tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Hilja’s Letter

by tableofcolors

Today Finland turns 99 years old. The sun has been shining bright and it is cold. I can only imagine how cold it was during the Winter War, when Finland defended it’s independence from Russia, as it was an exceptionally cold winter and there certainly was a lack of luxury and comfort. Many foods were rationed and creativity was required to prepare meals. Some time back I received an email from my Grampa Jim. It was the letter addressed to Elma from her cousin Hilja from Finland, or that is how they speak of each other in some other texts. I thought today would be the perfect day to share it, as it gives insight into Finnish society and their ability to find a unity when it was needed most dearly. I find myself returning back to the letter and rereading it over and over again. It is so articulately written and intriguing. And her wise eyes that observed society around her and look directly at you from the photograph.

Hilja

Hilja the author of the letter to Elma (Grampa’s aunt)

History is so interesting, as it is the stories of people all intertangled. I fear that if these stories remain only in our memories, they are easily forgotten. I will tell you a little about Hilja. She was the foster mother of the late Einojuhani Rautavaara, a very well-known Finnish composer. In the letter Einojuhani is referred to Jukka, but Hilja says that they call him Eino now. It would be interesting to know if Hilja and Einojuhani are related. In my archives I have a photoPerhaps someday I will find that little detail. What I do know is that Hilja and Elma were very good friends, and I am amazed with her English. It would be so interesting to learn more about Hilja and her life. She tells a powerful story in her letter below.

Links for previous posts about the Anderson family and Aunt Elma can be found here:In my kitchen in the Bleak of the Midwinter, Elma, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Elma’s Travels, Some Mean Coffee, All the King’s Men, and Friendship in My Kitchen.

Elma Anderson and Einojuhani Rautavaara

Elma Anderson and Einojuhani Rautavaara

elma-s-letter

elma-s-letter-2

Hilja tells of President Kallio’s death, in the middle of a procession. It is possible to sense the unity of the people in a war-torn country and how they stood behind their leader who had shown the qualities of a true leader. I feel that sometimes we need to hit a low point in order to see what is important in building a new future for our children.

 You have read in the papers that President Kallio has been ill and he therefore had to retire. Already a new president was elected and everything was ready, and President Kallio was to travel out to the country to rest, when at the station just having bid farewell to his accompanying friends and government officials and representatives of Congress, a moment before stepping into the train, he fell dead in the arms of the Field Marshal Mannerheim who was walking at his side before the ranks of the armies of honor. He died a wonderful death, just at the crowning peak of his life. It is as if the Lord of life and death had willed all this in this remarkable way. Great multitudes of people were escorting him. It was just as though he died into the arms of his people. He was loved and respected, a noble-hearted man, whose heart last winter had to bear so much, and which now stopped beating at the moment when the Fatherland had already received a new leader, a new President.

                                                                                                                                                                       -Hilja

Today in my kitchen we celebrated the Finnish Independence day  with two lighted candles. The children made a traditional toffee fudge quite independently. They have grown so big that they prefer to bake without any help. The question that comes to mind is how to teach our children the value of our society today. The freedoms and priviledges we have. The equality, although never quite perfect as we are a society of humans and humans are not known for perfection, is still at a very advanced level. The privilege of education and personal safety. I am able to let my children freely bike and walk in the neighborhood. I would hope that our children would not take these rights and privileges for granted as many have paid a heavy price.

homemade-fudge

Toffee Fudge, recipe from the Children’s baking book Suomen Lasten Leivontakirja by Ulla Svensk

2 dl/ 1 c heavy whipping cream
2 dl/ 1 c caster sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp butter
sprinkle of fleur de sel

Bring the cream, brown sugar, caster sugar and molasses to a boil. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until it has thickened. Test if the mixture is done by dropping a small drop into a bowl of cold water. If it firms up, it is ready.

Add the butter to fudge and mix until incorporated. Pour the fudge into a small pan (15 cm x 15 cm) that is lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool in the refrigerator. Cut into squares and if preferred you may roll the squares into balls.

