tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: Celebrations

80 years young

by tableofcolors

When I was small, Gramma would occasionally make the grand-daughters dresses for Christmas and Easter. Usually the Christmas dress was made with a rich, dark velvet and the spring dress had a floral pattern and a white crocheted collar that could be removed and had a pearl for a button in the back of the neck. I remember sitting in Joann’s Fabrics, walking by the abundance of fabrics and touching the ones I liked. My mom and sister were along and we flipped through a large book full of possible patterns. We were shopping for the fabric and pattern for spring dresses. The fabric had rather large flowers on it and had a bit of weight to it, so that it kept it’s structure nicely. Her sewing room was on the ground floor of their home and while she sewed, the radio most likely was on playing softly in the background.

When we went to church on Easter Sunday, I felt like we were the luckiest girls. The dresses were always perfect. I still love a dress that fits well.

Gramma and Grampa have lived in several different houses and each home come with their own special memories. Gramma’s house has always been my happy place. It’s a place that I always feel so relaxed and at ease. I know that perhaps the big get-togethers with all of the cousins might not have been as relaxing for Gramma as they were us kids. But somehow she did manage to listen to us in the midst of all of the action. The cousins are now spread out across the US and Europe. Maybe someday we will organize a get-together and reminisce.

Gramma has always been my idol. When I grow up I want to be just like her. I think she is wonderfully graceful and intelligient and has a great sense of style. She has wit and a twinkle in her eye.  And together with Grampa they are always so interested in all of the ventures of their grandchildren, and to the delight of the younger generations they actively use social media. Seems like they are not so far away afterall, even if geographically they are across the Atlantic. I’ve been so fortunate to share this blogging journey with them.

This photo was taken sixteen years ago, almost to the day. I keep returning to it when I was going through some photos. Gramma and Grampa are standing by ready to help if needed but allowing us to spread our wings. I had just become a new mom, which has been my most life changing experience to date. Our first born was born in Finland and being quite young and perhaps not quite understanding that a baby may truly come two weeks after her due date, we bought tickets with great confidence for our little family to come to the States. Fortunately she was born two days before her due date and when the flight date arrived, she was exactly four weeks old. I wonder what would have happened had she arrived two weeks overdue! The baby might have been fine, but I didn’t realize that moms need to recover as well. I think I displayed my ingnorance at the birthing class. At the end of the class the midwife asked if anyone had any questions. Someone was concerned if the father would be able to actively participate in the birth. Others asked about bathing the baby or what to take with when leaving for the hospital. My question had to do with rollerblading. I loved rollerblading and I had not had a single chance to rollerblade that summer with my pregnant belly. I asked how soon after birth could I go rollerblading. I had naively thought that I would be on my blades in no time after coming home. I think the midwife had a hard time keeping a straight face and soon I was to realize what was in store. In spite of it all, four weeks later we nervously made our way on the plane and barely dared to breathe. We wondered if we would manage with our new little one. We shouldn’t have worried, the sound of the air conditioner lulled our little one to sleep.

Happy 80th birthday Gramma! Happy Anniversary to both of you, wishing you many more! If we were closer, we would make you brunch. Perhaps a smoothie bowl to share with the grands and great-grands?

 

Our garden has started to produce. This year we put a garden fabric over the kale seedlings as little critters seem to find them every spring. And it worked! Our whole planting box is full of vibrant kale. Along the side of the house where the kitchen is, there is a terrace that goes around one side of the house with planting boxes along the side. One box has herbs and a couple have summer flowers, but the ones in the middle have blueberry bushes and strawberries as a ground covering plant. We had to put nets over the strawberries at the birds really liked the strawberries.

Garden smoothie (makes two large serving or four smaller ones)

1 orange
1 lemon
2 cups of strawberries
1 cup of cherries, pitted
1 handful of blueberries
1 large leaf of kale
1 peeled piece of ginger (1.5 cm x 1.5 cm)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 heaping tsp maca powder

Squeeze the orange and lemon, trying to extract as much of the flesh of the fruit as possible along with the juice. Clean the strawberries and pit the cherries. Cut of the heavy steam of the kale and roughly chop into smaller pieces. Cut a square of ginger and peel the skin off. Cut the square into four smaller pieces and place all ingredients into the blender. Blend until smooth and pour into small bowls. Garnish with berries, nuts, muesli and puffed amaranth or add a layer of youghurt for a parfait. Enjoy!

