tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: In my kitchen

Special Needs

by tableofcolors

For my In My Kitchen series post, I will be sharing a series of pictures from my kitchen and a swirl of thoughts that have been going through my mind as I made May Day donuts for the children…and adults.

Last fall I visited a design fair where one of the companies there, was presenting their version of the mini house. They were lovely, contemporary in style and I could imagine that it would be perfect near the shore of the lake where the rather large windows of the mini house would let in the scenery and the natural light so that you would never want to even close the blinds. Not even in during the night so that the first rays of soft morning light would be uninhibited. The salesman came with his eagerness to sell of course, that was his job. I said that I was not buying now, but was certainly interested in their concept. He asked me about my needs.

kitchen light

I said that I have an intellectually disabled child for whom we have thought that perhaps, we might someday build a mini house on the property. She definitely is able to care for herself and do many daily chores, but there are a few things she needs support with. The conversation nearly stopped. He fumbled a bit in his sales pitch and soon I was left alone with a leaflet in my hand. It was actually the first time I had used the term with a stranger after her diagnosis. She’s had several diagnosis over time, as it has been evident that academic learning has always been a challenge.

I didn’t have hard feelings towards the saleman, although I did feel a bit sad when the reality sunk in. And in some ways I understood him. I might have been that way twenty years ago, before I had experience with special needs. I’m not sure if I would have left him standing alone, but I would probably fumbled with my words. To tell you the truth, I was ignorant as a child and youth as probably most kids are. No one can know everything and there is a reason we grow and learn throughout our lives. As a kid, special needs to me was synonymous with down syndrome. I didn’t realize the whole spectrum of special needs that I have grown to know through my children and the people all around us. Most of us have challenges in one area or another even if we do not have a diagnosis. We have two children with different types of special needs.

our kitchen

Very rarely do I use the term, intellectually disabled or kehitysvamma, as we say in Finnish. It is such a strong word that it takes people aback even if the adjective mild is added in front. That is why I usually use the term special needs, it allows the listener to keep listening and brings ease into the conversation because it is so ambiguous. Most likely if I had used the term special needs, the salesman would not have fumbled with his words. It is not about hiding the reality. It is about giving my child the opportunity to be seen as a unique person with many skills, without being automatically boxed into a category that might not actually be accurate. Just like my categories were rather ignorant and incomplete years ago, perhaps the salesman’s categories were as well. Actually they are never complete. I don’t think we should be afraid of categorizing, as long as we don’t allow it to resrict us. It is simply how our human brains are built to organize the information that comes at us every second of the day.

first swim and ice leaving

The other week I had the opportunity to participate in a course for parents’ with special needs children. I had been a bit slow in previous years to participate. Sometimes the role of being a parent to children with special needs seems so heavy, that the thought of discussing about it for a weekend and letting out all those emotions that sometimes get put on the wayside during daily life seemed energy sapping. I could not have been more wrong. I do not know when I have cried so much. But it was not a heavy, saddening cry. It was a cleansing weep that came from somewhere deep. It fulfilled a need that I did not even know was there. And we laughed. Those deep belly laughs that bring tears to your eyes. I came home with a lighter step and with the resolution that next year I would be there again, this time with my husband.

window view nordic spring

I have very rarely even mentioned on social media that I am a mother to special needs children. If you look at pictures of our children, you might not be able to pick them out. I have felt a bit torn. On the one hand it is such an important topic to share and learn from each other. They teach us about the importance of truly connecting with people, compassion, unconditional love and grace in a sometimes hard and competitive world. And then on the other hand, I feel the need to protect the privacy of my children. Even now it requires sensitivity and the recognition of the boundaries of privacy, and I weigh and reread each word. But it really should not prevent the discussion of special needs or make us afraid of it. It only means we need to be more creative creating the approach to the dialogue while still respecting our loved ones.

may day donuts and strawberries

The course gently encouraged us to see our children as perfect creations, with their own place in life and their own unique path to walk. Perhaps they are here to remind us about some of the most important things in life.