These make a pretty gift. Wrap the individual pieces of fudge into small pieces of cellophane and tie with string.

In my kitchen I have also been making treats that do not have refined sugar. The following recipe for raw chocolate is delicious. The original recipe I received from my friend Kaisa. As I did not have the recipe on me when out shopping I had to guess when buying ingredients and so my version is a bit different.

organic-raw-chocolate

Raw chocolate with nuts

You will need a set of molds for the chocolate.

2 dl/ 1 c organic cocoa mass
1 dl/ 1/2 dl coconut oil
1 dl/ 1/2 c raw cocoa powder
about 1 tbsp stevia
1 tsp mint or vanilla extract
assortment of nuts

Place the cocoa mass and coconut oil in a large bowl. Fill your sink with hot water and place the bowl in the sink. Melt the coconut oil and cocoa mass by stirring until it is all melted. By melting the cocoa mass in a hot water bath all of the nutrients are kept.

Stir in the cocoa powder, stevia and your choice of mint or vanilla extract. Place a few nuts in each mold if you wish. Spoon the melted chocolate mixture so that nuts are completely covered. Place in the refrigerator and allow to set. If you prefer, you may freeze your chocolate.

As it is Finland’s Independence day today, my kitchen has been filled with Finnish music.

Einjuhani Rautavaara is one of Finland’s contemporary composers. One of his most well known pieces is the Cantus Arcticus Op. 61 in which you may hear the audio landscape of the nordic and the calls of the wild birds.

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series that is currently hosted by the lovely Lizzy at her blog Good Things.

elma-s-letter-2elma-s-letter-2Tallenna

Tallenna

Memories and the most delicious Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie

by tableofcolors

worlds-best-gluten-free-refined-sugar-free-pumpkin-pie-3I have been a bit homesick lately. I wish I could go back in time and slip on the velvet dress Gramma made. And go to Gramma’s house for Sunday or maybe Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family. Cousins would be over and we would begin our holiday season with Christmas songs around the piano. Erica might have played the violin. I might have played the violin as well in later years after practicing a bit. Lisa would play the piano.

The house was split into three levels. There was a dark wooden round railing on the staircase going upstairs that curved at the bottom of the stairs. It was smooth and shiny and I would always run my fingers along it going to the third level. I’m not sure if I remember correctly, but I believe there was the wall of frowning ancestors in the staircase going up. It has always been interesting to think of their lives and how they differed from ours. I found this photo in my album, and sure enough the frowning ancestors were in the place that I had remembered.

family-photo-91Upstairs the guest room had a bed that was so high you had to really try climbing on top of it. The mattress was rather firm and there might have been cotton crocheted lace along the edge of the spread that was turned over near the head of the bed. I remember sleeping on the bed a few times when staying overnight at Gramma’s. I felt like a princess on the bed, and I think my brother must have been sleeping on the other side of the big double bed. There was something so exciting about sleeping over at Gramma’s that sometimes it took a little while for the sandman to come. I remember watching the shadows of the tree branches swaying. Perhaps it was the street light or the light of the moon that filtered into the room. It felt cozy and safe, Gramma and Grampa were just down the hall and the next thing I knew, it was the light of the sun filtering in the window bringing the new day. Gramma and Grampa were both in the kitchen by the time we made it downstairs. I don’t remember if I woke Pekka up or did he wake me. We sat in the back of the kitchen, where the table had its own niche in the bay window. We had Rice Krispies that crackled and popped quietly in our bowls, while WCCO played softly in the background. Maybe we had a piece of toast as well or a half of a muffin from the bakery.

eating-with-cousins-at-morgan-aveThe recipes below are made to share. The pumpkin pie is gluten-free and made using no refined sugar. It is absolutely delicious and will be going on my list of favorites. My recipe for homemade pumpkin purée can be found here.

gluten-free-refined-sugar-free-pumpkin-pie

Gluten-free and refined sugar free pumpkin pie

The pie crust recipe has been created by Erika from A Little Insanity blog and you can find it from this link.

