tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: Places to go

All my seven lovelies

by tableofcolors

The last time I posted was just a few days before our little Jasmin Yvonne arrived. She has been the most perfect baby, making eye contact and smiling at us those real baby smiles at day four. A week before she turned two months, she rolled over on her belly and now is trying hard to swim forward on the floor. She has slept perfectly every night. We haven’t had to walk with her at night, retracing our footsteps and hoping for sleep like with some of the others. Really feels like there has been a higher power that has steered the coarse for us. This spring has been so full, I don’t know how we could have managed if the baby would have been collicky.seven lovelies6

seven lovelies4

The traditional pose was just not happening that day…so I decided that a photo of my seven lovelies showing their personalities was perhaps more accurate and maybe even more memorable.

Just a few weeks after Jasmin was born we opened the new coffee shop concept store, Cabana de Empanadas, right in the heart of Helsinki in the Forum shopping mall(2nd floor). The original plan was that it would have opened already a couple of months earlier. But life often does not follow our plans and big happenings often are all heaped in a cluster.

cabana de empanadas avajaiset

Grand opening. Guitarist Oliver Palm entertained us with melodies from Spain and South America.

omppu17

Help us reach our goal of 500 followers on our Cabana de Empanadas facebook page! We will be drawing one lucky winner to win an Empanada picnic basket for 4 after we reach the goal and deliver it straight to your picnic blanket (Helsinki area only)

empanadas for sale

cabana de empanadas punajuuri watermelon salad kombucha

All winter we had stayed healthy. Nobody had more than a runny nose. Maybe it was the superfood smoothies I had been feeding them all winter, or just basic hand washing with soap or just good luck. When we arrived home from the hospital with little Jasmin, most of the kids were coughing and some were running temps. Within a few days Jasmin started showing signs that she might have caught something. When she was eleven days old, I noticed that I was following her every move, checking to see if she was breathing fine and debating whether I should take her in to get checked. In the afternoon she took a long nap and seemed to be breathing peacefully. I thought, perhaps we had gotten over the worst of it. In the evening as clock inched closer to midnight and I was trying to get her asleep, she seemed to have a hard time finding a comfortable position. It felt like her breathing was getting more labored and that was when I decided to take her in. Why is it that until the very end, one wonders if a trip to the doctor is a waste and if I’m acting like a Newbie Mom bringing their kid in for every little scratch or scrape.

I was reassured that it was very good that I brought little Jasmin in, as we were whisked away to another hospital that has a children’s ward. On the first day, the doctor informed us that we must be prepared for a stay of an undefinite amount of days. I was supposed to have been baking at the bakery that morning, doing our second run through with the product. In the end, it all went as it was supposed to, as I probably had RSV as well and felt quite crummy. We spent a week in that hospital room getting better together.

hospital stay2

I am by no means complaining. Afterall, I have always wanted to have a business, to work through the challenges and maybe even experience the rewards at some point. I have wanted to be a businesswoman since I was…like five. And this past spring has been life at its best and most challenging. It has been genuine life, with sometimes round the clock work. But fortunately our baby has been the perfect baby.

butternut squash avocado brownies

Avocado Sweet potato Brownies sweetened with maple syrup

Yes, I have been baking all sorts of sweet and savory empanadas and perhaps someday I will be able to share a recipe with you. But here is a recipe to a brownie made with butternut squash and avocado and sweetended with maple syrup. The texture was just what like a brownie should be, moist and rich. The brownie is not very sweet like they traditionally are and so if you are craving a bit of sweetness, they could be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Avocado Sweet potato brownies (Gluten-free and dairy-free)

The original recipe was found her from the Satokausi kalenteri blogi.

 

For the brownie:

300g/10.5 oz sweet potato
1 large avocado
1.2 dl/1/2 c maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract or the seeds from a half of a vanilla bean.
4 eggs
1 dl/ 1/2 c coconut flour
1 tbsp almond flour
1.2 dl/ 1/2 c quality cocoa powder
dash of sea salt
1 tsp baking soda

Frosting:

1 avocado
0.5 dl/ 1/4 c maple syrup
0.5 dl/ 1/4 cocoa powder
1 generous tablespoon coconut oil
0.5 tsp vanilla sugar or extract or the seeds from a half of a vanilla bean.

Variety of nuts for garnish

Peel and cut the sweet potato into cubes. Cook in boiling water until tender(about 20 minutes). Remove from water and drain and purée with a fork. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F.

Mix the avocado, maple syrup, sweet potato and vanilla until smooth in a blender or food processor. Blend in the eggs. Mix the dry ingredients and fold into the batter.
Line a 18×25 cm or 7×10 inch pan with parchment paper and pour the batter into the pan. Smooth the surface of the batter and bake for about 20 minutes or so that a toothpick comes out clean and bottom of the brownie is just barely done. Allow to completely cool.

Make the frosting by blending all the ingredients either in a blender or with an imersion wand. Spread over the brownies and allow to chill in the refrigerator. These brownies freeze well and so can be made well in advance.

hugo

summer field finlandThis summer has been filled with family celebration, a baptism and a wedding and family visiting from America. But that all shall wait for another post. Happy Midsummer’s!