Every parent wants to see their children to find satisfaction, fulfillment and to be happy. Sometimes the gifts of a special needs child need a bit more effort to be uncovered and it requires us to see past the disability.

heaven touches earth

In about a months time the last day of the school year will have arrived. And I will once again think back over the past year and wonder if we did enough. I would like my youth to take wing and be as uninhibited as the light that filters in through the window.

kitchen interiors

spring flowers

In My Kitchen is hosted by the lovely Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings.

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The little moments in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

This week the children have been on ski break. In Finland it is not called spring break but rather ski break. The landscape is a lovely clean white and it has been crisply cold. Cold enough to make the starting of cars require a few tricks. I always love this time of year. The sun comes out in full force so that it almost hurts your eyes as it reflects off the snow and the entryway stays quite free from sand and dirt as the driveway and roads are completely white from the packed snow.

My husband had made plans to take five of the children to his parents’ summerplace. It’s on a beautiful peninsula with a cabin set back just a bit from the lake so when you are in a boat farther from ashore, you might not even notice it. It actually is a thing here. To situate your summer cabin so that it does not break the natural wilderness beauty of the shore. To be truthful, the cabin is really intended only for summer use. There is no running water and only a few years ago was electricity put in. There is a fireplace but it would have meant that the kids must be in all there wool gear even if inside. The temperature outside was often -23 C during the night and -16 C during the day. The kids were not phased at all. They all jumped around in joy waiting for the trip. I was to remain home with the youngest and the oldest ones. I recently had an operation on my varicose veins and ended up having a bit of a complication after that, meaning that sitting in a car for many hours is not helpful. I was also looking forward to a few days of peace and quiet and we had made some plans with our oldest to do some fun girl things close to home. But sometimes plans decide to change without asking for our permission. The day before their big excursion one of our boys woke up with a temperature and another had such a bad stomach ache we ended up in the emergency room and she had to have pain medication through IV since nothing would stay down. I of course, thought that perhaps it was her appendix even if the pain wasn’t quite in the right place. Fortunately they did an ultrasound and an explanation for the pain came apparent. It was the inflammation of the lymph nodes around the intestines or mesenteric lymphadentis. We actually had been heading for the hospital that day for some blood week. She has had on and off stomach aches for a couple of months. But instead of going to the laboratory we headed to the ER. Perhaps this is the reason for those stomnach aches or then it is something altogether different. We had a young doctor take care of us and it was the first time she had come upon it, but fortunately there were more experienced doctors that she consulted. Have any of you experienced anything of this sort before?So instead of a major trip we have filled our ski break with little moments as both of the kids are doing much better now. In the beginning of the week they were sleeping over at friends’ houses or they invited them in turn to our house. And as usual, they kids often reserve turns to bake. Erik here is baking carrot cake muffins and a carrot cake which were quite delicious. The cake is so perfectly moist and is actually better the next day.

World’s best Carrot cake muffins (or a delicious carrot cake)

This cake is so very easy and the result is perfect every time. The recipe makes a cake that serves 16 or 12 small muffins and small cake. This recipe works fine with gluten free flour. If making the gluten free version, the muffins are easier to work with.

4 eggs (they whip best if kept at room temperature)
2 and 1/4 dl/ 1 c sugar
2 and 1/4 dl/ 1 c brown sugar
3 dl / 1 and 1/2 c vegetable oil (olive oil works as well)
2 tsp vanilla sugar/extract
2 and 1/4 dl/ 1 c spelt flour
2 annd 1/2 dl/ generous 1 cup bread flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
7 dl/ 3 c or 280 g/10 oz. shredded carrots
1 dl/ 1/2 c apple sauce
(optional 100 g /3.5 oz pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped)

Mix the dry ingredients. Whip the eggs and sugar until a thick foam. Take turns folding in the oil and dry ingredients a third at a time. Carefully fold in the apple sauce, grated carrots and chopped nuts. Bake in an oven heated to 175 C or 350 F. If making muffins or the small cake the bake time about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If making one large cake, the bake time is about 45-55 minutes depending on your oven. Allow to cool.