The flour I used was a mix of white and dark gluten-free flour that had ground flax seed in it giving it a darker color.

Pumpkin pie filling (Refined sugar free)

5 dl/ 2 c pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 dl/ 2/3 c coconut sugar or unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
2 dl/just under 1 c heavy cream

Follow the instructions for the pie crust as can be found in the link above. Roll out the pie crusts, place in pie tins and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes. Prebake at 200 C/400 F for about 10-12 minutes or until the crust has gained slight color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Beat the eggs and coconut sugar until very thick. Mix the spices in with the pumpkin purée. Fold the pumpkin mixture into the egg batter. Using a spoon, add in the cream. Pour the filling into the pie tin and bake at 175 C/350 F for about 35-40 minutes. Test with a skewer.

Allow to cool and serve with whipped cream flavored gently with a bit of coconut sugar and cinnamon.

kurpitsalettuja-taikina

One weekend recently we had pumpkin for every meal. Pumpkin waffles, a DIY Pumpkin spice latte that was better thank Starbucks and Savory Pumpkin sauce over cooked barly. The kids did not complain and even our baby had some pumpkin purée.

Rosemary pumpkin sauce

I browsed a bit online and noticed that Martha Stewart had fried rosemary in olive oil. The rosemary gave my pumpkin sauce a beautiful flavor.

Fresh rosemary
olive or coconut oil

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil on a large frying pan. Place the fresh rosemary into the pan and fry for about 1-2 minutes or until the rosemary is turning a bit brown. These crispy bits will bring the flavor of your sauce to the next level.

Cook barley according to directions on the package. Season with organic vegetable stock.

5 dl/2 cups of pumpkin purée
1 clove of garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
apple vinegar
half and half or cream cheese
salt and pepper
water or barley cooking water

Remove the rosemary and set aside on a plate. Place the minced garlic and onion into the already hot pan. Add in the the pumpkin purée and stir. Since the pumpkin purée is already cooked this sauce is very quick. Add water or barley cooking water to thin the sauce a bit. If you prefer, you may add a splash of half and half or 50 g of cream cheese to bring some creaminess to the sauce.
Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. Check flavor.

Spoon sauce over the cooked barley and garnish with the fried rosemary.

rosemary-pumpkin-sauce

Last rays of Summer

by tableofcolors

Where to start. Life is going by faster than I can write. A few days ago the announcer on the radio said that Wednesday would be the last day of summery-like weather. It wasn’t really summer anymore and hasn’t been so for some time. The air had the chill of autumn. In the sun, the air feels warm but in the shade, it feels like a jacket would be in place. I decided that I would take the day off from work related things and try to catch the last rays of summer sun with the kids. A cold front was arriving.

bella-and-the-september-beachI asked the little ones, that are not at school during the day, if we should make one last trip to the beach. Bella became all excited. She wanted to play mermaid one last time. She took off on her bike without shoes. I asked if she might need shoes. “No, then I don’t have to wait for my feet to dry after swimming.” I had to agree. It is rather uncomfortable to put on shoes when they are covered in partially wet sand.

When we arrived at the beach, it was empty. The sand was filled with rings made with light motorcycles, most likely in the evening time by a group of teenagers. No one had walked on these circles yet, and the wind had not shifted the sand erasing their existence. Perhaps it had been the night before. Bella left her bike under the tree that has become our designated bike park. It is the spot where the hard ground turns into the sandy beach. I continued to push the stroller through the sand to the other side of the reeds. It is the side we always go to and usually spread our blanket under the shade of a group of trees that stand right in the middle of the beach. The sand is smoother on this side of the reeds and there are not as many rocks. But now it was fall and the sun was in a different position and all along the beach there were long shadows. So we sat in the sun this time to warm us up and Bella played Mermaid.

