what we should do. We had all hire babysitters and made arrangements. My husband was still going kayaking. We waited out the storm and headed to the river a few kilometers aways. Good thing for axes and saws. We had to clear the road. Along the way we saw trampoline that had flown across a field and was bent in an arch. My neighbors trampoline was scooted across the yard and taken a gooseberry bush with it. All over there were trees knocked over and back home the electricity was out. After the storm passed, everything seems calm. And so we went kayaking and the weather was perfect.

kayaking CollageAround the same time I visited the Saturday morning outdoor flea market and found a lady that was selling vintage clothes and accessories. Everything was so well taken care of, clean and pressed. Then she told me that in the local old paper factory area called Taideruukki, is a cluster of creative businesses. Some of them sell local crafts and jewelry, vintage clothes and things, a photography studio and even a little coffee shop. What a find! And to think that I had not realized that it was in operation while it was nearly under my nose. I had to go visit to see for myself. I took with me our Isabella and her friend.

ruukinportti collageFrom there I found a creamer made by Opa. I used it to hold the mint pesto for my potato salad. The reason I was so pleased with my find was that it held a bit more than just 1.5 deciliters. Traditional Finnish coffee cups are very small but we tend to use larger mugs and so a larger creamer had been on the list for a couple of years.

mint pesto potato salad2Fresh potato salad with Mint Pesto
1 kg/2.2 lbs new potatoes, cooked until just tender and then cooled
600 g/21 oz oven roasted or grilled chicken cut into cubes
1 red onion
three handfuls of fresh peas
a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach
a small bunch of fresh chives and parsley

Mint poppy seed pesto
a large handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed
(I used a mix of mint and peppermint)
generous dl/ 3/4 c olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp sunflower
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c poppy seeds
salt
black pepper

Boil the thoroughly scrubbed potatoes until just tender and allow to cool. Prepare the pesto by placing all the ingredients in a blender or in a tall cup and mix with an immersion wand. Set aside.
Cut the cooled potatoes and chicken into bite size pieces. Chop the onion into thin rings. Finely chop the herbs. Roughly chop the spinach and toss in with the potatoes, chicken, herbs and onions. Dress with the mint pesto and garnish with the fresh peas. Fresh the left over pesto in an ice cube tray for later use.

mint pesto potato saladThis post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for August. On the side bar of her blog is a list of kitchens from around the world.

Vanha Pappila

by tableofcolors

Hankasalmi Church yard

Hankasalmi Church yard

In nearly every larger town and city  in Finland there is a Lutheran State Church. Somewhere nearby there will be the parsonage. Pappi is the word for minister or pastor and pappila is the parsonage. Vanha means old. These parsonages are not in their current use and have been sold many years ago to private owners. Some of these beauties have been renovated and others are waiting their turn. But once upon a time there was a time of large old manors that also owned large areas of land. The pappila was usually one of the larger manors in the county. They would have hired hands that would live on the land. A male hired hand is called a renki and the female is called a piika. The yard near the main house often formed an open square with housing quarters for the hired hands along one side and a barn and storage sheds along the other side. The town or county pastor was a revered man and could be considered a part of the upper class. In a time before general voting rights the upper classes and pastors had the right to vote.

A few days ago we returned back home from a family trip across Finland. We visited one of our friends that now live in a newer house that is situated next to the vanha pappila built around 1850. As we toured the old house and the quarters of the hired hands we spoke of days gone by. It was not completely impossible for someone born as a renki to move up in society if they for example married the widow of the house. Movement in society was much more difficult than today. What would life have been like? Touring these old buildings it brought back thoughts from the famous Finnish novel, Under the North Star (Täällä Pohjantähden alla) by Väinö Linna. It is a trilogy that tells the story of Finland as it goes through the civil war and gains independence. The father of the main character is a crofter. There is a fierce discussion of the Finnish language in the novel as it has a significant role in the creation of Finnish national identity. The book tells in a very engaging manner the emergence of social movement and the creation of a new type of society and helped me understand some of the political positions that people hold yet still today.  I sincerely recommend the book and as it tells the story from one perspective and once started is difficult to put down.