Cabana de Empanadas

by tableofcolors

These past few months have been busy. And there is exciting news to be told regarding many different areas of life. I have been working hard with a couple of colleagues to open a new coffee shop concept right in the heart of Helsinki. Cabana de Empanadas will bring a ray of sunshine and color into the Nordic. Our empanadas include classics as well as flavors inspired by nature that surrounds us in the Nordic. But that is really is the essence of an empanada. It is a little handpie that has traveled across the globe beginning in the Arab region and Persia. Then they were called Sanbusak. With time they made their way to the Iberian Peninsula, Galicia and Portugal. From there they traveled with the Conquistadores to South America. With each stop, new flavors were introduced. And now as they make their way into the Nordic, we are leaving our handprint on the recipes as well.

jauheliha chorizo ja vesimeloni feta salaatti mintulla 2

Argentina Classic empanada and a watermelon feta salad

kirsikka ja dulce de leche 2

Cherry sage and Dulce de Leche Empanadas

And as often happens with new ventures, schedules are sometimes a bit delayed for various reasons. But sometimes it pays to wait.

cabana opening in april

 

lautaset

cabana de empandas interior design ester visua

Interior design by Elisa Ahonen from  Ester Visual

Big changes in life tend to happen in clusters, and often it is not because it has been planned this way. But rather it is a conglomeration of events, all stringed together.

9 monthsAnyday now little one, as it’s past due. “Sometimes you have to wait a long time for something good to happen, the longer the wait the better the benefit. ” -Unknown

Easter mummus FinlandHope your Easter time was spent with your close ones! This is all that is left of our snow fort, the sun has been shining in full force and the roads are just about thawed. Spring is on its way!

Follow the story of Cabana de Empanadas as it unfolds on Instagram and Facebookwww.cabanaempanada.com

cabana de empanadas logo

Sand sculptures and picnic lunches

by tableofcolors

School was about to begin and we decided with another Mom friend of mine to take the kids on one last outing before they would need to go to school. Just about an hour away is Lappeenranta, which is right next to the Russian border and is has been built on the shores of the great lake area, the Saimaa. Every year the city opens a park full of sand sculptures. This year the theme was heroes. There were all sorts of heroes featured, superheroes from the comic books, athletes and everyday heroes such as doctors. Since the beginning of the summer had been so rainy, some of the sculptures had suffered a bit and were being fixed up.

lappenranta hiekkalinna

It was not long after we arrived and it was almost noon, so we decided to give the kids a little snack of watermelon, as we would have our picnic lunch later in the afternoon. My four year old was sitting on the bench eating her watermelon when a reporter for the local YLE (Finnish national public radio) radio station stopped by and asked if she interview one of the children. Bella just happened to be right there.

Have you been here before? “Yes, many times.”

Did you think the sculptures are better this year than before? “Yes, much better.”

Which is your favorite sculpture? “That castle over there” (It was the only sculpture that we had had a chance to look at since we had just arrived.)

What is your favorite thing to do here? “Eating” (munching on her watermelon, all through the interview)

I do have to mention, that she had never been to Lappeenranta before nor had we ever visited the sand sculptures before. She just conveniently came up with answers to the questions. After the interview, we had to let the reporter in on this little detail. I’m not sure I would have handled an interview so smoothly at four years old. At least she did give her correct name and age, when asked! And I forgot to take a photo of the whole deal. I was concentrating so hard on listening to her answers that I completely forgot even if I was holding my camera the entire time.

lappeenranta sand sculpturesrakuuna dragonlappenranta finland sand sculptures

It was quite late into the afternoon before we left the sand sculptures and went to find a greener park with shade for our picnic. We found a park that had a pavilion that the kids enjoyed creating their own performances and large trees that brought us a bit of shade after being in the sun all afternoon.

IMG_1745
roasted vegetable salad

I had made a salad bar style salad, with a basic salad base and then different options all in their own containers. This was the most convenient since we had different age eaters and sometimes the little ones haven’t really learned to eat nuts or if there is someone with a dietary restriction everyone is able to build a salad to their taste.

Roasted Vegetable salad

Roasted vegetables

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 generous handful of string beans, washed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepapre the vegetables. Peel and cut the sweet potato into sticks. Wash the string beens and cut the tips off. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until tender and the vegetables have gained a bit of color at 180 C/ 350 F. Allow to cool and then place into a separate container.

Salad
Mixed greens (Romano, kale, curly endive lettuce, spinach…)
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Grapes, sliced in half
Cucumber, cubed
A few sliced strawberries (I happened to find a few last strawberries in my patch)
light vinaigrette dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, handful of parsely, or other gardern herbs, finely chopped)

Toss the salad and place into a larger container.

In separate containers pack with: roasted and shelled peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries, cheese cubed, pumpkin seeds, or anything else that takes your fancy.

picnic lunch

Lappenranta picnic

fixing the sand sculptures

Hiking the Swedish Nordic Fell in the Summer

by tableofcolors

I’ve had a  small hiatus from blogging, but am happier than ever to be back. Sometimes life hands little surprises and although they might be positive in nature, they have the tendency to stir the pot and mix everything up. The natural rythym of bedtimes and wake-up times have returned, even for the teenager, as school has now started. Although I love the freedom of summer vacation from school, by the end I am looking forward for to school to start and for that natural rythym to begin.