Cream cheese frosting

The idea with this frosting is that it can be applied very generously. In fact if you are making the cake, the layer of frosting can be about as thick as the cake itself. It is not very sweet so it does not become overpowering at all. In fact it is very delicious.

400 g / 14 oz cream cheese
250 g / 9 oz quark (or sour cream)
2 dl/ 1 c heavy whipping cream
6 tbsp sugar
juice of one lemon (about 52 g)

Whip the cream until it has reached a thick consistency. Fold in the quark and cream cheese, lemon juice and sugar. Frost the cake and muffins and keep chilled in the refrigerator.

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In my kitchen we have been enjoying the small little moments when life throws a curveball in the mix. And it was a good ski break afterall. Complete with a visit to the local cafe and a day excursion to Sealife in Helsinki with the children.

 

This post is a part of In My Kitchen hosted by the lovely Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings. Stop by her blog for the opportunity to peek into kitchens from around the world.

Barnacle geese

by tableofcolors

Past my kitchen window fly the Barnacle geese. It is an annual event. They come in the thousands, 100,000 in fact according to our bird watching neighbor. They honk and squawk and the sound is a magestic cacophony as they every once in a while all take flight at the same moment, circling overhead and then landing once again just one field over. They are gathering before they start migrating and once they leave the countryside becomes almost a bit too quiet. So I’m enjoying the noise, it means that we can still enjoy autumn.

Every time the kitchen window or the door in our dining area is opened we can hear the geese. They become a part of our lives for a week or two. And everytime I feel like I need to run to the fields to try capture them with my camera and on video. Sometimes the light is just right and other times I have been a bit unpatient and the photos come out unclear.

Last time I promised to share a Latvian inspired recipe. Since I’m seriously sensitive to caffeine I often opt for tea and quite often for herbal teas. While in Latvia, I often was served a tea made with fresh herbs. Once I realized this, I would often request such a tea and they would use what they had on hand in their kithchen. I decided to use the last of the black currants and the leaves of the black currant bush to make my own version at home. Earlier this summer I had received a lovely gift card to Marimekko and after some thought, I decided on a few Sukat Makkaralla glasses. All of our glassware are of the everyday kind from Ikea and really are quite perfect for a family full of children. But sometimes it is nice to set the table with the nicer dishes. These glasses will be for those special moments or everyday moments meant to be made special. And I just love them.

 

Black currant herbal tea

Gather a handful of black currant leaves. Wash and pat dry. Roughly chop them and place into a tea pot. Place a small handful of berries on top of the leaves and pour over a half liter or a pint of nearly boiling water. Allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes and sweeten as desired.

This post is a part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by the lovely Sherry from Sherry’s pickings.  Happy fall!

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Latvia, The land of flowers

by tableofcolors

It has been some time since my last In My Kitchen post. Some months actually. This time I will tell you a bit about one adventure this past summer and the inspiration it gave me once I made it home. Our garden has been producing nicely and so the Carrot Top Pesto potato salad below is made with mostly fresh produce from our own little patch. A few things I had to buy, the potatoes and beans. The end result was delicious. Currently Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings currently hosts IMK. Thanks for hosting! Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

The past year has had so many ups and downs, many opportunities to learn. Definitely a year full of life. And one of my largest dreams is to travel and to try experience what others experience in their homelands. We were on a budget, so our trip could not be too long or too far away. Latvia was the perfect option. My husband had been at an international seminar and some fellow participants from Latvia told him the places that we should visit. We took the ferry over the Baltic Sea into Tallinn. Estonia has many lovely places to offer but this time our goal was see Latvia. We left Friday evening with another couple, one of our best friends. Most of the summer we had spent with our families and so a little adults-only get-away felt wonderful. My words lack to describe the sense of freedom we had for a few days. No baby schedules to follow, and no one asking are-we-there-yet in the back seat. I do love my kids, mind you. But I realized once again how funny my husband was. We DO have a sense of humor afterall! Often in the everyday scramble, life is carried out and finding the moments to stop takes a bit of effort.