vanha pappila

vanha pappila

pappilan ovetI suppose the way life unfolds depends quite a bit on the people around you and the family you are born into, but I suppose that is still true to this day. If you were born to a hired hand, your quality of life depended on how fairly you were treated by your superiors. Usually these hired hands had a one year contract with their employers. Then they could in theory move on to try their fortune somewhere else. Many things look good on paper and in theory but when human nature is entered into the picture and the politics that goes with it, even simple things become complicated. On the same land there might have also been renters of the land that would also work a set amount of days for the owner of the land. These crofters were called torppareita. The crofters did have the opportunity to gain a bit of income on their own and were not as dependent of the land owners as the hired hands. Land ownership was quite significant as it meant the right to vote. Finland was one of the first countries to grant equal voting rights to men and women.

rengin tupa--quarters of the hired hands

rengin tupa–quarters of the hired hands

In the rooms of the manor are layers of old wall-paper decorated with decorative roses. In some rooms the strong timber logs are bare. Along the back of the house is a large veranda that was used for entertaining. I can almost imagine the ladies sitting in the shade, sipping their tea and looking out at the peony patch and the lake that is just down the hill.

verrandaThe floors in the house are a bit uneven now, as is the back veranda. This is due to the frost heave and lack of ground frost insulation that is commonly used in construction today in cold climates. Attached to the left side of the main building  next to the kitchen is a pantry. In the hired hands quarters is a large wood burning oven that takes up a one whole corner in the room. It doubled as the bakery for the manor and in the winter provided heat for the hired hands quarters. Similar ovens can be found quite commonly in homes throughout Finland.

mansikka torttuMy friend Sinikka served the most delicious strawberry tart after our tour. I couldn’t help myself and a second slice found its way onto my plate.

 

Sinikka’s Berry Tart — Gluten-free

150 g/5.3 oz softened butter
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1.5 dl/0.6 c potato or corn starch
1.5 dl/0.6 c gluten-free flour (for example: Sunnuntai brand)
1 tsp baking powder

5 dl/2 c puréed strawberrie (or other berries)
1 tbsp potato starch or corn starch
plus a sprinkle of sugar

Beat the softened butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. Add in the egg and beat well. Mix the dry ingredients and fold into the batter. Pat into a parchment paper lined tart tin. Purée the strawberries and mix in the tablespoon of corn or potato starch plus sugar to taste. Bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 30 minutes. Gluten-free tarts tend remain raw in the middle easily. The parchment paper allows you to easily lift it up slightly from the side to check if it is done. After removing from the oven, sprinkle with sugar. This will prevent the strawberry purée from forming a skin.

playing in the treesplaying on the church yard

Tapas for Brunch

by tableofcolors

Midnight sun

Midnight sun

Brunch has become a habit in our kitchen. It happens every year. And every year I tell myself that maybe this summer we will try hold a schedule. I have been trying to get up on some mornings early to go for a run, a bikeride, a little trip to the flea market or maybe some pilates. I don’t leave the house too early as it is usually already eight o’clock. When I return an hour or two later, as I often have met a friend along the way and ended up chatting for quite some time, the house is still quiet and only a few are at breakfast. June was chilly but July has really warmed up. Maybe it is all the swimming the children do that really tires them out or perhaps it is the light evenings that stretches bedtimes hours later than in the winter.

baking tin

On Saturday morning I slipped out to the outdoor flea market. Sometimes I take some of the children with but as they were all in deep sleep I left by myself. I found this baking tin with very shallow rounded forms and it says, made in England. It was looking quite worn but I think it will still work and it only cost an euro. It is sitting on my counter in my kitchen waiting for me to do a little research. Perhaps there is a traditional pastry that the tin was used for and perhaps someone brought it from England as a souvenir. The gentleman selling it had a whole collection of antiques and old things. I’m quite sure he had not baked with it as he didn’t seem to have answers to my questions. Perhaps one of my dear readers might know the original purpose of the tin?

