Fall, the zoo and scalloped potatoes

Nearly every year we visit the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki. The zoo is on a little island right off the shore of downtown Helsinki. There is even a ferry that will take you there for a small fee or you can drive and park on a neighboring island and make the short walk along the path and across the bridge. We usually always go when the weather has become crisp and cool. The animals tend to be more active than under the hot summer sun.
We had taken a picnic lunch with us and were eating in this little pavilion while a flock of Barnacle Geese looked on and tried to sample our sandwiches and cookies at every chance. Once our two year-old Isabella had finished her lunch she went to explore nearby among the trees. She is equipped with a strong sense of innocent curiosity, a real life Curious George including the part about getting in a little bit of trouble. (Yesterday she nearly arranged us some water damage in the upstairs bathroom as a surprise, but that is another story) It was not long that she came enthusiastically running after an entire flock of geese. The Barnacle Geese are wild birds and had stopped to feed as they migrate.
bella and geese
She certainly never has boring days, nor does her mother.
After an active day at the zoo, we had our own group of hungry little people. Now that fall has arrived foods made in the oven feel comforting after spending time in the chilly outdoors. This recipe of scalloped potatoes reminds me of childhood and suppers at home. My version has fresh spinach in it but you may substitute it with frozen spinach if it is more readily available.

on the plate

Scalloped potatoes with Spinach

about 1 kg/2 lbs potatoes (or about 9-10 large potatoes)
1 onion, chopped
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
400 g ground beef or pork
dashes of thyme, rosemary, cumin, mustard, garlic, oregano, paprika and coriander
black pepper
200 g/7 oz plain cream cheese
6 dl /2.5 c milk
3 eggs
1 dl / 1/2 c cracker/panko bread crumbs
handful of grated strong cheese (Emmental)

Brown the ground meat with the onion. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbs and spices to taste. Stir in the chopped spinach and take off heat. Wash and thinly slice the potatoes. I decided to leave the skin on since they had such thin skins. If you prefer, you may peel them. Line a 22×33 cm or 9×13” pan with parchment paper. Layer one third of the potatoes so that they are somewhat overlapping. Add one half of the meat and spinach mixture and one third of the cream cheese in dollops.

spinach and potatoesContinue so that in the end there are three layers of overlapping potatoes and two layers of filling. Add the last third of the cream cheese in dollops on top. Whisk the milk, eggs and some more salt and pepper together. Pour over the potatoes.

cream cheese dollopsSprinkle with the grated cheese and bread crumbs. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated (200 C/ 390 F) and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or so that the potatoes are tender.

on the plate2bella

I know, she looks like Serenity herself.


  1. Yes, she looks very serene! I haven’t tried meat with scalloped potatoes; it looks very tasty and an excellent meal for a colder day. Are all your little ones good eaters?

    1. The kids really liked these scalloped potatoes. But they have their days, sometimes they eat really well and sometimes someone is going through a “stage” of pickiness. It usually passes with time and a little encouragement 🙂

    1. We really had to chuckle a bit when she whipped around the corner herding her flock! She doesn’t make a lot of noise but is plenty busy, a little lady with a mission. 🙂 Tintti suggested that I should write a blog named Iisa and Isabella, the two little girls that live next door to each other and get into all sorts of mischief. It actually would be quite humorous…but there is unfortunately a shortage in time on my part since I spend much of my time trying to keep up after her 🙂

  2. I love this recipe. It reminds me of a dish my German Mama used to make. The cream cheese is a yummy-sounding touch to add richness.

    It’s always fun to take children to the zoo. Now that my sons are grown and we have decades of memories, I’m surprised by how many of the zoo memories linger vividly.

    1. Thank you Tracy! Our kids still talk about the time the lion roared so loud that it echoed across the whole island (a couple of years back). We were right there and I was quite thankful for the strong iron bars separating us from the lions.

      1. Why, if that had happened to my kids, they might have sworn off zoos. I remember the time my three year old stared down a tiger (or perhaps the tiger had mesmerized him) for at least 5 solid minutes (which is an eternity, for a 3-year-old to remain motionless). That time, too, I was thankful for the iron bars.

  3. What a great day at the zoo and what a fabulous recipe for scalloped potatoes. My kids love eating scalloped potaoes but I have never prepared them with spinach or ground meat before – it does sound like delciious family comfort-style food, especially after a long and busy day at the zoo! I really like that you paire a food recipe with pictures of your outing – a very special blg post!
    Thanks also for stopping by my blog and taking the time to leave such a kind comment – now that I know your lovely blog, I shall be back for many more visits!
    Have a great Sunday with your familly!

    1. I really enjoyed stopping by your blog, Andrea! I grew up eating scalloped potatoes with ham, but with our over-abundance of spinach from the garden I have been trying to come up with creative kid-friendly dishes. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Those Barnacle Geese are beautiful, with their long black neck. Wow, love your scalloped potatoes. My son has been at me for ages to make this dish. I’ve never seen it with meat and spinach in it. I just know he’s going to love it. Pinned for future reference!

      1. Wow, the migrating geese are a beautiful sight. I’ve never seen a flock of geese. I tend to only ever see 2 or 3 geese together at a time; usually grumpy, hungry ones on a mission to steal our picnic lunch!

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