My kitchen is filled with anticipation

December and snow has arrived. That means that there is a sense of waiting and electricity in the air. The little people are waiting for the right moment to bake gingerbread, to sew their teachers’ little gifts, hang up the stockings, make pinwheel prune tarts, and open their advent calendars each morning. This past Sunday we lit the first advent candle. Christmas is coming.
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Along with the first advent, the kitchen is filled with Christmas music. “Hoosianna” is traditionally sung during the first advent in Finland in both churches and schools. Below is a recording from the Tampere State Church.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcglATPatgU
I’m not so keen on the shopping frenzy that starts in December and so we did ours in November before the crowds arrived. Now there are only little things to find and those excursions can be quite relaxing since there is no long list in hand and perhaps there might be a minute to stop in a coffee shop. There is a silence outside as so many of the birds have flown south and ones that remained will start their concert again in the spring. This peace I would like to achieve in the kitchen as well; one of everyday tasks sprinkled with little special projects such as these gingerbread trees.
gingerbread trees2
In my kitchen is the cutest mushroom made by my daughter and it brings a little holiday color.
fly agaric 2
Now that winter has arrived it is time to start using all of those berries that we picked last summer. One evening we had french toast with a strawberry sauce. The key to the strawberry sauce is to make the sauce first using a good quality berry juice and potato starch (cornstarch may be used as well) and right when the sauce has been removed from the heat the slightly thawed or frozen berries are added. They will slowly thaw out in the hot sauce while keeping their shape and vitamins.
french toast 3
French Toast

French toast is a great way to use up day old bread. We happened to have some slightly dried out bread on hand and a freezer full of berries which became in turn the inspiration for supper of French toast and berry sauce.

half loaf of sliced light bread (a whole grain variety may be used)
5 dl/2 c milk
2 eggs
1 generous tbsp brown sugar
dash of salt
cinnamon
butter or oil for frying

Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon together. Heat the frying pan or griddle and use a little oil or butter according to your preference. Dip the slices of bread in the milk mixture and allow to soak for a bit. Fry on the hot pan so that both sides are a nice brown color.

Berry sauce

This recipe works with any berries that you may have on hand. If using a more tart berry just increase the amount of sugar.

1 liter/4 c good quality berry juice
sugar to taste
5 dl/2 c frozen or fresh berries
4 tbsp potato starch
1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c water

Bring the juice to boil, adding sugar if needed. Dissolve the potato starch (or corn starch, follow amounts on package) into the water. Whisking constantly, add the potato starch water mixture to the boiling juice. Bring the sauce to a boil and remove from the heat as soon as it bubbles once. Add the berries and set aside for a few minutes allowing the berries to thaw out. A sprinkle of sugar will prevent a “skin” from forming on the surface.

Serve with the French toast or just on its own.

This snowman is not in my kitchen but I could not resist, so cute it is.
2013-12-01 11.43.15-2This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series from Fig Jam Lime Cordial.

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54 Comments

  1. Those gingerbread trees are so delightful! I remember when my children were small and we had such happy Christmases…Now they are gone and Christmas will never be the same again. A wonderful time for you now! Enjoy!

  2. Such a lovely photo of your advent candles with the beautiful view behind them. I adore this time of year, and especially love reading blogger’s descriptions of the lead-up to Christmas in their part of the world. Your post is especially lovely – the anticipation is the same here in Aus, but the season and mood are so different. It was 36ºC (97ºF) here yesterday and the birds were positively screaming, looking for water and protecting their infants! No sense of calm here! Your daughter’s mushroom is so, so gorgeous and the pinwheel prune tarts, French toast and gingerbread trees all look amazing. Seasons greetings to you and your family Laila.

    1. Such lovely warm weather you have you have there in Australia. I have never experienced a warm Christmas as my home in the US was in Minnesota which is a northern state and has a winter similar to Finland, only a bit shorter. So glad you stopped by Saskia.

    1. Thank you Celia! The gingerbread trees make great gifts when wrapped in cellophane. We are making mobile phone pouches for the teachers. I’ve been doing some of the sewing but the kids have been cutting out the fabric, pinning the fabric and sewing on the button on the front. It’s a learning experience for me too, since I’m not much of a sewer! 🙂

  3. Laila, your photos and writing filled me with anticipation, too. Listening to Hoosianna was a treat! I played the organ for our Advent service yesterday — music is such a beautiful part of the traditions this time of year. Also, thank you for your hint about thawing frozen berries.

