tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

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

The poor man’s jam

by tableofcolors

picking rowan berriesWe really did have the perfect weekend. It was just two little ones and myself and the house was quite quiet and clean. I do have to mention that it was actually clean because it stayed that way without too much effort  until everyone came home Sunday evening and all of the laundry from the weekend was suddenly in a pile and our three-year old must have decided that the childrens’ room was just too tidy for her liking. I could hear a thunk and then three more as she was looking for the perfect book and the rest of them also ended up on the floor. Sigh. But I shouldn’t let it spoil my relaxing weekend with just the three of us. We had the most perfect weather. If you have ever spent an autumn in Finland you will know that often it is rainy and gray and somewhat dreary. So far we have been really lucky. It was nearly shorts weathers and the sky was almost cloud-less. We went on a casual bike ride everyday. There was no hurry. We stopped at the store and bought a baguette and some brie cheese and mustard harm for an evening snack. Then we walked back and forth in the ice cream isle and picked out the perfect ice cream. If you have ever visited Finland you will know that the ice cream here is wonderful and there are quite a few options and so that is why it took so long to decide.

rowan berriesOn Saturday morning we made a game plan. We had a lazy breakfast and then a bike ride to go pick some Rowan berries as I had plan for these red-orange berries that decorate the landscape during the early fall. Next we were going to finish cleaning the downstairs and then go swimming at the local swimming hall. Our Hugo who is one, thinks he knows how to swim and kept wanting to put his face into the water and was somewhat annoyed when I would not let go and let him swim independently. For the most part he had a jolly time splashing us all and swimming in his little hand-me-down swimsuit that looks like a wrestling suit. And we had fun laughing at him. After our swim I was looking forward to the sauna which is my favorite part. Hugo thought swimming was much more fun than sitting in a hot sauna. I did have him sit on the steps coming into the sauna as it is not very hot there. But he just didn’t like it and so we didn’t stay for very long. It didn’t matter as we had a little jamming project waiting at home.

rowan berry collageIn Finland it is quite common to make a jam that pairs carrots with another ingredient that is very tart such as rhubarb and call it the Poor Man’s Cloudberry jam. Cloudberries are very valued as they require a lot of work to pick and grow in the bogs and marshes and in wet meadows. They are golden in color and look a little bit like a round yellow raspberry. I decided to make my version of the Poor Man’s jam with the Rowan or pihlajanmarja. The rowan is high in vitamin C and because of it’s thick skin I boiled the rinsed berries in water and then strained them by gently mashing them to get some of the pulp as well.

pihlajanmarja hilloPoor Man’s Jam –using the wild Rowan berry

 

225 g/8 oz rowan berries, rinsed
3 dl/1 and 1/3 c water
225 g/8 oz carrots, peeled and finely chopped
plus 2 dl/1 c of hot water to pour over the strained berries
175 g/6 oz jamming sugar (sugar that has pectin) or regular sugar

Place the berries and water into a pot and allow to simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and pour through a strainer. Gently mash the berries with the back of a spoon and pour about 2 dl/1 cup of hot water over the crushed berries. Place the juice of the berries, sugar and finely chopped carrots back into the sauce pan and cook on low for another 20 minutes. Using an immersion wand, mix until the consistency is desired. I did not purée mine completely as I prefer to have a little texture. At this point the carrots will be a little candied in texture.

Serve with popovers or maybe scones.

Since I am still a beginner when it comes to canning, I would recommend the canning instructions by John at Bartolini Kitchens. His posts are always very thorough and enjoyable to read.

rowan berries and bikesunflowers and berriesOn the way home from our little outing we picked sunflowers for our dining room table. It is that time of year again when the sunflowers are in bloom. There is an entire field of them just the down the road from us and there is a sign that says “Pick flowers—pay what you want” I once wandered down their long drive way to see if they might be home, that time nobody answered my knock. I know it is an elderly couple and thought it would be fun to chat for a bit as I’m sure they brighten the days of so many with their yellow sunflowers. I will have to try another time.

