Last rays of Summer

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.


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.


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



  1. Congratulations on opening the second store, so happy that your businesses are thriving. I always love seeing pictures of your beautiful children and hearing about life in Finland. I too have stopped eating sugar, refined or otherwise and my goal is to stay sugar free at least until Thanksgiving and then only a bite or two for the holidays and am hoping it will be a lifestyle change for me, I know it’s hard and have had a few bites of chocolate and when I bake I take a taste of the batter (quality control) but I have been pretty successful. Your muffins look and sound wonderful and no refined sugar makes them even better. Happy Autumn and so nice to see you.

  2. Enjoyed…zucchini time of the year, always prolific it seems. Love the mermaid. Looks a bit cool:) Thank you for the autumn stroll…

  3. I always marvel at the balanced way you seem to live your life, especially with young children. You must certainly be living in the flow of the energy you were meant to live. This recipe is exactly my kind of thing, can’t wait to get home and try it. Congratulations opening the second shop. Wishing you much success.

      1. We were away when I read your blog and we got home on Monday. I needed to make some applesauce which I did yesterday, and either today or tomorrow I plan to make the muffins. I’ll let you know how I go! xx

  4. Lovely to read a post from you. I often wonder how you are; the answer seems to be that you are thriving. What a beautiful mermaid! I am finding that eating semolina porridge at the end of the day helps me to control my sugar intake. I make it with milk, cardamom, currants, orange zest, and a pinch of sugar or syrup. Very satisfying.

    1. Your semolina porridge with the lovely toppings sound divine! We haven’t had it on our menu for a while…I’m quite sure the kids would love to have it again! Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you are doing well?

  5. Nice to hear of your successes so far weaning your family off refined sugar – I stared that journey around 5 years ago and can honestly say your taste for sweetness changes over time and those cravings just disappear…..

    1. Yes, you are so right! I generally don’t have too much sugar as it is and for the most part the children are used to eating plain yoghurt and such. They really haven’t complained too much at all as I have given them an occasional small scoop of vanilla ice cream with baked apples, now that it is fall and locally grown apples are in abundance 🙂

      1. There are certainly times when extra-hard work is “necessary,” but on your death bed, you’d never wish you’d worked even harder. I heard that once and it really resonated.

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