 

We love you and miss you! ❤

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Christmas comes whether you are ready or not

by tableofcolors

Four days before Christmas the children were all home and full of anticipation and excitement. It was the kind of excitement that warms your heart and makes you want to pull your hair out of your head, all at the same time. I remember when I was that age, and here I was thirty years later creating Christmas for my family. But it four days before Christmas Eve according to the advent calendar and I had not done any Christmas baking or food preparation. Actually I didn’t really start until the day of.

My husband had started though. He butchered, cured and roasted our ham. I had work related things that needed to be completed so that I could take a few complete days off. And then there was the Christmas cleaning. I know that there really is no requirement to clean cupboards for Christmas, afterall no one spends the holidays in the cupboards, but there were a few things that I really wanted to get done. Some of the things had been waiting for months to be done. Christmas is just a natural deadline and I was happy that we got a few things accomplished. I wanted to visit a couple of elderly ladies a few days before, that have a special place in my heart. And you know what, we got everything done and had plenty to eat even if we didn’t start until the day of. But I can’t take all of the credit as everyone helped out and some of kids are getting so old that I can delegate them tasks and trust that they get them done in a thorough manner.

gingerbread-for-breakfast-collage

I knew that Christmas Eve would be long day and full of new and old tradition. I decided that I would eat my breakfast in peace before starting. As I took out a jar of freshly made apple and raisin compote to eat with plain yoghurt, received as a gift from a friend, our three year-old Hugo requested a gingerbread cookie. I gave my permission. It was Christmas.

We had our traditional rice porridge with prune sauce for lunch. Dinner would not be until quite late.

christmas-eve

At best we had fourteen around the table. I think that is one of the most delightful things that we all look forward to, Christmas guests. The children start asking in September if we have invited our guests and if they might have replied. And they remember to ask me often. With such a large crowd, making a larger quantities is the best decision. This means that there will be leftovers to be used for future meals. In Finland, Christmas is celebrated for three days. Christmas Eve is the highlight with Christmas sauna sometime during the day, dinner and Santa Claus. And in our family we serve Christmas coffee late in the evening. Children are able to stay up and play with their new toys and put on their new pajamas. The following days follow a similar pattern but are more relaxed. It is very typical in our family to serve coffee and treats at nine or ten o’clock in the evening. On the morning of the 26th, we still had about a liter of left over rice porridge. I decided that it would be the perfect base for a persimon and orange pudding. Perhaps this new tradition will be something to do again next year.

persimon-and-orange-rice-pudding

Rice pudding with Persimon and Orange

1 liter / 2 pints cold rice porridge (See below for the rice porridge recipe using a slow cooker)

5 dl/1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla sugar

2-3 tbsp agave or to taste

1 ripe persimon, peeled and cubed

1-2 orange, peeled and cubed

Whip the cream until a stiff foam is formed. Fold in the cold rice porridge. Flavor with the vanilla sugar and agave. Mix in the cubed persiom and orange, saving a few to use as garnish.

Slow cooker Rice porridge

This makes a large quantity, enough for eight generous servings. If preferred you half the quantity.

5 dl/2 c pearl rice

2,5 liters/2,5 quarts of water

3 dl /1 1/4 c heavy cream

2-3 tsp salt

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray. This makes for easier clean-up. Place the rice in the pot and pour the water over it. Set the slow cooker on low for 2.5-3 hours. It is done when the rice is tender and there is just a bit of water remaining. It should not be dry in any case. The rice will continue to absorb water even after the cook time is complete. Add the cream and season with salt. It is ready to serve immediately if you wish or you may adjust the setting so that the pot just keeps the food warm and serve within a couple of hours.