tapasLast April when I visited my sister in Detroit we visited a tapas restaurant called La Feria. We had grilled portobella with a sauce of parsely, lemon and garlic, mussels in a white wine sauce and a fried eggplant with honey. They were all just perfect in their simplicity with clean and fresh flavors and we both agreed that fried eggplant drizzled with honey tasted similar to French toast. And so in my kitchen this July is fried eggplant.

fried eggplantI would suggest using the graffiti eggplant or Japanese eggplant which are lighter purple in color and have a thinner skin. I used the most common variety, globe eggplant, and the skin was a bit tough chewing. I first cut them into thick sticks, spread them on paper towels and sprinkled them with salt. I let them sit for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The salt help pulls out the excess moisture and will make frying easier.

breading eggplantThe eggplant at La Feria was deep fried but since I don’t have a deep fryer and I didn’t want to have the excess of oil leftover after frying in a sauce pan, I just heavily coated the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil.

Berenjenas Fritas – Fried eggplant

1 eggplant, cut into thick sticks
salt for sprinkling on the egglplants and a dash to mix with the almond meal
1.5 dl/ generous half cup almond meal
olive oil
honey

After the eggplant has been sprinkled with salt and has rested for about fifteen to twenty minutes, gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place the almond meal in a bowl and mix in a dash of salt. Generously pour olive oil into the pan so that coats the whole bottom. Coat each piece of eggplant with the almond meal before placing in the frying pan. Allow to fry to so that it gains a bit color and then turn. You may fry several pieces of eggplant at the same time. In between batches I removed some of the almond meal that was swimming in the oil as it was starting to darken and added a bit of fresh oil. Enjoy for brunch or in the evening after a day of swimming. Serve hot with a drizzle of honey.
swimming in july collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for July. Check out her blog for a great list of blogs from around the world that all invite you into their kitchens.

Making memories

by tableofcolors

On Sunday we drove to the cabin. In Finland everything stops in July and a pilgrimage to the cottages begins. Bureaus and offices are usually open but temporary personnel fill in and most things happen at a sleepy pace if at all. Most paperwork sits and waits until August and the return of the permanent personnel. At first I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of a nation in which everyone vacations at the same time. Vacation and free time is a significant part of the life style here. Common questions asked upon seeing an acqaintance in the summer is about vacation. Have you been on vacation yet. How long was it this year. And if it was under three weeks, you might hear condolences about how short your vacation was. But I have become used to this land of people that all down-shift at the same time and look forward to a slow-paced month where only the absolutely necessary errands are made. All other time is spent enjoying summer even if the weather has not been quite as summer-like as usual.

boat house collage

Finland has over 180,000 lakes. The shores of these lakes are dotted with summer cabins and cottages. Many are the traditional mummonmökki or a small grandmother’s cottage with just a room or two and often do not have running water or electricity. Cottages often have a history and you might find things that are tens of years old and full of stories to be discovered. The toilet paper holder might have be whittled out of wood at the end of the dock on a breezy day, or the matchbox holder might be a from a wood shop class in the city. In the bedroom there is a chest full of old Donald Ducks, some of them as old as your dad. The beds are covered with heavy and well-made spreads that would probably be considered vintage. Then there are the cabins that are large and contemporary and have all the conveniences of city homes. The blueprints might have been made by a well-known architect and the windows have Marimekko curtains. Both of these cabins dot the shores side by side. Some new and some old. One thing they all have in common is the sauna. The sauna is usually in it’s own small building close to the lake. When we visit the cabin, we take a sauna every evening. The sauna is the place to relax and socialize. Sometimes with a group of women we have been in the sauna for two or three hours. In the soft heat of the large sauna, the world has been made a better place and problems solved. Every once in a while we wrap ourselves in towels and sit outside or go for swim before another round of steam in the sauna.