Turaidas pils

 

I know that as a tourist, only the tip of the iceberg is often uncovered. But there are many ways to travel, and perhaps we had a chance to uncover some of the true Latvian spirit, as we drove through the countryside and visited places that the locals visit as well. It truly was the Land of flowers. It seems as if every yard was shown so much love. Even the tall, concrete apartment buildings driving into Riga, from the era of Stalin had flowers generously decorating many of the balconies. Every once in a while, along the roadside there would be a table with flowers for sale. And they were always arranged so nice. If we didn’t have such a long way to go home, I would have brought home a large bouquet. Someday it would be nice to linger a bit longer and maybe get into a conversation with a local. There independence is still quite fresh and the political scientist in me would like to find out how life has changed in the past thirty years. Did they care for their gardens with the same intensity during the era of the Iron Curtain. Was that the thing they held onto and showed their national pride even if their independence was taken away, similar to how the as the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians held onto their tradition of singing and formed the Singing Revolution with the remarkable Baltic Way human chain a peaceful political demonstration that involved about 2 million people that stood hand in hand spanning 675.5 km. (419.7 miles) all the way from the Old town of Tallinn to Riga and then on to Vilnius, singing songs spontaneously.

Riga

 

The countryside was full of gently rolling hills, more so than Estonia. And the season was farther along than in Finland as the grain had taken on a golden hue. In the middle of the fields a few large oaks had been left standing, majestic and strong. As we drove amongst the fields we would occasionally spot a few roe deer. Latvia has wild boars, but those we did not spot them in the wild. But we did spot several pairs of glowing eyes in the dark as we drove back to our hotel after dinner.

Since we were just the four of us, we were able to make random stops. We didn’t make it to the famous beaches, Jurmala or Liepaja, this time but next time they will be places to go to. We did stop by some smaller beaches and even if there was a strong wind, there was still a bit of summer in the air. Next time we will have to play in the waves.

Our intention was to spend our second night in Kuldiga which is a small medieval city in the western part of Latvia. It has the River Venta  running right through the town, which actually is Europe’s broadest waterfall although it is not very high. But we had accidently reserved rooms at the quaint little bed and breakfast, Kursu Krogs which was about 50 km from Kuldiga. It turned out to be the best mistake ever. It was such a lovely place with the most attentive service.

Kursu Krogs, a lovely B&B with friendly service. It used to be part of the old postal route.

 

We decided to drive to Kuldiga for the evening. We found the loveliest restaurant there, Bangert’s. The food was delicious and service was perfect. It seemed like we met so many friendly people in Latvia. The thing I really like about Bangert’s was they had many locally sourced options.

 

The story goes that Captain Bangert brought the house from Paris as a wedding present for his fiancée. The building standing there today is the replica of the original. It sits among large trees, next to a parkway and overlooks the River Venta.

 

Today I will share a recipe for a potato salad that has just the right amount of tartness to it and uses plenty of in-season produce. This dish is perfect to share at a party or get together. And because my garden is full of fresh carrots and I’m in love with the tart pesto the carrot greens make, the potatoes themselves are dressed with Carrot top pesto. The recipe can be found here.