rice-pudding

Earlier in December I tried a dairy-free chia pudding that could be made as an alternative festive dessert or snack. Don’t you love the little glass bowls I found on an facebook fleamarket from a local gal. The set of two bowls cost only a euro and they have been in use everyday! The kids love to use them if they wake up before anyone else for a “fancy breakfast”.

chia-pudding

Chia pudding

0,6 dl/ 1/4 c chia seeds

1 can (4 dl/2 c) coconut milk

4 dl/2 c water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp agave syrup

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl or glass jar. Cover and place in the refrigerator over night. Enjoy the next day with a garnish of ripe persimon and walnuts.

joulupukki

Happy Holidays to all of you, my dear readers.

seven-lovelies

 

 

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

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

 

The day Christmas left

by tableofcolors

Today Christmas left the house. Well, not quite all of the way. The Christmas stars are still in the windows bringing light into the dark evenings and the Christmas decorations that the children made are still on the wall. But the Christmas tree, which was quite large, nearly 4 meters(13 feet) in height was carried out and burned in a bonfire. All of a sudden it seemed as if the living room and dining area had become more spacious.IMG_2778 This past week has been cold. So cold that I have even given rides to kids on some of the school mornings (-29 C/-20F). Usually they always bike whether it is snows, rains or shines. It has been beautiful during the days, but when you open the door in the evenings you can literally see the cold roll into the house. Today it was only -15/5 F and it felt quite balmy. In spite of the cold weather, the scenery from the kitchen window has given a promise of spring as the sun has been shining so bright.

Christmas leaving and january lightIt has been our tradition to celebrate a birthday that happens to land right in the days in between Christmas and New Year’s on New Year’s Eve. Later we will have a party for friends after all of the excitement of the holidays has died down.

happy birthday kotivinkki joulukakkuI used Jamie Oliver’s simple sponge for the cake and filled it with a mixture of quark and cream and a thin layer of cloudberry preserves. The idea for the decoration of the cake came from the December cover of the Finnish women’s magazine Kotivinkki.

sponge cake with cloudberry

Wintery Cloudberry cake

The recipe for the sponge cake can be found here. Since it is such a versatile recipe, it has been often used for different cakes. This time, I doubled the recipe and baked it on a sheet pan from which I cut three circles. One of the circles was a bit of piecemeal, but after filling the cake, I wrapped it tight with cling film and allowed to rest in the refrigerator.

Filling
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c whipping cream
500 g/16 oz quark
1 dl/ 1/2 c of sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar or exract

Whip the cream until thick. Fold in the quark. Flavor with sugar and vanilla sugar or extract.

Good quality cloudberry jam or preserves (I like to use Meritalo brand)

generous 1 dl/ 3/4 c milk for moistening the cake

Topping
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c whipping cream
sugar to taste

Make the filling and set aside for a bit. Take the three circles of cake and place one circle on a cake stand or dish of your preference. Lightly moisten with milk. Spread a thin layer of cloudberry jam on the cake. For a stronger flavor of cloudberry, apply a bit of a thicker layer. Spoon a generous layer of the cream mixture on top of the cloudberry jam and place the next circle of cake on top. Repeat process until the last layer of cake is placed on top. Remember to moisten the top layer of cake with milk and a thin layer of cloudberry jam to act as a crumb sealer before the cake is frosted with whipped cream. The cake is at its best if allowed to rest in the refrigerator for several hours or even overnight. Decorate right before serving with crushed candy canes and pine trees made from paper and glued onto wooden sticks. If you have kids, they will be happy to help with part of the project.

ice blossoms

january afternoon

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series that is now hosted by Maureen at the Orgasmic Chef. Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial is taking a break from hosting. Stop by Maureen’s blog for links to kitchens all around the world.

The sparkle in the eyes of children

by tableofcolors

Christmas at home

Photo by LAAVU, Kaija E. Wuollet

Can’t you just feel the anticipation in the faces of the children in the photo above? It was finally the day that they had been waiting for months and a mark that spring would arrive after the darkness as the Winter Solstice, which was on December 22nd this year had been passed. I’m not sure if they had actually been called to the table yet, but they couldn’t really help themselves. Afterall, Joulupukki or Santa Claus magically knows when we have eaten our dinner, and will not arrive before that time. Little did they know, that Joulupukki was actually sitting at the table with us, eating dinner.