choosing a boatPappa made sailboats out of thick slabs of pine bark. One for each grandchild. Then he made little wood chips that each had a number. Each grandchild drew one chip and had a turn to choose their boat according to the number they had on the chip. The kids all went on the dock to send their boats off to America. A little while later Pappa took the rowboat and gathered each one. They were brought to the city as souvenirs of times spent at the cottage.

setting the boats off collage

Our Erik decided that fish soup is now his favorite food. It even passed up macaroni and that is quite an accomplishment. Mummo made fish soup on one of the days while we were at the cabin. After returning home our refrigerator was completely empty except for a jar of relish, some eggs and some apricot marmelade. I ventured to the store and decided to indulge Erik and make a soup with rainbow trout. The store was full of fresh local produce. I had a hard time limiting myself. I would have liked to bring it all home.

vegetablesSoup made with salmon or rainbow trout is a very traditional dish in the nordic countries. Many grow their own dill and I really think that the fresh dill is the perfect match with the fish. I tried to keep my version fairly simple, as often at the cabin the selection of seasonings might be not be as large. Many towns have little outdoor markets once or twice a week and larger cities have them daily, and so fresh produce is readily available during the summer.

rainbow trout soup 1

Rainbow Trout Soup

knob of butter
onions, three small spring onions or one large onion finely sliced into rings
3 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
2 small turnips, peeled and cut into cubes
600 g/21 oz peeled waxy potatoes, (I used new potatoes)
generous 1 liter/ 1 quart of water
black pepper
white pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
sea salt
small bunch of chives, finely chopped
handful of fresh dill
1 kg/ 2 lbs filé of Rainbow trout or salmon
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c heavy cream

Place the peeled and chopped vegetables, except for the potatoes into a heavy bottomed pot with the knob of butter and turn to medium heat. Allow to sauté until just slightly tender. Add water, potatoes, black and white pepper, mustard powder, lemon juice and salt. Allow to simmer at very low heat until the potatoes are tender. While the soup is cooking, remove the skin from the fish and any pin bones that might be remaining. Cut the fish into small bite-size cubes.
rainbow troutOnce the potatoes are tender, add the salmon, cream, fresh dill and chives. Allow the soup to come to boil. Check the flavor and adjust salt and seasoning if needed. Serve with a dark rye bread.

rainbow trout soup 2

canoeing on the lakerocking the dock

Grampa’s Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

by tableofcolors

In Finland the winter is supposed to be snowy and cold. Summers are supposed to full of summer scents (mosquitoes) and birch trees swaying in the wind. It may not always be so hot but it usually is warm. It seems as if the weather is a bit confused. Last winter the American Midwest got an abundance of snow and it seemed that it got all of ours as well. Yesterday I had to pull on my wool socks. Last week it rained sleet here and snowed in northern Finland. Although it didn’t quite match the weather, my first peony bloomed last week in the sleet.

jumping hurdles with hobby horses

The good thing when the weather turns sour is that gives an opportunity to do all of the chores waiting around the house. There is one thing I have learned while in Finland. When the sun shines drop everything else and run outside. It might shine for the next day or perhaps for three weeks if we’re lucky, but one can never know ahead of time! But now the sun had decided on my behalf that the house needed to be cleaned. I definitely agreed that it was in dire need of attention. I had been feeling a bit under the weather and it showed. The windows were full of fingerprints and the walls full of smudges. There were dust bunnies in the corners and laundry all over the place. And so I started.

The children would ocassionally complain that there is nothing to do! To which I would reply that it is completely normal that life is boring at times. I had recently read an article of a well-known Finnish psychologist Jari Sinkkonen, who stated that it is healthy that children experience boredom at times. It is those times that induce them to become creative and practice creative and unstructured play. As a result of their boredom, the kids came up with the most interesting obstacle course of hurdles for hobby horses using kitchen string and soft drink bottles.