2015-07-21 09.20.15We made it back from our hiking trip to northern Sweden and Norway. To me it seems like almost every Finn I have talked to, have at some point in their life gone on an hiking expedition in the very north. Some hike trails and others rely on the compass and enter the wilderness where there is no visible sign of people nearby. We opted for the wilderness as my husband has a lot of experience trekking in unmarked territory and for him, hiking along trails is not quite the true wilderness experience. We drove to Arjeplog, Sweden and left our car on a patch of gravel, off the road and out of anyone’s way. The drive was about twelve hours from our house, and once arriving it was nice to get out and get some exercise. The weather was not real promising and at times we felt a few drops as we changed our clothes and gathered our gear.

wetlands and rivers swedish laplandI have been hiking in the Nordic Fell once before on a winter hunting trip, but this was completely different because there was no snow, or actually hardly any snow covering the landscape. The landscape from far looks like it is gently rolling as shrubs and trees cover the remains of the last ice age: large moss covered boulders and in between are the valleys full of wetlands that feel like a spongy waterbed to walk on.

snow in the summer

waterfalls in swedish laplandI was surprised to see so many waterfalls and hear bubbling and gurgling water at almost all times. The water is so clean that we would just take our kuksa, a cup carved out of wood, and scoop a cupful whenever we seemed thirsty. Usually the creeks and waterfalls might not be rushing at such full force in July, but as with the rest of Scandinavia, spring had arrived late this year and some of these waters were meltwaters from the previous winter.

fisherman and stern fairy

gear

tunturipuri marsh creekSometimes in the middle of a marsh, connecting to a pond was a small creek. Mind your step, as the sides were steep and they can easily be a couple of meters deep of clear water.

bed of rocksI often wondered as we walked about the landscape of sound during the end of the ice age as the giant glaciers moved, moving huge amounts of boulders into one pile or how the top of the Nordic fell is gently littered with rocks, as if they had been just randomly dropped, one here and another there. Our original plan was to set up camp and climb to a peak of about 1800 meters with a lighter day pack. Since the weather did not quite favor us we shortened our hike a bit and carried all of our stuff and decided to climb to 1000+ meters instead.

climbing the nordic fellgnarled tree

In between the peaks and patches of rocky beds, there might be a meadow full of blooming flowers to be discovered. It seems as if nature is in a hurry in the very north as the summer is so very short, especially this summer.

meadow flowers in lapland

After a two day hike and one night in the Swedish wilderness, we decided to go see if the sun was shining on the other side of the Scandinavian mountains. And it was.

norwayThe flowers of the cloudberries had just withered and they were forming berries. Some years and with a warmer summer, we might have had cloudberries to pick and pop into our mouths as we hiked. The recipe below is for a berry smoothie, on top of which I sprinkled a few cloudberries I had in the freezer. If you might have cloudberries on hand, I would suggest to not blend them in the blender as they have a raspberry like seed, although a bit bigger and it is more pleasant to eat the berry whole rather than having a smoothie full of pieces of the shell of the seed.

smoothie collage

Berry smoothie with kale

 

1 dl/ 1/2 c strawberries
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c black currants
1 large leaf of kale with the steam removed and ripped into large pieces
juice of 1/2 lemon
2.5 dl/ 1 and 1/4 c plain yoghurt

If using fresh berries, add a few ice cubes into the blender to make the smoothie cold. Blend until smooth and serve in a glass. Garnish with cloudberries.
*for a dairy-free version replace the youghurt with orange juice. You may also substitute other berries that you might have on hand. We had ready-to-pick strawberries in our own patch and ripe black currants in the bush and so this time that is what ended up in the smoothie.

In my next post, I will bring you to Norway. As a preview and a little sample of what is to come, here is a video I put together of our trip.

All of my favorite places

by tableofcolors

Summer is almost here and perhaps some of you are planning a trip to Helsinki. The city offers many young people summer jobs and so many young adults flock to the city and during their off-hours enjoy the parks and everything that summer has to offer.

Part of my job is to know what others are doing in the coffee shop and café business. So whenever I have a day with meetings in Helsinki, I dive into the city and find the places that people on social media are buzzing about and see if they are as good as they are claimed to be. Here are some of my most recent finds.

Street performers in Helsinki

Street performers in Helsinki

The street performance above took place just across the street from the famous Stockmann’s department store which is like Helsinki’s Selfridge’s and the clock in front is a popular meeting place. In the summer there are many street performers in the downtown area. Sometimes it seems like there is one on every corner. Almost like free little concerts and among them you may choose a performer which best fits your taste.

helsinki street performers

Along the Esplanad, which is a parkway right in the center of town can be found Café Esplanad, known for their gigantic cinnamon rolls that should almost be shared. But less than a ten minute walk away situated at Bulevardi 9 is The Grand Old Dame of Helsinki Cafés, the Ekberg Bakery and Café that has been around since 1852. The bakery and café both have their own entries but are situated right next door. The first time I walked into the door of the bakery, I breathed in a smell from childhood. It smelled just like the Wuollet Bakery.

ekberg collage

Ekberg and their Napoleon

If you were to continue the walk down Bulevardi to the harbor area there are some old brick factory buildings that have gained a new purpose. Moko Market and Kaffa Roastery are treasures of a place that I will certainly be returning to and are located at Perämiehenkatu 10. Moko Market has a café and fresh salads and lunches daily along with a large interior design store. Right next door and sharing a walk-through doorway on the inside is Kaffa Roastery. They pride themselves with their expert knowledge in coffee. Today the old industrial area is part of the trendy design district.