last-rays-of-summer-collage

She was completely immersed in her own world of make-believe play. There is something so satisfactory about playing. I felt like I almost got to participate through the lens of my camera. Perhaps it is my play, photography that is. Completely de-stressing.

baby-and-the-beachMy husband and I have a little goal that we started in the beginning of August. To eat as little refined sugar as possible. The original goal was to have no sugar until Christmas. Five exceptions were allowed. I haven’t quite kept with the goal, having a little taste of something sweet a few times and on special occasions. I see it as a lifestyle and so I don’t dare to lay down too strict rules of what can and cannot be eaten. But in the end I have been pleased that we have had very little refined sugar and if the sweet tooth seems to get the better of me, I have tried making things sweetened with maple syrup or honey. Afterall, I see this as something will continue after Christmas and not just a crash course to try suffer through.

giant-zucchini

One day when I came home, I found a bag by the door with some giant zucchini. At first they sat on our counter as a decoration showing off their vibrant summer greens. We spent almost two weeks eating them. We were having some young people over one evening and I felt like having something sweet, so I searched the web for a recipe that would not contain refined sugar. I found the following recipe for zucchini and applesauce muffins from the Ambitious Kitchen. First I tried the recipe as is, the second batch I gently tweeked by adding in a bit more olive oil to give the muffin a softer crumb. Here is my version.

Zucchini Applesauce muffins without refined sugar

3.5 dl/1.5 c whole wheat flour (I used a half and half mix of white and whole-grain spelt flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
generous 2 dl/1 c shredded zucchini
generous 1 dl/ 1/2 c pure maple syrup or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
0.7 dl/ 1/3 c olive oil
1dl/1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c milk (any milk will work including nondairy options)

Preheat your oven to 175 C/350 C. Spray the muffin tin with a non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients including the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium sized bowl mix all of the wet ingredients. Start by gently whisking the egg, olive oil, applesauce, milk, vanilla extract and almond extract. Add in the shredded zucchini. Combine with the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Spoon muffin batter in the muffin tin and bake for about 19-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

zucchini-and-applesauce-muffinsIf you have a special occasion and want to take the muffins up a notch. This frosting brings a delightful twist. (It contains just a bit sugar.)

2 dl/1 c whipping cream
250 g/9 oz quark
100 g/3.5 oz cream cheese
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp sugar

Whip the cream until fluffy. Fold in the quark and cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add in the lemon juice and sugar. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe dollops onto eat muffin. In the picture about I have cut the muffins into halves and then garnished with the frosting. Enjoy!

We opened our second Cabana de Empanadas coffee shop this past August in the Iso Omena shopping center in Espoo (15 minutes from downtown Helsinki). It has been busy and delightful! Opening weekend was wonderfully busy!

iso-omena cabana de empanadas

 

Celebration

by tableofcolors

This summer has been full of celebrations. We’ve had a baptism and a wedding and next Sunday we will be celebrating the confirmation of our oldest daughter. Seems just a little while ago she was small and now she is a teenager more independent on some days than others. It makes me reflect, did we do enough for her? Fortunately there are still a few years until eighteen and so I console myself that we still have a bit of time. But the fact that she is already fifteen, means the other kids are all growing up as well. There is something nice about the fact that we now have big kids in the house as well. Discussions can be quite interesting. I’ve had my first grader-going-on-second ask me one day if I knew what carbon monoxide was. I did my best explaining what produces carbon monoxide and why it is important to let the fire in the fireplace and the wood-burning oven in the sauna completely die out before closing the dampers. He then asked me, “But Mom, do you know why carbon monoxide is so deadly?” Before I had a chance to respond he went on to tell me about how the carbon monoxide is able to penetrate through cell membranes making it deadly. And I thought I was the one teaching.

