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.
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.
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
200 g/7 oz plain cream cheese
6 dl /2.5 c milk
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.
Continue 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.
Sprinkle 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.
I know, she looks like Serenity herself.