Moko Market

Moko Market

mokomarket cafekaffa roastery

Returning from the scene of the old factories there is another treasure of a place that even won an award for their ambience. Fleuriste is located on Uudenmaankatu 13. It is tiny but so cozy and you may stop and enjoy their French influence in this quiet little niche right in the heart of the city. In addition to their lovely things to eat, the owner makes beautiful flower arrangements to order.

Fleuriste

Fleuriste

Or you could take their Fleuriste’s lovely homemade sandwiches or sweet treats to the Old Church parkway, just a few blocks away right on Bulevardi and neatly tucked away from the main drag, Mannerheimintie.

Vanha Kirkko  or Old Church taken in to use in 1826 and designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, Lönnrotinkatu 6

Vanha Kirkko or Old Church taken in to use in 1826 and designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and can be found at: Lönnrotinkatu 6

Just a stone throw’s away is Hotel Torni at Yrjönkatu 26, which was for years the tallest building in Helsinki. It has a colorful history full of politicians and celebrities. Today there is a sky bar that has a wonderful view over Helsinki. Taking the elevator up and climbing the round staircase to the top is free and on both sides there a large outdoor patios. Definitely a place to go visit. And as you can see from the cityscape, the Old Church is just below.

Hotelli Torni, cityscape of Helsinki

Hotelli Torni, cityscape of Helsinki

If you might have a few days of time I would recommend using an afternoon to visit Suomenlinna which is the fortress right off of Helsinki. There is ferry that takes off at the Market Square about every twenty or thirty minutes and the ride takes about 10 minutes to the island.

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

A twenty-five minute bus ride (bus 24, leaving from Lasipalatsi) will bring you Seurasaari which is a free outdoor museum on a little island with a bridge connecting it to mainland. It is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic if the weather if fair and learn a little about Finnish history as there are many old dwellings brought from all over Finland that have been reconstructed on site.

Seurasaari

Seurasaari

These are some of my favorite places, and I feel the list could go and on. So I’ll leave you with a couple of newcomers that just opened their doors to customers during the past couple of months.

The Cock

The Cock, Fabianinkatu 17

 The Cock is a high class neighborhood eatery and a place that I would like to revisit. They serve breakfast until 10 am and their lunch menu looks delicious. They are open into the evening so really any time of day will do.

friends & brgrsWhile I normally don’t mention fast-food, I do need to mention Friends & Brgrs, located on Mikonkatu 8 right in downtown Helsinki. They pride themselves on housemade mayo, using never-frozen beef and making each burger to order. Their fries are homemade using a special process and when I stopped by at lunch time the place was hopping. Be prepared to wait twenty minutes for your burger. I thought it was worth the wait.

grass-fed beef burger with onion and aoiliAnd this is my Friends & Brgrs inspired home-made burger made with grass-fed organic (never-frozen-directly-from-the-butcher) beef with aioli, baby kale and carmelized onions. Oh, and a slice of manchego cheese.

 

Welcome to Helsinki!

Elma’s travels

by tableofcolors

Last weekend we escaped for 24 hours. I have come to think that they are almost one of the best kinds of retreats. Certainly it does not offer the opportunity to travel somewhere far, but I have realized that often we don’t really explore all of the neat places that are close to home, not to mention that traveling close to home is often quite budget-friendly and usually organizing a babysitter is a fairly easy task. We drove a little over an hour East to Imatra which is almost right at the border between Finland and Russia. It was a place that Elma* had visited during her travels to Finland as well. She had come with great expectations, as there is a the State Hotel in Imatra that has been built in 1903 to represent a jugend-style castle. There had been two previous wooden hotels in the same location looking over the waterfalls and rapids but both had burned. It was a location favored by the Russian aristocracy and it can be called the oldest tourist attraction of Finland as even Russian Empress Catherine the Great visited in 1772. And so Elma had significant expectations. state hotel imatra salonIn her writings she describes the carvings of the animals that she thought were rather funny and the art that could be found in all of the rooms. She felt that she saw more art in one stay than in a normal year unless one visited art galleries. She described that the interior was rather simple with the crowning element in each room being a round green enamel wood-burning fireplace. The simplicity left room for the artwork, which in her opinion were not always of the highest quality, but were an improvement over the “The Lone wolf” print that could be found in nearly every waiting and sitting room in the USA (1930s) at that time.

state hotel imatraRight below the hotel is a small canyon that used to be full of rushing water. Today it is void of water except on certain days when they run water for show. I guess she had heard of it called the Niagara of Finland and wrote that they had heard too much and had imagined it to much wider and larger. But the nature in the area and in all of Finland found a place in her heart. She said that just five minutes outside of Niagara the spell is broken, but in Finland the enchantment continues all around.