esikoinen ja kuopus collagem&v weddingJasmin and Erik collageSince we are preparing for another celebration next weekend, I thought I would share a couple of recipes perfect for the occasion. We don’t make cookies daily but quite often I do have a batch of cookie dough balls in the freezer ready to pop in the oven if the need arises. At the moment my freezer is quite empty as nearly all of the berries are eaten as well and so have needed to something completely new and fresh. I have tried two types of cookies. One is a gluten-free cookie and the recipe is from the lovely Ardys. Here is the link to her delcious Gluten-free Double Chocolate Chip cookies made with buckwheat. I think the main thing of importance is that they should not be overbaked. The lovely thing about these cookies is that they have no added refined sugar if you use unsweetened chocolate. I was not able to find the unsweetened version so I used a dark chocolate. So my cookie did have a bit of refined sugar. Eat them plain with coffee, or if you’re really feeling like it is a special day perhaps a scoop of ice cream on top would do the trick.

gluten-free double chocolate chip cookiesThe other cookie that I have been working on is a Alfajores recipe. It is a completely new cookie to me and I still need to do some research but I promise that the recipe below is a melt-in-your-mouth cookie experience. The reason for their delicate nature is that they have quite a bit of corn starch in the dough.

I had been at the coffee shop one day and two young lads happened to stop by and stand in the doorway. They obviously were not Finns as they were not as blonde in complexion. I welcomed them and they claimed that they just came for a quick look that they would be back some other time. They really liked the interior design and soon they were inside and we were chatting. They just so happened to be from South America, and they recommended that we might take the alfajores cookies on our menu. Perhaps we could, as they are delicious. Below is one version that I found on Chowhound’s website.

alfajoresAlfajores
80 g/ 2 dl/ 1 c cornstarch
65 g/ 1.5 dl/ 3/4 c flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
110 g/ 8 tbsp butter at room temperature
72 g/ just under 1 dl/ 1/3 c sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (or you could use pisco or brandy)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
2 dl/ 1 c dulce de leche
Powdered sugar for dusting

Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and set aside. Next place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. You may also use a hand-held electric mixer for this. Mix until light and fluffy. If needed, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks, orange juice (or brandy) and vanilla and mix until incorporated. This will take about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. On low speed, gradually fold in the flour mixture and mix only until everything is incorporated.

Turn the dough on a piece of cling film and wrap and form a smooth disc. Place into the refrigerator to rest until firm for at least one hour. I have also allowed it to rest overnight.

Once ready to bake, turn your oven to 175 C /350 F. Place your dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough to a thickness of 0.6 cm/ 1/4 inch. The dough may crack, but it is easy to patch up together. Using a 5 cm/ 2 inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds and placed on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Mine were a bit smaller and although the original recipe calls for a bake time of 12-14 minutes, I baked mine for a meer 3 minutes. At four minutes they had become quite dark. So watch the first pan closely to see what the right bake time is with your oven.

Once out the oven, let them cool a bit before removing and placing on a wire rack. Fill half of the cookies with 1-2 tsp (depending on the size of the cookie) dulce de leche. Place a second cookie on top to form a sandwich. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

This cookies freeze immensely well! And they only take a minute to thaw. I actually prefer them just a bit cold, causing the dulce de leche to be just a bit chewy along with a cup of hot coffee. Perfection!

alfajores and dulce de leche

family celebrations collage

cutting cakemika and venla2

 

All my seven lovelies

by tableofcolors

The last time I posted was just a few days before our little Jasmin Yvonne arrived. She has been the most perfect baby, making eye contact and smiling at us those real baby smiles at day four. A week before she turned two months, she rolled over on her belly and now is trying hard to swim forward on the floor. She has slept perfectly every night. We haven’t had to walk with her at night, retracing our footsteps and hoping for sleep like with some of the others. Really feels like there has been a higher power that has steered the coarse for us. This spring has been so full, I don’t know how we could have managed if the baby would have been collicky.seven lovelies6

seven lovelies4

The traditional pose was just not happening that day…so I decided that a photo of my seven lovelies showing their personalities was perhaps more accurate and maybe even more memorable.