Carrot Top Pesto potato salad

 

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

1 kg/ 2 lbs waxy potatoes, cooked and cooled
Carrot top pesto (recipe in the previous post and can be found here.)
A mix of fresh lettuce and kale
A generous bunch of string beans
3 large kale leaves, stem removed and roughly chopped
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
chili flakes
black pepper

Boil the potatoes until tender but be careful to not overcook. Pour the water out of the pot and place the lid back on. Allow to cool for a few hours at room temperature. Make the Carrot Top Pesto (recipe here) and set aside until potatoes are cool. If the potatoes used are new potatoes, leave the skins on and cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size desired. Gently fold the carrot top pesto with the potatoes and set aside to marinate in the refrigerator.

Before serving. Spread the cleaned string beans or haricot vert onto a parchment lined oven sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper. Bake at 160 C/ 320 F until they have a few brown spots and are nicely sizzling. (about 12-15 minutes). On another parchment lined baking sheet place the roughly chopped kale that has the stem removed. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and a few chili flakes. After the string beans are done bake the kale chips at 150 C/ 300 F for about 15-20 minutes or until they are dried but not too dark in color.

To serve the salad. Finely chop the remaining kale and mix in with the roughly chopped lettuce mix. Place the greens on a large platter. Next remove the potatoes from the refrigerator and layer them on top of the greens. Next place the roasted green beans on top of the potatoes and right before serving garnish with the kale chips.

blogging reality

As I was making the salad in the kitchen, our Hugo had parked his cars right in the midst of my photoshoot. First I started to move them, but then I thought to leave them. It is real life afterall.

The story of Latvia continues in the next post. I have posted pictures and moments from our trip on Instagram, feel free to check it out.

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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

March, the best days of winter

by tableofcolors

The kids are on ski break this week and the weather has been treating us great! The best days of winter have arrived. This week we have taken the kitchen outside and on Monday the whole family went on a skiing and sledding trek to a laavu, or a classic Finnish lean-to that can be found in the wilderness all over the country. They can be resting spots on a hiking or a berry picking trip and are usually open for public use. In front of the laavu, there usually is a fire pit and so we roasted sausages for lunch with the children.

laavu and finnish winter

laavuretki finnish winter

The children were also hoping for a special snack, something out of the ordinary. I decided to give the vegan avocado-chocolate pudding a try. I found a recipe on the kitchn ‘s website.

It was a simple recipe and quick to make although I ended up having a little mishap in the process. As I was whipping the coconut cream for the topping, my phone rang. I left the immersion wand standing upright in the bowl and the second I turned around, the bowl fell on the floor and into two pieces and I had coconut cream all over the kitchen. Amateur mistake, I know. And I spent the next half hour with one of my daughters cleaning the kitchen. In the end, I did not have any more coconut cream left and but did have some regular heavy cream in the fridge. And so our pudding was only partly vegan. For our crowd, I doubled the recipe.

vegan chocolate pudding 3

Vegan Chocolate pudding cups with Coconut Cream recipe created by Gina Eykemans

pudding cups:

15 Medjool dates, soaked in warm water for an hour
1 ripe Hass avocado
1/4 raw cacao or semisweet cocoa powder
1 c full-fat coconut milk
pinch of sea salt

Coconut cream:
395 g/ 1 (14 oz) can of chilled coconut cream
2 tbsp maple syrup

Soak the dates for an hour in warm water. Drain the dates and remove the pits and place into a blender. Peel the avocado and remove pit. Cut into big chunks and place into the blender along with the cacao, coconut milk and sea salt. Blend until a smooth consistency. I was pleasantly surprised how pudding like the consistency was. Spoon into cups. I made fairly small portions as kids sometimes have a hard time finishing large servings and I hate when food goes to waste. I prefer to start with small servings and give seconds, plus the serving does not look as overwhelming to them and they have an easier time finishing it. This is one thing I learned from my Mom!