imatra“In Imatra, the forest, roads and villages all give of themselves to afford an befitting view. Indeed, when traveling in any direction in Finland the enchantment does not break. In between there is changes (in landscape) but this natural picture has no gaps and it flows like a poem. The plentifulness of wood and the force of the water are ideal for the factory. Practicality and beauty are combined. The company’s railroad goes through picturesque forest and the factory looks like a large vacation home situated right above the river. The workmens’ wives use a shared laundry room, which they are able to use on certain appointed days along with the laundry machines and wringer. And while children play the talkative tongues of the mothers’ make this difficult work day a day of joy.”

saimaa fallsThe Imatra Falls enjoyed their peak in tourism during the late 1800s and early 1900s. St. Petersburg was only about 40 kilometers away and during that time Finland was an autonomous part of Russia meaning that travel across the border was simple and wealthy Russians came to Finland as it was so much closer than central Europe. But as often happens with the advance of technology and industry, a dam was built in 1929 which dried up the falls except for on certain days.

These two links show the Imatra falls in the old days. The one above is a slide show of old postcards that showcase the landscape of the rushing falls. The link below is series of old photos of people posing at the falls. Perhaps this is the scene that met Elma when she arrived in Imatra.

We didn’t stay at the old State Hotel, rather we stayed at the Holiday Club Saimaa which is about 16 kilometers outside of Imatra. The scenery is beautiful there and we enjoyed a walk along the shores of the Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake and Europe’s fourth largest lake.

saimaaJust a few weeks back the landscape was quite brown, but with all of the rain, there are buds and sometimes even small leaves on trees. The green is the fresh spring green, that comes and goes just as quick before the deeper greens of summer. Even the hotel restaurant, Le Biff had light greens on it’s menu as it had a separate asparagus menu which I tried.

asparagus tart starter le biff

Asparagus tart and small salad with pesto dressing

As a suprise, all diners that evening received little cups of fresh asparagus and pea soup before their starter. The flavor was fresh and peppery and so I decided to give it a try at home this week.

asparagus and pea soup

Fresh aspargus and pea soup

600 g/21 oz fresh or frozen peas (I used frozen)
One bunch of asparagus, trimmed and washed
enough water to just cover the vegetables (or half and half water/vegetable stock)
juice of one lemon
handful of parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper

Wash and trim the asparagus. I always use a vegetable peeler and peel the woody parts away on the stalk. Chop into bite size pieces and place into a medium size pot. Add the peas and cover with water. Alternatively you may use half water and half vegetable stock. Place on heat and allow to simmer until the asparagus is tender. Add lemon juice, salt and black pepper and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Using an immersion wand, mix until fairly smooth. I left a bit of texture. Serve as a starter or as a lunch with fresh crusty bread and garnish with black pepper.

fresh asparagus and pea soupquality time

*Elma is my Great-great Aunt and a colorful persona who lived in the Finnish quarter of Minneapolis and visited Finland in the 1930s.

Previous posts about Elma: Some Mean Coffee, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Elma, In my Kitchen in the Bleak mid-winter, Memories of times passed

historical resource: Historical pages of the city of Imatra

May

by tableofcolors

My bucket list of places to see in Stockholm seemed to just grow after visiting there. Three days was clearly enough to whet the appetite. We did have the opportunity visit some restaurants and the old market hall or Saluhall in Östermalm and Rosendals Trädgård, a beautiful garden center with a lovely café and bakery. The bakery has a wood burning oven with which they bake their breads. I could see the smoke rising from the chimney into the blue sky. The bread was perfect. Perfectly moist and chewy on the inside and a crusty crust that crunches a bit when you bite into it. Rosendals, meaning the Rose Valley, has a long history of gardeners going back to the later 1700s. It is located on the island of Djurgården which is situated behind Skansen, a historical outdoor museum and zoo. While we did not have time to visit Skansen, it is a place I will be taking my girls. But I do think they would have liked Rosendals as well, and am very grateful to the lovely Mizz Marzipan for all of her suggestions.rosendals collage

Rosendals has a lovely café and everything they serve is organic. During the growing season they try to serve as much of their own produce as possible.

 

rosendals stockholm collagerosendals  organic roastbeefFor lunch they had three different lunch time options in addition to the sandwiches and sweets on display on a large table. We had their roast beef that was nestled on top of a roasted endive half and a spring onion that still had its roots intact. The roots were actually quite delicious as they had become almost crisp from the grilling. Lunch starts at 11.30 and we arrived a bit before. As soon as lunch service started, the parking lot off to side began filling up and the line became long. It clearly was a popular place to come enjoy the beautiful spring day.

specerietOne evening we had dinner at a restaurant called Speceriet which is located in the Östermalm area of Stockholm. Instead of having separate tables, there were three community tables. Our timing was perfect. Just a bit after we were seated the place began filling up. As they do not take reservations, it all depends on your luck and timing. I think that it is a place that would be easy to come to by yourself or with your friends and family. We had goat kid that rested on a bed of roasted beetroot and goat cheese.

goat kid speceriet stockholmAlso situated in Östermalm is the old Market Hall or Saluhall. We found it slightly by accident as we were wandering about and ended up visiting it twice. Once we had lunch there, and my lunch plate of pickled herring reminded me of our family’s summer go-to fast-food when we are in rush.