Just a few weeks after Jasmin was born we opened the new coffee shop concept store, Cabana de Empanadas, right in the heart of Helsinki in the Forum shopping mall(2nd floor). The original plan was that it would have opened already a couple of months earlier. But life often does not follow our plans and big happenings often are all heaped in a cluster.

cabana de empanadas avajaiset

Grand opening. Guitarist Oliver Palm entertained us with melodies from Spain and South America.

omppu17

Help us reach our goal of 500 followers on our Cabana de Empanadas facebook page! We will be drawing one lucky winner to win an Empanada picnic basket for 4 after we reach the goal and deliver it straight to your picnic blanket (Helsinki area only)

empanadas for sale

cabana de empanadas punajuuri watermelon salad kombucha

All winter we had stayed healthy. Nobody had more than a runny nose. Maybe it was the superfood smoothies I had been feeding them all winter, or just basic hand washing with soap or just good luck. When we arrived home from the hospital with little Jasmin, most of the kids were coughing and some were running temps. Within a few days Jasmin started showing signs that she might have caught something. When she was eleven days old, I noticed that I was following her every move, checking to see if she was breathing fine and debating whether I should take her in to get checked. In the afternoon she took a long nap and seemed to be breathing peacefully. I thought, perhaps we had gotten over the worst of it. In the evening as clock inched closer to midnight and I was trying to get her asleep, she seemed to have a hard time finding a comfortable position. It felt like her breathing was getting more labored and that was when I decided to take her in. Why is it that until the very end, one wonders if a trip to the doctor is a waste and if I’m acting like a Newbie Mom bringing their kid in for every little scratch or scrape.

I was reassured that it was very good that I brought little Jasmin in, as we were whisked away to another hospital that has a children’s ward. On the first day, the doctor informed us that we must be prepared for a stay of an undefinite amount of days. I was supposed to have been baking at the bakery that morning, doing our second run through with the product. In the end, it all went as it was supposed to, as I probably had RSV as well and felt quite crummy. We spent a week in that hospital room getting better together.

hospital stay2

I am by no means complaining. Afterall, I have always wanted to have a business, to work through the challenges and maybe even experience the rewards at some point. I have wanted to be a businesswoman since I was…like five. And this past spring has been life at its best and most challenging. It has been genuine life, with sometimes round the clock work. But fortunately our baby has been the perfect baby.

butternut squash avocado brownies

Avocado Sweet potato Brownies sweetened with maple syrup

Yes, I have been baking all sorts of sweet and savory empanadas and perhaps someday I will be able to share a recipe with you. But here is a recipe to a brownie made with butternut squash and avocado and sweetended with maple syrup. The texture was just what like a brownie should be, moist and rich. The brownie is not very sweet like they traditionally are and so if you are craving a bit of sweetness, they could be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Avocado Sweet potato brownies (Gluten-free and dairy-free)

The original recipe was found her from the Satokausi kalenteri blogi.

 

For the brownie:

300g/10.5 oz sweet potato
1 large avocado
1.2 dl/1/2 c maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract or the seeds from a half of a vanilla bean.
4 eggs
1 dl/ 1/2 c coconut flour
1 tbsp almond flour
1.2 dl/ 1/2 c quality cocoa powder
dash of sea salt
1 tsp baking soda

Frosting:

1 avocado
0.5 dl/ 1/4 c maple syrup
0.5 dl/ 1/4 cocoa powder
1 generous tablespoon coconut oil
0.5 tsp vanilla sugar or extract or the seeds from a half of a vanilla bean.

Variety of nuts for garnish

Peel and cut the sweet potato into cubes. Cook in boiling water until tender(about 20 minutes). Remove from water and drain and purée with a fork. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F.

Mix the avocado, maple syrup, sweet potato and vanilla until smooth in a blender or food processor. Blend in the eggs. Mix the dry ingredients and fold into the batter.
Line a 18×25 cm or 7×10 inch pan with parchment paper and pour the batter into the pan. Smooth the surface of the batter and bake for about 20 minutes or so that a toothpick comes out clean and bottom of the brownie is just barely done. Allow to completely cool.