Grampa's blueberry muffins 3

In the midst of these partially gray days, I found a surprise in my inbox. I received an email from my Grampa and his Blueberry Sourcream Muffins. They were wonderfully delicious and easy. Our Isabella had two and started helping herself to a third while she still had just little bite left of the second. I think she was rather intrigued with the tulip-shaped paper forms. I used a full-fat sour cream, as the batter has no other source of fat. With a little fat, the muffins store really quite well for a couple of days, if you haven’t eaten them before then.

muffin batter

Grampa’s Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

1 egg, beaten
2.2 dl/1 c (225 g/ 8 oz)sour cream
2 dl/just under 1 c sugar (160 g/5.5 oz)
4 dl/1 and 3/4 c flour (200g /7 oz) flour
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2.2 dl/1 c (90 g/ 3 oz) roughly chopped walnuts
4.5 dl/2 c (200 g/7.5 oz)blueberries, fresh or frozen

Combine egg, sour cream and sugar. Mix the dry ingredients and combine with the flour mixture. Fold in the berries and nuts. Drop into well sprayed muffin tin or paper forms. Bakes at 200 C/ 400 F for 20 minutes or until a golden brown and a test skewer comes out clean.

The batter may be stored in the fridge.
making muffins collage Some of the windows have been washed, walls wiped, floors mopped and laundry gathered. Today as I look out the sun came out and warmed the air a bit and the birches are in their summer glory just across the gravel road and the flower seeds and bulbs I planted this spring are coming up.

Perhaps summer is on its way afterall!

Grampa Jim’s other recipes: Almond Braid, Fresh Fruit Tart , Steam Pudding, Gramma Reeni’s Rhubarb Tart, Cranberry Cake, Cranberry Scones and Banana Cream Pie

Little Islands at High Seas

by tableofcolors

A few weeks ago, right after schools were out my husband went on a trip with six other hunters. The male Common Eider or Haahka in Finnish, were migrating back to the south as the females remain in the north to take care of the young. The males leave as soon as the the ducklings have hatched. The females and their young will migrate at the end of September or in October. The Common Eider is a rather large sea duck that breeds in the Artic or northern temperate regions. So these photos are my husband’s and I suggested that perhaps next year I might come along and be their photographer. The scenery is quite beautiful and untouched. The rock islands with their round forms are shaped by the sea and the Ice Age. They protude out of the Baltic Sea. The men had the most perfect weather. Some years I have heard, it has not been so and the coast guard has been needed to escort on the way back home.

sea marker on the balticOn the island is a tiny white brick cottage and a large sea marker that looks like light house. A little way aways is another small island that has another sea marker. Together, these two markers showed the way in past days for sailors, as on one side of the islands there is a deep passageway and on the other side it is rocky and shallow. white cottage baltic seaThe only problem with me coming along is that the small white cottage was already at full capacity with seven gentlemen. I might have to take a tent with so that we would all fit but I promise to not bother their hunting during the days.

hunting at sea 2On their trip the men made soup using the Common Eider and some wild chives that could be found growing amongst the rocks. What a sturdy plant to survive such harsh conditions. I’m sure it tasted wonderful after being out in the wind and sun for the day.

haahkakeitto ja villi ruohosipuliLast weekend, my husband suggested that he make a stew with the Common Eider. I don’t mind letting others having a turn in the kitchen. Sometimes it is nice to eat a meal made by someone else. Everyone loved it. The children had sleepover guests that day and even they helped themselves to seconds. Children do not feign being impressed. They usually give the straight truth, either in their expressions and sometimes verbally. There is a trick when cooking the Common Eider. It needs to be boiled in a pot a water for fifteen minutes three times, pouring the water out each time and replacing with fresh water. The fat of the bird has an unpleasant flavor. After this has been done the flavor of the meat is wonderful. The recipe below is an traditional recipe used by the people living on the islands and Finnish coastline. Antti did make slight alterations with the herbs and spices he used but otherwise he followed the recipe quite closely. The original recipe in Finnish can be found here.