old saluhall stockholmplate of pickled herringEvery summer when we have been spending the day outside and there is not the desire to linger in the kitchen longer than necessary, we boil up a batch of new potatoes and open a jar of pickled herring and make a quick salad. I think it could be the perfect lunch for May Day as well since the sun is shining today. This time around I sautéed a bit of asparagus in coconut oil. It turned out delicious and a bit crispy.

sautéing asparagus in coconut oilmay day food

Yesterday I had a meeting in Helsinki and afterwards there was the opportunity to walk around the city and observe the city as it had donned their caps for Vappu or May Day. It is traditional for people to wear their white gradution cap. Some of them are already old and yellow but perhaps even more prized than the clean white ones, as it was not as common for everyone to have graduated from lukio or the Finnish high school back in the 1920s, 30s, or 40s.

helsinki may day vappuhelsinki cityscapeBack at home the kids were just as excited if not more so with their contagious energy.

clown

vappu ballons mayday at homeHappy May Day to all of you my dear readers!

Torpatoffeln shoes made in Sweden

Torpatoffeln shoes made in Sweden

I almost forgot, Lisa! Here is a snapshot of the shoes I bought in Sweden that I promised to post…they are comfortable to wear and I do gain a few inches of height. 🙂

Some Mean Coffee

by tableofcolors

When Elma was on her tour of Finland, she visited Stockholm for short while crossing the Gulf of Bothnia by ship. Elma is my Great-great-Aunt, and I have been sharing bits and pieces of her travels and her writing. The ferry over is still the typical way to travel from Finland to Sweden, but last week we decided to fly with my sister Kaija, who is currently on her tour of Europe. Taking the ship across takes the whole day or night, depending when you leave and we felt we just didn’t have that extra time. In addition, plane tickets were actually less expensive.

tukholman matkaWhen Elma had been on the ship, she had ordered “Kalt Watten” at dinner but the waitress did not understand and brought mineral water.

I requested normal water and one gentleman came to help. He interpreted and asked if I would like drinking water and I answered, “Of course, I do not wish to bathe.” She then brought me water, but it was not cold. This man was a Swedish journalist, who had been in Finland writing about the Lapua movement (which was a radical nationalist and anti-communist movement and was banned after a failed coup-d’état in 1932.) He praised Finland but was happy to get away. Although he had visited Finland many times, he felt they were brusque. I told him that the Finns were the best, the most honest, solemn and as deep feeling as can be, but that for their own protection they have a hard shell into which they escape. But once you break the shell and win their trust, you will have a friend for life. He laughed and said that I have been sold to my own nationality, but did admit that what I said was true. A nut is sweet to eat if your teeth do not first break biting into the shell.

gamla stan

Elma did not write of what she might have seen in Stockholm, as it seemed like she was in a hurry to get back to Finland. She only had a couple more days after returning before her boat to America was scheduled to leave. And so I will share something of what we saw and experienced.

kings castleIt had been years since I had been in Stockholm last, 17 to be exact. We were with a group of teenagers focused more on having a jolly time instead of actually enjoying the city. I remember that some of us tried to make guard at the Royal Palace smile or lose composure. I think that we did not succeed very well. This time I just took photos like all well-behaved tourists.

kungsträdgården cherry blossoms kings garden

Just the beginning of the cherry blossoms in Kungsträdgården, The King’s Garden

Before our trip, I sent Marissa from Miss Marzipan a note asking her for suggestions of where we should go. I received a whole list of wonderful suggestions. We only made it through some of them, giving a good excuse to plan a new trip in the future. I could imagine that my older girls would absolutely love the Drottningholm castle and gardens and everything there is to see. Perhaps we will make a mother-daughter trip there sometime, as Stockholm is really quite accesible from Finland.

airbnb södermalmKaija had reserved us a room through airbnb, which is a service on the internet that people may rent out rooms from their home or even an entire flat. This time we had a room and our host Siwa, made us feel so welcome and comfortable in her cozy apartment right in the heart of Södermalm. I really like the vibe in Södermalm which is full of old building built in the 1700s. We saw parks full of moms giving their babies a ride in the swings and lots of dads pushing their little ones in perhaps Emmaljunga prams. I saw several nice looking second hand shops and we stopped in one. I really liked the fact that they had made an effort to organize the used clothing by color. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed at the flea market when everything seems to be in one giant unorganized pile, that I almost do not know where to start looking. I suppose that is a skill that some just naturally acquire and others have to practice.

RödaKorset Hornsgatan 54

RödaKorset Hornsgatan 54

In all truth, we didn’t really shop at all, but at one point we needed directions to the pharmacy and so we decided to stop in a shoe store that almost seemed like it was calling our name. It became an expensive way to find the way to the pharmacy as we both left with contemporary wooden clogs, made in Sweden. And I love them.

Miss Marzipan suggested that we check out some of the local coffee shops and much to our delight a couple of them were situated not far from our home away from home in Södermalm. The following places serve up wonderful coffee. Loved the window seats at Johan och Nyström’s. It’s the perfect way to people watch and check out whats going on in the street. One benefit of traveling outside of traditional tourist season is that you are able to observe everyday life as people come and go to work, spend time with their families and run errands.

Just as we were getting up to leave from Johan och Nyström’s an older gentleman biked up to the window. His bike had a dog bed in front of the handlebars and his dog sat in it all well behaved. He lifted his dog down and soon they were inside ordering a cup of coffee.