Make the frosting by blending all the ingredients either in a blender or with an imersion wand. Spread over the brownies and allow to chill in the refrigerator. These brownies freeze well and so can be made well in advance.

hugo

summer field finlandThis summer has been filled with family celebration, a baptism and a wedding and family visiting from America. But that all shall wait for another post. Happy Midsummer’s!

Cabana de Empanadas

by tableofcolors

These past few months have been busy. And there is exciting news to be told regarding many different areas of life. I have been working hard with a couple of colleagues to open a new coffee shop concept right in the heart of Helsinki. Cabana de Empanadas will bring a ray of sunshine and color into the Nordic. Our empanadas include classics as well as flavors inspired by nature that surrounds us in the Nordic. But that is really is the essence of an empanada. It is a little handpie that has traveled across the globe beginning in the Arab region and Persia. Then they were called Sanbusak. With time they made their way to the Iberian Peninsula, Galicia and Portugal. From there they traveled with the Conquistadores to South America. With each stop, new flavors were introduced. And now as they make their way into the Nordic, we are leaving our handprint on the recipes as well.

jauheliha chorizo ja vesimeloni feta salaatti mintulla 2

Argentina Classic empanada and a watermelon feta salad

kirsikka ja dulce de leche 2

Cherry sage and Dulce de Leche Empanadas

And as often happens with new ventures, schedules are sometimes a bit delayed for various reasons. But sometimes it pays to wait.

cabana opening in april

 

lautaset

cabana de empandas interior design ester visua

Interior design by Elisa Ahonen from  Ester Visual

Big changes in life tend to happen in clusters, and often it is not because it has been planned this way. But rather it is a conglomeration of events, all stringed together.

9 monthsAnyday now little one, as it’s past due. “Sometimes you have to wait a long time for something good to happen, the longer the wait the better the benefit. ” -Unknown

Easter mummus FinlandHope your Easter time was spent with your close ones! This is all that is left of our snow fort, the sun has been shining in full force and the roads are just about thawed. Spring is on its way!

Follow the story of Cabana de Empanadas as it unfolds on Instagram and Facebookwww.cabanaempanada.com

cabana de empanadas logo

March, the best days of winter

by tableofcolors

The kids are on ski break this week and the weather has been treating us great! The best days of winter have arrived. This week we have taken the kitchen outside and on Monday the whole family went on a skiing and sledding trek to a laavu, or a classic Finnish lean-to that can be found in the wilderness all over the country. They can be resting spots on a hiking or a berry picking trip and are usually open for public use. In front of the laavu, there usually is a fire pit and so we roasted sausages for lunch with the children.

laavu and finnish winter

laavuretki finnish winter

The children were also hoping for a special snack, something out of the ordinary. I decided to give the vegan avocado-chocolate pudding a try. I found a recipe on the kitchn ‘s website.

It was a simple recipe and quick to make although I ended up having a little mishap in the process. As I was whipping the coconut cream for the topping, my phone rang. I left the immersion wand standing upright in the bowl and the second I turned around, the bowl fell on the floor and into two pieces and I had coconut cream all over the kitchen. Amateur mistake, I know. And I spent the next half hour with one of my daughters cleaning the kitchen. In the end, I did not have any more coconut cream left and but did have some regular heavy cream in the fridge. And so our pudding was only partly vegan. For our crowd, I doubled the recipe.

vegan chocolate pudding 3

Vegan Chocolate pudding cups with Coconut Cream recipe created by Gina Eykemans

pudding cups:

15 Medjool dates, soaked in warm water for an hour
1 ripe Hass avocado
1/4 raw cacao or semisweet cocoa powder
1 c full-fat coconut milk
pinch of sea salt