    1. Oh, I hope you do! I decided to make them for the first time a couple of years ago when I was not quite up to taking on the gingerbread house project…this was a great alternative…fairly easy and fun!

  4. I love the name of this post. Christmas is such a time of anticipation, and as December days move forward, the anticipation grows! I love Christmas, so I enjoy the buzz that is in the air as people bustle about getting pressies.
    Your snowman is pretty cute too!

    1. Thank you Gab, I really appreciate it! I like the anticipation of the children and I really don’t mind the buzz if I have most of my stuff done…it’s just if there seems to be too much to do that the stress level starts to rise a bit 🙂 But I have been practicing how to downshift a bit…

    1. I have sometimes done last minute shopping and it seems like either I can’t find the right thing because there is the pressure that something NEEDS to be found or they are out of what I had originally planned…in November there is still a good selection and sometimes even a few sales…and then this Mama can be more relaxed when the actual holiday arrives. 🙂

  5. Everything looks so festive. I so love this time of year, the Holiday season is wonderful. Just once I wish we could have snow around Christmas, french toast is delicious and with that wonderful berry sauce , fantastic! I think your decorations are beautiful.

  6. The lighting in your pictures soothes my soul. It is so soft and inviting- I got a cup of ginger/lemon tea to enjoy whilst reading!
    I too, love your gingerbread trees- I’ve made a lot of ginger bread houses in the past years- but only one tree- and that was to add a dimension to the graveyard behind the gingerbread church in a village setting.
    Thanks so much for sharing- your kitchen is a delight!

  7. I listened to Hoosianna so many times. It was beautiful. And I shared some of the anticipation in your kitchen with its advent candles and cute mushroom. Tonight I made some blackcurrant sauce using your method. Works so well. Do you make the advent calendars and are there traditional items that go in the calendars? Perhaps you have already done a post on them.

    1. Hoosianna here in Finland signals the beginning of the Christmas season which then makes way for all of the other Chrimas music…glad you enjoyed it. So glad the sauce turned out for you! The kids have their chocolate calendars and upstairs we have a calendar that has little pouches and they all take turns. Sometimes there might be a piece of chocolate or perhaps something useful like a toothbrush. Maybe I should include a photo of the calenders sometime in a future post…thanks for the idea.

      1. I love the idea of the children sharing the Advent calendar upstairs and having their own chocolate calendars as well. A great way to teach them about the spirit of Christmas.

    1. Thank you Glenda. It is a little chilly and wintery here for t-shirts a shorts. Today it was -4 C. But after bundling up we enjoyed the outdoors with the children for a couple of hours. Enjoy the warmth there in your corner of the world!

  8. oh Laila, what a beautiful post. I am especially in love with your gingerbread trees! Love that your children are making home made gifts, I cant wait for my own 2 year old to start her craft project. I can see why you’d want to share your snowman, he’s very cute!

  9. I’m only just beginning our Christmas shopping, just yesterday we went out for the first time if you can believe it! I just couldn’t get in the mood until now. But I’m enjoying it now.. tis the season! I love those trees.. however did you make those?? They’re gorgeous!!

  10. Laila, what a beautiful thing it must be to celebrate a white Christmas. I can only imagine! Thank you for sharing your part of the world at this festive time.

  11. What a beautiful blog you have! I discovered it through Gallivanta’s blog and am delighted that I did – other than the spinach crepes she mentioned, I will also be making French toast this weekend (won’t my family be happy!).

    1. Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the snowman! It was such a day brightner to see when I gave them the carrot for the nose…as of now, the snowman is no more but they now made a snow castle in its place.

  12. Hi Laila, I just love coming to your kitchen it is always a scene of beauty.
    I would love to know how can capture so much emotion in your pictures, you have a real gift! (and I want it hehehe)
    Have a great Christmas
    cheers
    Jason

    1. LOL…Thanks so much for the compliment. I think one thing that helps me get emotion in photos is that I have these little elves around me at all times. They bring out a perspective of life that we adults easily forget…and photography is really all about perspective.

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