Drop Coffee Roasters Wollmar Yxskullsgatan 10

Drop Coffee Roasters Wollmar Yxskullsgatan 10

Drop Coffee Roasters is just a stone’s throw away from Johan och Nyström’s and is a place that would be perfect for a little meeting or for doing work outside of the office. There were several rooms and nooks and crannies. That is the beauty of old buildings. They are comfortable and have a charm that newer buildings just don’t seem to have.

Mean Coffee Vasagatan 38

Mean Coffee Vasagatan 38

Normally I do not drink coffee since I am so sensitive to caffeine, but I made an exception on this trip. I had a cup at Mean Coffee and Johan och Nyström’s. The flavor was smooth and tasted wonderful since I rarely am able to have such a treat. At Drop Coffee I had their ginger tea, made from real ginger and tasted quite similar to the ginger tea I have been making. It was the perfect thing to have after having caffeine. Mean Coffee is situated in the downtown area and is small but well designed. Everything is proportionate so it felt comfortable. The menu was quite simple, but effort had been put into the quality. For example they had two different smoothie options instead of six. I had their avocado spinach smoothie and it was lovely. And they do serve a cup of Mean coffee. Go try it, I promise you’ll like it.

Brandstationen Hornsgatan Vintage Shop

Brandstationen Hornsgatan Vintage Shop

evening sunset and the trains

Cappadocia

by tableofcolors

pit stop

It it nearly two weeks since I returned from Turkey and it seems like it all took place in another world and time. But I keep going back in my mind. I must tell you now, since we are nearing the end of the year. My husband has been gone during the weeks for training and work since last August. I have been surprised how well it all has gone. A couple weeks before my scheduled Turkey trip I was really feeling the toll. Maybe there was too much going on, even if I have tried to really empty the calendar of everything extra. But the truth is that everything cannot be removed from the schedule. And so the trip to Turkey came at the most perfect moment. Usually things work out better than expected if not planned too perfectly in advance. Maybe it is the fact that then the expectations are not so high as well and all sorts of pleasant surprises come along the way.

mevlana and dervishes

Mevlana Monastery Museum and the Whirling Dervishes

After our day in Manavgat we started our drive to the Cappadocia region that we would be spending the next several days. Every two hours we would stop for a comfort stop as our guide called it, and often in public areas there were stray dogs that would lazily walk around. On the way to Cappadocia we stopped in Konya which is the ancient Iconium and place where Paul and Barnabas visited and preached to the early Christain congregation in 47-48 AD. It is also the place of the Mevlana Monastery which is currently a museum but also a place of pilgrimage for some. It is the birthplace of the Mevlevi order which joined ideology from Islamic and Buddhist traditions. The monastery had been a place of training for the Dervishes and the Mevlevi Order was well established during the Ottoman empire. In 1925 the Mevlana Order was outlawed but later some parts of the spiritual rituals have been allowed because of it’s tourist appeal. During the actual performance the Whirling Dervishes fell into a trance-like state. They requested that no photos be taken until the end when they would give a short demonstration for photos.

Ürgüp

Ürgüp

Göreme National Park

Cavusin, Göreme National Park

On the right hand side of the photo above, carved into the rock is the Church of St. John the Baptist. Some of the climb was a bit steep and slippier due to loose sand. Our own tour guide could not bring us there as we needed to do the climb at our own risk. A local fellow took us up there and the funniest thing happened on the way down. He told us that we must go down a different path since the one we came up would be too dangerous to descend. I differed in opinion. It really was not that dangerous. But we all followed him down a different route. The reason for this turned out to be that the path he brought us down would go past the shop of his friend and skirt some of the others. As one of the other young men noticed that he was taking the tourist group and potential customers a different route, there was heated debate in Turkish. Too bad I don’t understand the language! Every once in a while the other miffed shopkeeper would yell out to us in English, “Too dangerous!”  He thought the path that went past his shop was safer.

göreme national park collage

Monk Valley

The unique rock formations is due to the volcanic eruptions of the three volcanoes: Mount Ercyies, Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz. Underneath the harder layer of basalt was a softer rock that erosion weathered away making for incredible formations that are often called fairy chimneys and look like they could be straight out of a storybook.

Fairy chimneys

Fairy chimneys

Elisafairy chimneys 2I have been thinking that I must explore some of the savory dishes that they make in Turkey especially once fresh local vegetables come into season. This past week I tried my hand at Baklava. I used a ready to use frozen filo pastry dough from the grocery store and it turned out to be quite simple. I think that the flavor would have been significantly better had I used a homemade version. Next time. The secret to Turkish pastry is that they make a honey sauce that is then poured over after it is baked. The same is true with the Baklava.

baklava outside

Baklava with Rosewater and Honey (inspired by the recipe from taste.com.au )
50 g/ 1.75 oz pistachio, roasted
100 g/ 3.5 oz walnuts, roasted
150 g/5.3 almonds, roasted
1 package 375 g/13 oz of frozen filo pastry (allow to thaw for 1.5-2 hours in package before using) and trim to size of pan
zest of one lemon, grated fine
125 g/4.4 oz butter, melted
50 g sugar
cinnamon

 

Honey sauce

100 ml/1 dl/ 1/2 c water
125 g/4.4 0z honey
100 g/3.5 oz sugar
juice of one small lemon, about 30 ml
1 cinnamon quill

1 tsp rose water

nutsAllow the filo dough to thaw in its own package so that it does not dry out. Place the nuts on a parchment lined oven pan and roast gently at 160 C/320 F for about 7 minutes. Let cool and grind semi-fine either with a chopper or a food processor. Set aside a little of the ground pistachio for garnish. Combine the finely chopped nuts with 50 g/1.75 oz sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon.