End of the birthday season

by tableofcolors

table setting

This month my kitchen has been filled with happy little people all wanting to help and participate in preparation for a birthday party. Cook books have been poured over and together we shopped for the correct color napkins. Our birthday season is coming to a close.

I truly do enjoy organizing birthday parties for my kids and seeing the anticipation and their eyes shining with excitement makes it all worth it. I do have to admit that I sometimes secretly roll my eyes when a very excited birthday girl or boy comes and explains their plans for party games for the forty-fifth time at 10.32 pm. And I do try remain the adult and remember to say encouraging things like, “Yes honey, I know you are excited but now it is time for bed…let’s continue this discussion tomorrow!” I don’t always succeed in this grown-up effort. Our birthday season starts in March and for six months we have a birthday every month and in June there are two. The easy part about have many parties in consecutive months is that they usually want many of the same things on the menu as the others, making for fairly easy planning. This year the pinãta has been a big hit.

friends collageWe made one little mistake with one of the pinãtas. We started removing the balloon before it was completely dry since our schedule was getting to be a little tight. Simply said, the pinãta became a bowl for serving chips. Fortunately we still had one pinãta left to be filled with candy.

table setting closeupThe birthday girl had requested an ice cream cake to which I gladly agreed. All summer she had been asking me when I would bake brownies. Now was the perfect time to combine the two requests. For the bottome crust I baked a brownie, doubling the recipe from one of my favorite cook books, Elävä valo (orginally published in Norwegian, Levende lys).  The authors, Nina Dreyer Hensley, Jim Hensley and Paul Lowe are Norwegian and have captured the spirit of the Nordic winter light in their photography and recipes so wonderfully. Below is a little sample of their book and also the picture of the brownie crust I made for the birthday cake.

elävä valo collageIce cream is a little bit of a tricky medium as it melts quite quickly. I returned the cake back into the freezer between stages. To make things a bit easier with the ice cream cake, I used a fondant band around the sides to help control the drips and to keep the cake looking intact.

ice cream cakeIf your schedule is a little tight, the naked version of the cake could work just as well as a dessert and the homemade brownies and cookies could be substituted with something picked up from a bakery or grocery store.

 

Lilja’s Ice Cream Cake

The recipe for the brownie is for a round 25 cm/9-10 inch pan. I doubled the recipe and baked it on a oven sheet pan with small edges and cut out the desired size and froze the extra brownies for future use. The assembly of the cake went as follows. Add a liter/ 2 pints of toffee/caramel icecream on the brownie. Roughly chop up about fifteen  Omar Triangle cookies.  Using two liters /four pints of vanilla ice cream, scoop the ice cream on top of the chopped cookies so that they are covered. Return to the freezer at this point. Whip 1/2 liter/2 cups of heavy cream and ice the top and sides of the cake. Use a band of fondant to help hold the possible drips. Decorate as desired.

 

Brownie crust

3 dl/1.3 c sugar
1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c flour
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp dark cocoa powder
150 g/5.3 oz butter, melted
2 eggs
roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

Melt the butter and set aside. Mix all the dry ingredients and then add the melted butter and lightly whisked eggs. Bake the brownie for about 20 minutes at 200 C/390 F. Do not overbake!
Allow the brownied to completely cool.

Also needed:

15 Omar Toffee Triangles
1 liter of toffee/caramel ice cream
2 liters of vanilla ice cream
0.5 l/2 c heavy whipping cream
band of rolled fondant

birthday cakeLilja had one request for Dad. She wanted a precision shooting contest with the air rifle. And so the party guests all lined up to try aim at the plastic soda bottles against the garage door.

air riflefriends

little helper

little helper

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen September edition. Visit her blog for a list of bloggers around the world that have opened up their kitchens for visitors to see.