For the coconut cream, make sure it has been chilled. Whip with a hand mixer until thick and creamy and swirl in the maple syrup. Top each pudding with a spoonful of coconut cream. Serve immediately or chill and serve later.

vegan chocolate puddingThe kids had their comments. They thought it looked like something that just makes your mouth water, but they would have liked it a bit sweeter and came for another spoonful of cream after they were half way through their puddings. So perhaps next time I’ll add just a bit of sugar.

vegan chocolate pudding2This post is a part of the In My Kitchen series now hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Stop by her blog to find links to kitchens all around the world!

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.

Christmas is coming in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

On top of our wood buring oven is a pile of chocolate advent calendars and each morning the children open another window in the calendar and savor their piece of chocolate. Our two-year old had shaken his calendar at the store with so much vigor that most of his chocolates have dropped out of their allocated spots and are sitting at the bottom of the calendar causing it to bulge. He just wouldn’t give it up and insisted on holding it all the way to the register. I didn’t feel like arguing over such a minor detail. In the end, it probably does not really matter to him if the chocolates are not all in their places as long as he gets one everyday. It is countdown to Christmas, and everyday the children ask if we will be putting up a new decoration or Christmas light or perhaps do a little Christmas baking.

making christmas ornamentsThis year we decide to make ornaments out of salt dough for the teachers. First of all, almost all kids love playing with dough and so this was the perfect way to let them become involved. Our two-year old sat at the table perfectly entertained for probably an hour shaping his own piece of dough. Other than a bit of effort, these ornaments are easy on the pocketbook and you can let your imagination run.

Salt dough

3 dl/1 and 1/3 c flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c salt
1.5 dl/ 3/4 c water

Mix all the ingredients and allow to rest for a bit wrapped under cling film. Gently sprinkle the counter top with flour and using a rolling pin an cookie cutters make different shapes. We used clean letter stamps for the words and a dinner knife to cut around them. Remember to make a hole through which a piece of string or twine may be later pulled through for hanging.

Bake at 100 C/210 F for a couple of hours. A couple of days later we painted ours white with acrylic paint that had been thinned with a bit of water. Spray paint might be even easier for an even and thin coat of paint.

The idea for these came from a Finnish women’s magazine Kotivinkki, but the original Finnish recipe that I used can be found here. The internet is full of salt dough recipes, some that have a bit of oil and some that do not. I noticed that best results are had when the oven is not too hot.

christmas ornaments made with salt dough

christmas ornaments made with salt dough 2During the past few months we have had a facebook group in the Kouvola area that organizes that local food producers are able to sell their products directly to the consumer, similar to a farmer’s market. It takes place about twice a month. So far we have tried out an ostrich egg, which really peaked the interest of the children. The past time I bought different kinds of flour from a local mill with the intention to do a bit of holiday baking.

raussilan myllyn jauhotpiparitalkoot making gingerbreadHere is the recipe for my classic gingerbread cookies. Next time I will share a recipe for rye gingerbread cookies that have a bit of almond flour in them. Definitely delicious!

I would like to share a bit of the sounds of my kitchen. Yesterday was the 150th birthday of the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. The other week we visited a Jean Sibelius recital put on by young music students. The children and youth were all dressed in the time period and represented children of Jean Sibelius and their various cousins. Their teacher played the part of Aino Sibelius, wife of Jean and told little historical stories along with photos and between each bit one of the children would perform a short piece by Sibelius.

 

terveisiä ainolasta

And what was even better was that the children have started recognizing the music of Sibelius when it is played on the radio. They might come up and say, “I think this is Sibelius.” The following piece is one of their favorites.

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series that she hosts every month. Be sure to drop by her blog for a reference list of bloggers all around the world and their kitchens.

 

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.