Hugo waiting for dinnerSitting on santa's lap joulupukkiThe days before Christmas are often so full of things to do that it seems to me, that the Mother’s Christmas begins after the presents are unwrapped and everyone is playing or admiring their new things. But without the waiting and the anticipation, the pleasure of Christmas or the relaxation that can be almost felt in the air, be so great.

ruispipareitaBefore Christmas I promised a recipe for rye gingerbread cookies that I tried for the first time this year. Their flavor was delicious, and the cookie was a bit softer than the traditional gingerbread and chewy. The dough is bit more tricky than the traditional version and it needed quite a bit of flour when rolling out. This year I also made a traditional batch of dough, as gingerbread cookie baking is something that the children always enjoy, and the regular version of the dough is easier for little hands to handle.

gingerbread cookie baking
Rye Gingerbread Cookies

200 g/ 7 oz butter
2 dl/ 1 c molasses or cane sugar syrup
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp allspice
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
2 eggs
3 1/2 dl/ 1 and 1/2 c rye flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 dl/1 c almond flour/meal
5 dl/just over 2 c flour
dash salt

This recipe is originally from the Finnish food blog Kaikki äitini reseptit. I have changed it a bit to make it easier on the baker.

Put the molasses, sugar and spices into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to bubble for a few minutes so that the sugar begins to melt. Remove from heat and add in the cold butter, stirring it every once in while until completely melted and combined. Add in the eggs one by one and stir until incorporated. Add the baking soda and salt to the rye flour and combine with the molasses mixture. Next add in the almond meal and finally the flour. Mix until it forms an even cookie dough. It will be very sticky at this time. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

When rolling out the cookie dough, I recommend that the dough is rolled out twice. It allows for more wheat flour to be absorbed into the dough and that way the cookies do not spread too much on the cookie sheet. These cookies will spread a bit more than traditional gingerbread, but only a bit more if rolled out twice.

Bake for about 4-6 minutes at 200 C/390 F.

rye gingerbread

Hoping your Christmas season was peaceful and a Happy New Year 2016!

November Light

by tableofcolors

The day before yesterday, the kitchen was full of little people. Everyone wanted to participate in some way and I was needing to use my imagination in creating cake-making jobs of equal importance. Equality was the theme of the day. One of the kids remembered who had made most of the Mother’s day cake and in her opinion it would be unfair if this wrong was to be repeated again. Diplomacy skills were in need and of course a bit of organization. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a human right’s lawyer.

father's day breakfastIn November my kitchen is full of soft light that quickly disappears in the afternoons and yesterday we had a Father’s day breakfast that supposed to be prepared quietly but in fact, but due to the excitement the children didn’t always remember to be so quiet. Erik asked at one point if he could go wake up Bella, as she would prefer to sleep in every morning, just pulling the blanket a little higher and requesting for just another little cat nap before getting up for the day. He crept upstairs, and climbed to the top bunk to wake her up. She must have not protested this particular morning as soon I heard a giant thump and a scramble as they were probably racing to see who reached the stairs first. But they did creep down the stairs again, to try not wake up Isi this morning.

isänpäiväHe probably was awake when we finally made our way upstairs with our tray of breakfast and a song, but he did his best to pretend to be asleep so that the children could wake him up. Happy Father’s day! You are so very important to us ❤

making no-bake mango cheesecake

Lemon-Mango No-bake Cheesecake (to be made the day before serving)

Crust
about 14-16 digestive cookies or 12-13 graham crackers, crushed
50 g/1.8 oz butter, melted
3 tbsp sugar

Filling

2 dl/1 generous cup of heavy whipping cream
400 g/14 oz marscapone cheese
500 g/17.5 oz quark
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
2-3 tbsp lemon curd
zest of one lemon
five gelatin leaves

(boiling water to dissolve the gelatin leaves with)

mango topping
250 g/9 oz puréed mango
1 gelatin leaf

mango no-bake cheesecakeThe Father’s day cake had to be simple enough for the kid’s to make by themselves with a little help and guidance. This cake is easy.