Coconut cream:
395 g/ 1 (14 oz) can of chilled coconut cream
2 tbsp maple syrup

Soak the dates for an hour in warm water. Drain the dates and remove the pits and place into a blender. Peel the avocado and remove pit. Cut into big chunks and place into the blender along with the cacao, coconut milk and sea salt. Blend until a smooth consistency. I was pleasantly surprised how pudding like the consistency was. Spoon into cups. I made fairly small portions as kids sometimes have a hard time finishing large servings and I hate when food goes to waste. I prefer to start with small servings and give seconds, plus the serving does not look as overwhelming to them and they have an easier time finishing it. This is one thing I learned from my Mom!

For the coconut cream, make sure it has been chilled. Whip with a hand mixer until thick and creamy and swirl in the maple syrup. Top each pudding with a spoonful of coconut cream. Serve immediately or chill and serve later.

vegan chocolate puddingThe kids had their comments. They thought it looked like something that just makes your mouth water, but they would have liked it a bit sweeter and came for another spoonful of cream after they were half way through their puddings. So perhaps next time I’ll add just a bit of sugar.

vegan chocolate pudding2This post is a part of the In My Kitchen series now hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Stop by her blog to find links to kitchens all around the world!

Snow castle hot chocolate

by tableofcolors

Valentine’s day always surprises a bit in Finland as it is not such a commercial happening here and so I all of a sudden realize that it is the middle of February and the day has arrived. The children do remember it though, and usually wish for a little something special. This past week it had been raining and all along the driveway and on many of the smaller roads there was a thick layer of ice under a layer of water. It was slippery.

lumilinnakaakao collageBut today it snowed almost all day. It was heavy, wet snow perfect for building snow castles, snow dogs, snowmen and having snowball fights. And it was a perfect day for having hot chocolate in the snow castle.

Our Erik did complain in the car the other day that no one had given him a Valentine’s day card. Some of the girls had gotten a card or two from a friend, but as it is not such a notable holiday here there are no class parties where everyone exchanges cards. He did seem quite sad. So today my husband told some of the kids to make him a card, and soon they were all making cards for each other. And that is what our Valentine’s day or Friendship day, as it is called in Finnish, was made of: play in the snow, hot chocolate and homemade cards made from the heart that brought smiles to the recipients.

valentine's day cards

vintage chocolate chip cookies spelttijauhoilla edit

Vintage Chocolate Chip cookies with Spelt

 

The original recipe is from BBC’s good food site. I substituted some of the white flour with wholegrain spelt flour to give it an added dimension of flavor.

150 g/5.3 oz softened butter
80 g/2.8 oz light brown sugra
80 g/2.8 oz sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
150 g/5.3 oz flour
75 g/2.6 oz wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
200 g/7 oz dark or semisweet chocolate (I used only 100 g/3.5 oz for this batch)

sunspelt jauhojaFor our family I made a triple batch. For a smaller cookie I make 30 g/1 oz cookie dough balls that I froze and then bake off. For a larger cookie I have made a 56-58 g/ 2 oz ball of dough. Line a freezer safe container with parchment paper and place the balls of cookie dough in rows and freeze. Between each layer place a piece of parchment paper. Plastic bags work just as well but then I suggest to not layer the cookies. Bake the frozen cookies at 180 C/350 F. For small cookies the bake time is 8-9 minutes and for the larger cookies it is about 10-11 minutes. Do not overbake.

lumilinnaleikitHappy Valentine’s to all my dear readers! “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Runeberg day and tarts

by tableofcolors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Icing

2 tsp lemon juice or water
icing sugar

Raspberry or apple jam

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

runeberg tartssnowman Collage

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

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

Sun dogs and squeaky cheese

by tableofcolors

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

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

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

ice crystals

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

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

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

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

cloudberry dessert

Cloudberry dessert with Finnish Leipäjuusto

 

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

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

spelttinäkkäri ja itsetehty leipäjuusto

spelttinäkkäri ja leipäjuustoa lakkahillolla