Friendship in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

My kitchen often reaches a state of mess, or perhaps I should state it another way. It attains a lived-in feel. As I write, I can hear my oldest and fourth and fifth oldest making carrot sticks and dip for a snack and the youngest is asking for samples. Occasionally his voice becomes high-pitched if the hand-outs do not come fast enough. With so many little ones and hands, messes are bound to happen. But all around the kitchen are little tokens from friends or from my children. Tokens of friendship and love, and they brighten up my kitchen even if there is a grand mess to greet my eyes. Messes can fortunately be cleaned up.

hay papertowel holder and flower stand

I used to have an issue with my paper towel roll, that I would tuck it into this drawer or that cupboard. It just didn’t look appealing to my eye, until I received this Hay paper towel holder from some friends for my birthday. Everyday I enjoy this little thing in my kitchen and move it around to where there are sticky little hands and bright eyes looking at me, or a spot of juice on the floor. Underneath the flower pot is a blue wooden flower stand made with love by one of my daughters at school. She had chosen the paint color and thought it might bring a pop of color.

japanese graterThis Japanese grater was a gift from a friend and a souvenir from the Helsinki design expo, Habitare. The idea has been brought from Japan, but the grater has been made locally about an hour and half away, in Porvoo. It is so pretty that it can hold a block of parmesean cheese at the table so that each may grate their own cheese on to their pasta or salad.

green tea marimekko teapotOne day a friend stopped over and brought me a little bag of the most heavenly tea. Many teas smell wonderful but often the flavor does not match up. This green tea with little pieces of dried strawberries tastes like it smell. It is from a little tea shop in Helsinki called The Ounce. And as the name suggests, they sell tea by the ounce which is certainly a rarity in Finland. The Marimekko teapot is one of my favorite little things and is perfect for brewing tea as it has a ceramic sift on the inside that is easy to remove and wash. The pot came to be ours by accident. We were buying a group Christmas present and I noticed that they had great sale at Marimekko in November that was held on only that particular weekend. So without consulting any of the others, I popped in and bought it. Well it came to be, that not everyone was as keen on the idea of a teapot and together we came up with another good idea. And so in the end, I had a teapot all wrapped up pretty perched on my wood-burning oven. I asked my husband, if it should be our Christmas present that year. Really I didn’t mind, as I was in love with the pot and had been eyeing for a few years already.

party cakes with chocolate garnish

Last weekend we celebrated my father-in-law’s sixtieth birthday. My mother-in-law had made the cakes, but asked for a little help with the garnishes. With a little help of a youtube video I decided on these chocolate circles.

circles for chcocolate garnishes

Lay a sheet of foil on your work surface. Next, using a piece of parchment paper, cut out circles of different size. Melt and temper your chocolate. I feel that tempering the chocolate is the most challenging part of the process. Basically tempering chocolate involves melting chocolate that is not higher in than 70% in cocoa solids, and then cooling it down while mixing or working the chocolate. Basically what happens is the fatty acid crystals separate and in the tempering process they brought back together giving them all of the wonderful qualities that are desired of chocolate. In Finland, I usually use the Fazer taloussuklaa or baking chocolate which has a cocoa solid percentage of about 55%. I’ve noticed that chocolates with a higher percentage do not behave the way I wish. I have used these two sites as my tempering guide when working with chocolate. Chocolate tempering guide by cookbook author David Lebovitz and Chocolate #101: Tempering at home, by the lovely Celia who also hosts In My Kitchen every month.

diy chocolate garnishesThen very carefully remove the paper and allow to harden.

drying chocolate garnishes

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably. –William Penn

Aggie & Ray's cousins etcTo end I thought to share a couple of keepsake photos that I have been looking at. The one above is of cousins having a good time. I wonder what the occasion might have been, might it have been a wedding? They certainly were dressed up splendid.

Elma & SofieAnd in many previous posts I have followed the travels and stories of great-aunt Elma. Perhaps some of the photos that have survived can be attributed to Sofie Wuollet who is standing next to Elma in the photo above. Sofie was a photographer capturing many images that had an every-day quality to them in a time where most photos are quite posed. But how lucky we are today to have these photos. Friendship carries, even if your kitchen is a mess.

“My best friend is a man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.” –Aristotle

This post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series, check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.