Warm your oven to 190 C/375 F.  Brush your square cake pan 25 cm/10 inch with melted butter and layer it with 6 layers of filo pastry dough, brushing each layer with melted butter. Add one third of the nut mixture and then add another three layers of filo dough, each brushed with butter. Add another third and repeat with another three layers of filo brushed with butter. Add the last third of nut mixture and finally add six layers of filo dough brushed with butter each time. Brush the top layer with butter and score the top layers with a sharp knife into 24 servings. I cut them part way through as I had noticed that it was the method used at our hotel Gypsophila Holiday Village. (You may see the Baklava in the photo below on the right hand side) Bake for about 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.

gyphsophila holiday villageMeanwhile prepare the honey sauce. Combine the ingredients above in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves over medium heat. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes on low heat and remove from heat. Discard the cinnamon quill and add in the rose water. After removing the Baklava from the oven, pour the honey sauce over the it while still hot. Sprinkle with ground pistachios and allow to cool before cutting all the way through.

daily lifeThere are so many pictures and stories to tell that sometime in the future, when I make a Turkish dish I will share more. If you have never been to Turkey, I definitely recommend it.

red tractor

Manavgat

by tableofcolors

It has been a few days since my friend Elisa and I returned home and already on the flight home it seemed as it the whole trip had been a dream. I think we might not have minded staying another three days in Turkey, but our trip with our tour group was planned for a week as well as all of the other arrangments, an extension was not an option. We had reserved our trip back in November and for both of us it was our first time in Turkey. We were a bit giddy, as we were leaving our kids and all of our responsibilities as moms behind for a week. It does not happen often. I must introduce Elisa. She is an artist and wonderfully spontaneous and I think we feed off of each other’s energy. I don’t remember when I have last laughed so much, you know the deep belly laughs that almost make your stomach and cheeks hurt. I think it was the therapy we both needed. And so some in our tour group started calling us “the teens”. Little did they know. There were a couple of couples in our group that were clearly younger than us, but they certainly acted more reserved and grown-up. Oh well, we had so much fun.

oulu airport lounge

A lounge at the Oulu airport that we fell in love with

I took close to a thousand photos but I have decided not to bore you with an overload of photography. I am trying my best to select the most interesting shots that perhaps tell something of the surroundings and of our experiences and divide our adventures into two separate posts.

manavgat riverboat

Manavgat river, part freshwater and part seawater

 

Life in Turkey seemed to be vibrant. The cities were modern and hotels were gorgeous and well-taken care of and customer service was splendid and sometimes even a bit much. But we learned the skill of smiling nicely and saying no thank you and walking away if it became too direct. Sometimes close by to the well cared for areas there might be a shanty-town. It was apparent that there was a large rate of disparity in the level of income. 2015-02-27 13.38.55On our first day we went on a riverboat along the Manavgat river that empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The river is partly freshwater and partly seawater and along one side was a long skinny peninsula of sand. After our lunch of grilled fish or chicken on the boat we had about an hour and a half to enjoy the turquoise water. There was a salesman selling scarves and we took a fancy to their changing colorful shapes in the wind.

merditerranean seaThe tourist season had not officially opened yet and everywhere we could see preparations for the summer season. We were both pleased to be there before the crowds. Sometimes it is easier to see things without the masses even though the trees were just budding and I am sure that even in a months time, everything would be so much greener.

flying scarves and wavesThe Turkish diet is laden with vegetables and their sitrus fruit was like it had actually grasped a few rays of warm sun and packaged it into the pulp. All over there were fruit stands and for a few Turkish Lira or an couple euros you could have a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate or orange juice. As we started our drive into the mountains on our second day, we passed fields of orange trees all in straight lines and speckled with orange dots.

turkish fruits

Shipyards along the Manavgat river

Shipyards along the Manavgat river

Of course I had to bring home a few treats. We stopped at a spice and treat store in Ürgup, which was an old and small village in the middle of the beautiful rock formations Cappadokya. So this month in kitchen I have treats that have traveled in my suitcase for all of the loved ones back home. Yesterday we cut all of the treats into little bite-size pieces so everyone could sample a little of everything. A prominent ingredient used in many foods both savory and sweet was chickpeas and sesame seeds. I really liked the nutty flavor and texture. In general, sweet desserts were not overly sweet, as often a sauce of thinned down honey was used to give desserts a some moisture and just a touch of sweetness.

Turkish delights collage And so this month in my kitchen I will be exploring and using spices I brought back with me and maybe try my hand with baklava. In my next post I will bring you into the mountains to explore the unique rock formations and maybe some new flavors. I feel like I am reliving my trip again.

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series that she hosts monthly. Check out her blog to links to kitchens all around the world.

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