 

Common Eider Stew, to be served with boiled potatoes

Two Common Eider breasts
water
butter
salt
pepper
curry, according to taste
NoMU Spanish spice mix (paprika, chili, sugar, black pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard, garlic,cloves)
carrots
onions
parsley
chives
cream

The original recipe says to boil the meat in water for fifteen minutes two times, pouring out the water after the time is up and replacing with fresh water. The third time the water may remain and the meat is simmered at low heat for three hours. Skim of any foam that forms. After the meat has simmered for three hours and the foam has been removed the meat may be removed from the bones. The broth can be saved for later use. Cut the meat into chunks.
In another sauce pan, brown the meat adding herbs, vegetables and spices. The stew is ready once the vegetables have gently softened, about fifteen minutes. Add cream if desired but do not let it come quite to a boil. Remove from heat and serve with potatoes.
common eider stewNow it is midsummers here in Finland and the other nordic countries. Not only is it a religious holiday to remember John the Baptist but is also a time of spending time with family. I remember one friend telling me of her childhood memories. At midsummer, her and her siblings would row across the lake as the sun was low in the horizon at their cabin. Everything had been cleaned, even the sauna which is traditionally cleaned for midsummers or Juhannus. Small birch trees brought from the forest roots and all are planted in pots and placed on both sides of the doorway. It is also a time of old tales, traditions and a few superstitions. There is an old tale that says if young girls gather seven flowers of different kinds and place them under their pillow they will see in their dreams who their spouse to come is. I suppose it might work with just as much success for boys as well if they care to try.

rock formationsHappy Midsummers!

Baked under the Midnight Sun

by tableofcolors

Midsummer is almost here in just a week. The nights are quite light and it is so easy to loose track of time since the kids are not in school. It seems perfectly logical to start washing windows at ten o’clock in the evening as the sun is not telling us to go to bed. Even the children who usually are in bed around eight thirty during the winter are having a hard time settling down. As I write, I can hear the older ones organizing their room after the little ones had visited and turned nearly everything upside down. You probably know how it goes. First there is silence as the little ones are in bliss playing with all of the marvelous treasures that girls of ten and thirteen might have in their room. Chapstick is a favorite! Then there is a loud exclamation and a complaint as they are found out. Next of course, the little ones come to Mama for consolation as their own treasures don’t seem half as interesting! Fortunately their disappointment does not last too long.

rhubarb stalksThe other evening we went rumaging in our rhubarb patch. It was the first time that it could actually be called a patch. Last year we planted the seedlings and it had grown nicely but I hardly dared to pick any last summer. The stalks are thin and we had several flowers that I picked off as is recommended and carried the bouquet inside. It was quite pretty in an untraditional way.

rhubarb flower

I ended up making two versions of this Upside-down Rhubarb cake. The first version had rye flour in it. I didn’t quite get the proportions perfect yet and so it turned out drier than what I was looking for. Version two turned out perfect. Since our babysitter is wheat-free I tried making it so that she could also have a piece. The second version is gluten-free and I used a mix of almond flour and gluten-free flour. If you do not need to make a gluten-free version you may substitute the gluten-free flour with regular flour. I think this recipe will go on my favorite gluten-free recipe list.

chopped rhubarbIt seems as if rhubarb and my blog anniversary go hand-in-hand. Two years ago I started my blog. One of my first posts was on a rhubarb tart that had a brown sugar meringue. A year ago, my Grampa Jim shared a family recipe for a rhubarb tart from my Great-Grandma Reeni. It is still one of my favorite recipes to date. The recipe below received its inspiration last Sunday. We were visiting friends and Maija served a very delicious rhubarb tart. As we had coffee she suggested that I make a version that uses maybe some wholegrain types of flour and perhaps chopped nuts for texture and flavor. This is my version.

rhubarb upside down cakeYou might be able to tell from the lighting in the photo that it is well past ten p.m. It is more than likely closer to eleven pm and the house was finally quiet. And so we enjoyed a piece of rhubarb upside down cake with ice cream and tea. The cake is a bit of a plain-jane, but incredibly delicious!