Place the gelatin leaves into a bowl full of cold water to soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile crush the graham crackers or cookies and line a 10 inch spring-form with baking paper on the bottom. Place the cookie crumbs in the lined form along with the sugar and melted butter, stir to combine and them pat down using the bottom of a glass to form a crust. Next whip the heavy whipping cream until thick and fold in the marscapone cheese, quark, sugar, lemon juice and zest and lemon curd. Taste and add sugar if you prefer a sweeter tart.

Boil water in a teapot or saucepan and while it is coming to boil, remove five of the gelatin leaves from the cold water. Squeeze the gelatin leaves to remove excess water and place in a very small dish. Pour in just enough boiling water to dissolve the leaves and fold in the hot gelatin mixture with the filling. Pour the cake filling on the prepared cookie crumb crust and smooth the top.

Take the last gelatin leaf and squeeze it free of excess water. Repeat as done above with the boiling water, making sure not to use too much water. Mix the gelatin mix with the puréed mango and spread over the cheesecake filling. Refrigerate.

father's day breakfast 2Father’s day breakfast menu: Popovers, one filled with a dab of butter, Maasdam cheese, lettuce and tomato and other filled with a dab of butter and cloudberry preserves. Blueberry smoothie with kale, mango cheesecake and the coffee was freshly ground Kaffa Roastery’s Indian Monsoon Malabar Barista Blend.

While the children where making the no-bake cheesecake, I decided to roast my two pumpkins I had on hand. One was of the Hokkaido variety, which I tried out for the first time. The pulp was much more denser in comparison to my other pumpkin. The other pumpkin had served double duty as a decoration waiting to be oven-roasted, drained and then puréed. They will become our Thanksgiving and Christmas pumpkin pies.

I noticed that the one pumpkin was filled with little holes made with pen or pencil one morning. I asked the kids, who might have made little holes into my pumpkin? Our two-year old Hugo heard the question, walked over and proudly showed me with swinging motions of his arms of how he had made the holes into the pumpkin. He doesn’t speak much yet, but he understands everything and manages quite swell with a few words, expressions and impressive sign language that he has made up himself. His smile was so wide and his bright blue eyes shone. How could I be mad. Afterall they were going to be roasted and the outer skin was going to be discarded anyways. Recipe for making homemade pumpkin purée can be found here.

roasting pumpkinsroasted pumpkinMy kitchen in November is full of yellows and oranges, candlelight to light the dark mornings and evenings and the soft light from outside. Sometimes the outside light is a shade of gray as it was today and sometimes it too, has golden hues and bright blues.

morning sunNovember morning sun from our dining room window. Happy November!

 

This In My Kitchen post is part of Celia’s monthly series hosted on Fig Jam Lime Cordial, providing links to kitchens around the world.

The Magic of Midsummers

by tableofcolors

We haven’t had any typical summer weather yet this year. We haven’t gone swimming yet once as the wind has been strong and temperature quite cool and nearly everyday we have had some showers. But the weather has been perfect for the fairies. I doubt they fly if it is too hot and the air still.

keskikesän taika keijujenmaaMidsummers is upon us and since it has rained a bit in the early evening the ground is moist. As the day comes to a close, the sky clears and a magical misty fog rolls in. It moves gently and from far away the top of it curls and then uncurls again. But it is impossible to capture on camera, because as you approach it, the details that can be seen from farther away vanish. Just like the fairies that fly on midsummers and rest occasionally on the flowers that all seem to bloom just in time for this day.

foggy landscape

As you might imagine, the children had been asking what our plans are for St. John’s or midsummers. We really didn’t have any plans and or even the energy to plan a trip somewhere as we had just got our Daddy back. Over the past 11 months, he would be gone during the weeks and sometimes a couple of weeks in a row. Maybe the kids weren’t tired, but the adults were. I thought perhaps we could think of something low-key just at home with our family. The idea originally came from a friend. I had thought many times that it would be fun to do with our family as well and so I presented the idea on Thursday. A hotel breakfast. It would give everyone something to do in spite of the rain and cool weather.

hotelli aamiainen suuret herkkusuut collageThe day before I made the florentine base. I was inspired by this BBC good food recipe but along the way it changed so much that the end product barely represented the original.