A day full of the surprises

by tableofcolors

A few weeks ago my cousin Jessie sent me an email that she would be coming to Helsinki with her husband, Olivier. It was the beginning to what would become a wonderful day and adventure that did not really go according to plan but turned out so much better. One lesson that I did learn however is that museums in Helsinki are not open on Mondays. My first stop in the morning before meeting up with Jessie and Olivier was to go visit a new coffee roastery called Kluuvikadun kahvipaahtamo, located in the basement level of the Kluuvi shopping center right in the heart of Helsinki. My old friend and colleague Hiski Lapinleimu is the entrepreneur behind the business. All of their coffee is either fair trade or organic and are traced to the source.

kluuvi kadun kahviI don’t think it can get much better than having a cup of coffee that was roasted only an hour ago with beans that you personally have selected.

kluuvikadun kahvipaahtamo4On the other side of the room is Armas Keittiö & Viinitupa. After being introduced to their lunch menu, I promised that we would be back. Our original plan with Jessie and Olivier was to visit Suomenlinna which is the fortress on an island just off the coast of Helsinki. The weather had decided otherwise and so we thought to go Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art and see their Marimekko exhibit. As we made it to the door, we noticed it was closed as did quite a few other tourists that would come and then turn around. And so we decided to have lunch. It was the correct decision.

jessie and olivierThe brains behind their locally sourced fast food concept at Armas Keittiö & Viinitupa is Heikki Ahopelto. Off to the side is a giant wood burning stone oven that is used daily for baking breads. Even their salmon is smoked on site using alder chips. Part of their concept is that the menu is not overly long but everything is made with care and quality ingredients. I had the salmon kebab that comes in a traditional Finnish potato flat bread. The coffee served with the lunch is freshly roasted across the room. I will be returning.

armas lohikebabarmas keittiöMy sister had suggested that we visit Hotelli Torni which is an old historical hotel that was long the tallest building in Helsinki in addition to the church towers. The skyline of Helsinki is not filled with skyscrapers rather it is filled with older decorative buildings. We had luck. Just as we started our walk to Torni the rain stopped and we were able to get our photos of the city without getting wet. We could however see how a new rainfall was rolling in from the east and just as we were leaving the rain began again.

Helsinki skyline photo by Olivier Belzile

Helsinki skyline photo by Olivier Belzile

Perhaps we should have learned by now that museums are not open on Mondays, but we were quite persistent. We decided to go see if the National Museum might be open. We walked through Kamppi and decided to peek into the Kamppi Chapel of Silence. Outside there is the sound of constant traffic but inside the atmosphere was peacefully quiet. As we walked in, we noticed music stands and soon found out that because of the Helsinki cultural festival weeks there would be two violinists soon performing pieces by Bach and Bartok. And so we sat down in the silence accompanied by an occasional whisper and waited for a mini mid-day concert. It seemed that the day was full of little unplanned surprises. Aren’t those the best kinds of days?

Kanniston Leipomo established in 1914  photo by Olivier Belzile

Kanniston Leipomo established in 1914 photo by Olivier Belzile

After the performance we continued our stroll to the museum. On the way we spied a bakery, Kanniston Leipomo, with delicious looking korvapuusti which literally means an ear pull in Finnish but is actually a wonderful cinnamon roll. And so with our korvapuusti in a bag to go, we strolled to the National Museum. It was also closed. This was certainly not going to spoil our day! We slowly made our way to the restaurant that we were planning to meet my sister and husband for dinner when I noticed at text message saying that Ravintola Sipuli was not taking reservations for the evenings and so we went to Ravintola Nokka just around the corner on the harbor full of sailboats. I quickly texted my husband as well with the development of plans as he was planning on joining us as well. It was a day of eating locally sourced food. Each menu item at Ravintola Nokka is named after a town or city where they locally source their ingredients.

harborThe buildings are built with red brick and had served as harbor storage in a previous life. The ceilings are high and typical to the era, the windows are arched. It was a combination of old and new. In between the kitchen and dining area is a glass wall. You could see the chefs working in their stainless steel kitchen. I loved the ambience. And I loved our company.

ravintola nokkadoing what I love--photo credit Olivier Belzile

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.

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