 

Upside down Rhubarb Cake–Gluten-free

23×23 cm/9″x9″ pan or a round tart pan
50 g butter
1 dl/ 1/2 c/ 85 g brown sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
50 g/2 oz roughly chopped walnuts
5 dl/2 c chopped rhubarb

Place the butter in the tart or cake pan and place in the heated oven for about five minutes or until melted. Remove and mix in the brown sugar, cardamom, rhubarb and walnuts. Set aside for a minute while making the cake batter.

Cake batter

125 g/4.4 oz softened butter
1 dl/ 1/2 c / 90 g sugar
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c / 50 g brown sugar
2 eggs
2 dl /1 c / 90 g almond flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c / 50 g gluten-free flour
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 dl/ slightly less than 1/2 c milk

Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. An eletric mixer will work just as well. Add in one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix the dry ingredients together. Alternating, fold in the dry ingredients and milk into the batter. Pour the batter over the rhubarb place into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 170 C/340 F. If using a fan oven, reduce the temperature to 160 C /320 F.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or maybe a little whipped cream.

Today is also Angie’s Fiesta Friday blogging get-together. Often I have not been able to participate as our schedules have not matched up but today it worked out. And so, I am bringing my rhubarb cake baked under the midnight sun. The people of the nordic countries do not sleep during the summer months. Come autumn, the early evenings are quite inviting. Check out her blog, The Novice Gardener, for a collection of recipes.

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The Smell of Flowers in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

Gone are the dark November days and the bitter cold of winter, summer has arrived. Everywhere I go there is the perfume of wild flowers that line the roads. The purple or pink Lupine are now in full bloom making the roadside ditches vibrant with color. This is the time to pick a bouquet of flowers; everyday if you wish.

gathering lupine

Soon we will celebrate birthdays as my oldest and my youngest are born when the Lupine blooms. And so in my kitchen is a bouquet of flowers and their smiling faces.

Silvia and Hugowildflowers 2On Mother’s Day I received a foodie gift from my husband. It was a little package that included all of the ingredients to make a batch of raw chocolate. Now that school is out and bedtimes are a bit more vague and mornings are a little more relaxed, I decided to try out my kit. making raw chocolateThe kit included goji berries, a little bottle of agave syrup, some cold-pressed coconut oil, and a package that included cold-pressed cocoa butter, lucuma powder, raw cocoa powder, maca powder, and Kalahari salt from South Africa. The Lucuma powder is a new ingredient for me and after doing a little research I found out it contains beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium and protein. The Lucuma powder is also used as a natural sweetener as its flavor is similar to Maple. Maca powder is made from the Maca root and is also considered a super food and contains a complex of vitamin B, Calcium, Magnesium and vitamin C.

tasting raw chocolateWhenever I make something, especially if it involves chocolate, there is a line of eager taste-testers. Sometimes I try to show the “shhh” sign to the first one to realize the opportunity so that it does not become a mass occasion. Usually the effort is futile and so we take out the spoons and give everyone one scrape from the bowl to be fair. But today the line did not form as most of the kids were outside playing and Isabella was able to have the bowl to herself.

lazy summer daysBasically the process was simple. Without opening the jar of coconut oil, melt the oil in a hot water bath. Pour the melted coconut oil into a metal bowl and mix in the agave syrup. Next mix in the package with the cocoa powder and butter. Mix with a whisk over the hot water bath until melted and smooth. Add in the goji berries if desired. Pour into small forms and place into the refrigerator to set until firm. They have a slightly grainy texture that is typical to raw chocolate. Delicious with an afternoon cup of coffee.

raw chocolate with goji berryIn my kitchen and in my heart are memories from my recent trip. I brought back some of my Dad’s dried sour dough starter and have been making his bread. It tastes just like home.

bread collage2USA 2014 collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for June. Check out her blog for a collection of posts from kitchens around the world.

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