Gluten-free florentines with coconut, dried blueberry and apricot

 

120 g/4.2 oz demerara sugar
20 g/just under 1 oz brown sugar
100 g/3.5 oz clear honey
200 g/7 oz butter
150 g/5.3 oz rounghly chopped mixed nuts (some may be chopped finer and others may remain a little larger)
100 g/3.5 oz dessicated coconut
4 tbsp (35 g/1.2 oz) gluten-free flour
25 g/just under 1 oz dried blueberries
45 g/1.5 oz dried apricot finely chopped

Measure the sugars, honey and butter into a medium size sauce pan and melt until the sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl mix coconut, gluten-free flour and dried blueberries and apricots. The original recipe used sliced glacé cherries and almonds. Mix the dry mixture into the melted sugar and butter mixture stir until combined. Spread the florentine batter on a baking sheet that is lined with grease-proof parchment paper and has small sides.

Bake at 180 C/350 F for about 10 minutes or until a rich golden brown. If I was remake these I would reduce the bake time by a minute as mine got a bit dark, so keep an eye on your batch as every oven is different.

florentine baseAfter the base is baked and cooled, flip unto another pan and remove the paper. Melt about 200 g/7 oz dark chocolate and in a separate bowl melt about 100 g/3.5 oz white chocolate. Spread the dark chocolate over the cooled florentine base. Drop dollops of white chocolate on the dark base and proceed to make a marble pattern of your choice.

strawberry goat cheese florentine collageAllow the chocolate to set. Take a cookie cutter and cut out simple shapes. Cookie cutters with small corners such as stars do not work nearly as well.

Cream and Goat Cheese filling
2 dl/ 1 c heavy whipping cream
50 g/1.8 oz soft spreadable goat cheese (cream cheese style)
sugar to taste

Whip the cream until thick. Mix in the goat cheese and mix until combined. Do not overmix. Add sugar to taste. Spoon a spoonful of goat cheese mixture on each florentine and garnish with fresh strawberries.

juhannus päivän aamiainenrieskanäkkäri ja kananmuna aioli 2Spelt and Barley thin crisps with Egg aioli with mushroom and Kale (I used a local thin bread from a bakery just down the road, Leipomo J Martin)
200 g/7 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
10 free-range eggs
1/2 onion
60 g/2 oz celery, finely chopped (about two thin stalks)
rosemary
oregano
a few leaves of fresh basil and chives chopped
25 g/1 oz roughly chopped kale, fresh or frozen
salt and pepper to taste

100 g/3.5 oz- 150 g/5.3 oz aioli
mushroom egg bake kananmuna sieni paistosChop the vegetables and herbs and set aside for a minute. Whisk the eggs and combine with the vegetables and herbs. Add the salt and pepper.  Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 30-32 minutes. Allow to cool until lukewarm. Break up the baked eggs with a fork and mix in the aioli. Serve with crisp bread of your choices. Garnish with fresh herbs and leaves of baby kale.

breakfast brunch collagesuuret herkkusuut hotel breakfastjuhannus auringlasku sunset on midsummersHappy Midsummers and Happy Father’s day! ❤

Motherhood in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

Do you ever have days when you reflect back over the past year or years. Think of whether the job you are doing is good enough. School just ended for our children. Traditionally in Finland the children and parents will sing the suvivirsi or summer hymn. In my kitchen I had children practicing the song for their last day of school last Saturday. Some schools will have a hour long spring program at the school starting in the morning and other schools have spring church which closes their school year. After the spring program or church the teachers will hand out the report cards in the church yard or classrooms. We have children in two schools and so we have a bit of both traditions. The video clip below is of the children and adults singing the suvivirsi at the Kannus church.

The song pulls on my heart strings. The children are so excited to give their teachers little gifts and start summer vacation and on the other hand I wonder where another year went. Two of our six children have severe dyslexia, and I often find that on the last day I wonder if we had done enough or if there might have been another opportunity that we might have realized or delved into. I have found that with dyslexia success needs to be found outside the standard measures of academia. Often they know how to be quite creative as thinking outside of the box is norm for them rather than the exception. It is, I believe the secret to their success. But finding that secret and the toolbox of skills is like a long treasure hunt. Every stone needs to be turned and every method tried but fortunately there is always next year and a new opportunity to try again. But carefree summer is here. We’ll put it all aside for moment and just enoy lunches eaten out on the patio and the rustle of the leaves on the trees and maybe when it warms up, we’ll go for a swim.

last day of school collageThe last day of school is also graduation day for the high schools or lukio. This year our trusted babysitter graduated and received her white cap as is the tradition here. So in my kitchen I had a gluten-free and milk-free cake that I made for her graduation party. Congratulations and best wishes Lotta!

gradution in finlandGluten-free and Milk-free chocolate cake

3 eggs
1 dl/85 g/ 1/2 c sugar
3/4 dl/ 50 g/ 1/3 c brown sugar
225 g/8 oz light naturally gluten-free flour mix (I used Viljatuote)
75 g/2.5 oz dark unsweetened cocoa
dash of salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c olive oil

20 cm/ 8 inch cake form, buttered with vegetable fat and floured with gluten-free flour

Beat the eggs and sugars until it is light in color and thick. Fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and salt. Mix in the olive oil. Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and bake in the oven at 170 C/340 F for about 22 minutes or until the test skewer comes out clean. Do not over bake, as the texure is somewhere between a cake and a brownie.

If your cake does not need to be a milk-free version, you may use dairy whipped cream. For this version, I used a soy cream.

Frosting

2 dl/ generous cup of heavy whipping cream or whippable soy cream
sugar to taste

rhubarbI can’t tell you how much joy spring and the beginning of summer bring. It is so much fun to watch as plants grow and over years become larger, fuller and produce more fruit. Our apple trees we planted last summer have a few delicate blooms on them. Another measure of time. In the very back of the yard is the new home for the rhubarb. We noticed that they did not really like the planting box that was in direct sunlight and prefers the partly shady patch under the trees in our Pikkumetsä or Little Forest as the kids call it. It truly is little. We built our house on what used to be an agricultural field and a mere fifty years ago was a lake bottom. In the back triangular corner of our lot there is a little group of trees, five in total and some shrubs and tall grasses. That is the Little Forest. And so, the other day I went to go inspect their growth and decided to make Gramma Reeni’s Rhubarb Tart, which has become a tradition in the early summer. Gramma Reeni or Irene is my Great-grandmother and lived many years outside of Rochester, Minnesota. The photo below is taken before she was married. What a pretty lady. I’m assuming that the photo would have been taken in Southern Minnesota, as travel required a bit more effort than today and was not quite as common.

gramma reeni collage This time around I served the tart with whipped cream to which I had added a carton of créme fraîche and just a touch of sugar. It got rave reviews as always with this tart, as it is a foolproof recipe and one that even those who do not like rhubarb might like. Click on the link above to go to the original recipe posted two years ago.

hobby horse

In my kitchen yesterday, I had bits and pieces of string and yarn everywhere. The situation was, that there where not enough hobby horses. And so we had to make a couple more, or rather the kids made a couple more. I happened to have a pair of my husband’s wool socks that he has not used for probably thirteen years, if ever and so they were now donated to the children to be repurposed. Erik ran to the Little Forest and hauled a couple of sticks back to the garage which I helped saw and remove the bark to reveal a smoother surface. I found some left over cotton filling and wool socks that had holes in them to be used as the filling, and although I am not really an active sewer or knitter, we did have enough wool yarn for them to make a mane. The project turned into an all-day project, and every once in a while I would leave my baking that I was doing in the kitchen to help out or be their judge for the competition complete with hurdles.

hobby horse raceshobby horse race track demoIrene and DarleneIn the photo is Great-gramma Reeni and Gramma Darlene as a baby. I suppose even then, or perhaps always, mothers have reflected on their success as mothers. Some days we are more successful than others, but truly I think we try almost harder on the days we are not.

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.