tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: Refined sugar free

Christmas comes whether you are ready or not

by tableofcolors

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

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

gingerbread-for-breakfast-collage

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

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

christmas-eve

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

persimon-and-orange-rice-pudding

Rice pudding with Persimon and Orange

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

5 dl/1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla sugar

2-3 tbsp agave or to taste

1 ripe persimon, peeled and cubed

1-2 orange, peeled and cubed

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

Slow cooker Rice porridge

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

5 dl/2 c pearl rice

2,5 liters/2,5 quarts of water

3 dl /1 1/4 c heavy cream

2-3 tsp salt

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

rice-pudding

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

chia-pudding

Chia pudding

0,6 dl/ 1/4 c chia seeds

1 can (4 dl/2 c) coconut milk

4 dl/2 c water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp agave syrup

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

joulupukki

Happy Holidays to all of you, my dear readers.

seven-lovelies

 

 

Hilja’s Letter

by tableofcolors

Today Finland turns 99 years old. The sun has been shining bright and it is cold. I can only imagine how cold it was during the Winter War, when Finland defended it’s independence from Russia, as it was an exceptionally cold winter and there certainly was a lack of luxury and comfort. Many foods were rationed and creativity was required to prepare meals. Some time back I received an email from my Grampa Jim. It was the letter addressed to Elma from her cousin Hilja from Finland, or that is how they speak of each other in some other texts. I thought today would be the perfect day to share it, as it gives insight into Finnish society and their ability to find a unity when it was needed most dearly. I find myself returning back to the letter and rereading it over and over again. It is so articulately written and intriguing. And her wise eyes that observed society around her and look directly at you from the photograph.

Hilja

Hilja the author of the letter to Elma (Grampa’s aunt)

History is so interesting, as it is the stories of people all intertangled. I fear that if these stories remain only in our memories, they are easily forgotten. I will tell you a little about Hilja. She was the foster mother of the late Einojuhani Rautavaara, a very well-known Finnish composer. In the letter Einojuhani is referred to Jukka, but Hilja says that they call him Eino now. It would be interesting to know if Hilja and Einojuhani are related. In my archives I have a photoPerhaps someday I will find that little detail. What I do know is that Hilja and Elma were very good friends, and I am amazed with her English. It would be so interesting to learn more about Hilja and her life. She tells a powerful story in her letter below.

Links for previous posts about the Anderson family and Aunt Elma can be found here:In my kitchen in the Bleak of the Midwinter, Elma, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Elma’s Travels, Some Mean Coffee, All the King’s Men, and Friendship in My Kitchen.

Elma Anderson and Einojuhani Rautavaara

Elma Anderson and Einojuhani Rautavaara

elma-s-letter

elma-s-letter-2

Hilja tells of President Kallio’s death, in the middle of a procession. It is possible to sense the unity of the people in a war-torn country and how they stood behind their leader who had shown the qualities of a true leader. I feel that sometimes we need to hit a low point in order to see what is important in building a new future for our children.

 You have read in the papers that President Kallio has been ill and he therefore had to retire. Already a new president was elected and everything was ready, and President Kallio was to travel out to the country to rest, when at the station just having bid farewell to his accompanying friends and government officials and representatives of Congress, a moment before stepping into the train, he fell dead in the arms of the Field Marshal Mannerheim who was walking at his side before the ranks of the armies of honor. He died a wonderful death, just at the crowning peak of his life. It is as if the Lord of life and death had willed all this in this remarkable way. Great multitudes of people were escorting him. It was just as though he died into the arms of his people. He was loved and respected, a noble-hearted man, whose heart last winter had to bear so much, and which now stopped beating at the moment when the Fatherland had already received a new leader, a new President.

                                                                                                                                                                       -Hilja

Today in my kitchen we celebrated the Finnish Independence day  with two lighted candles. The children made a traditional toffee fudge quite independently. They have grown so big that they prefer to bake without any help. The question that comes to mind is how to teach our children the value of our society today. The freedoms and priviledges we have. The equality, although never quite perfect as we are a society of humans and humans are not known for perfection, is still at a very advanced level. The privilege of education and personal safety. I am able to let my children freely bike and walk in the neighborhood. I would hope that our children would not take these rights and privileges for granted as many have paid a heavy price.

homemade-fudge

Toffee Fudge, recipe from the Children’s baking book Suomen Lasten Leivontakirja by Ulla Svensk

2 dl/ 1 c heavy whipping cream
2 dl/ 1 c caster sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp butter
sprinkle of fleur de sel

Bring the cream, brown sugar, caster sugar and molasses to a boil. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until it has thickened. Test if the mixture is done by dropping a small drop into a bowl of cold water. If it firms up, it is ready.

Add the butter to fudge and mix until incorporated. Pour the fudge into a small pan (15 cm x 15 cm) that is lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool in the refrigerator. Cut into squares and if preferred you may roll the squares into balls.

These make a pretty gift. Wrap the individual pieces of fudge into small pieces of cellophane and tie with string.

In my kitchen I have also been making treats that do not have refined sugar. The following recipe for raw chocolate is delicious. The original recipe I received from my friend Kaisa. As I did not have the recipe on me when out shopping I had to guess when buying ingredients and so my version is a bit different.

organic-raw-chocolate

Raw chocolate with nuts

You will need a set of molds for the chocolate.

2 dl/ 1 c organic cocoa mass
1 dl/ 1/2 dl coconut oil
1 dl/ 1/2 c raw cocoa powder
about 1 tbsp stevia
1 tsp mint or vanilla extract
assortment of nuts

Place the cocoa mass and coconut oil in a large bowl. Fill your sink with hot water and place the bowl in the sink. Melt the coconut oil and cocoa mass by stirring until it is all melted. By melting the cocoa mass in a hot water bath all of the nutrients are kept.

Stir in the cocoa powder, stevia and your choice of mint or vanilla extract. Place a few nuts in each mold if you wish. Spoon the melted chocolate mixture so that nuts are completely covered. Place in the refrigerator and allow to set. If you prefer, you may freeze your chocolate.

As it is Finland’s Independence day today, my kitchen has been filled with Finnish music.

Einjuhani Rautavaara is one of Finland’s contemporary composers. One of his most well known pieces is the Cantus Arcticus Op. 61 in which you may hear the audio landscape of the nordic and the calls of the wild birds.

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series that is currently hosted by the lovely Lizzy at her blog Good Things.

elma-s-letter-2elma-s-letter-2Tallenna

Tallenna

Memories and the most delicious Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie

by tableofcolors

worlds-best-gluten-free-refined-sugar-free-pumpkin-pie-3I have been a bit homesick lately. I wish I could go back in time and slip on the velvet dress Gramma made. And go to Gramma’s house for Sunday or maybe Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family. Cousins would be over and we would begin our holiday season with Christmas songs around the piano. Erica might have played the violin. I might have played the violin as well in later years after practicing a bit. Lisa would play the piano.

The house was split into three levels. There was a dark wooden round railing on the staircase going upstairs that curved at the bottom of the stairs. It was smooth and shiny and I would always run my fingers along it going to the third level. I’m not sure if I remember correctly, but I believe there was the wall of frowning ancestors in the staircase going up. It has always been interesting to think of their lives and how they differed from ours. I found this photo in my album, and sure enough the frowning ancestors were in the place that I had remembered.

family-photo-91Upstairs the guest room had a bed that was so high you had to really try climbing on top of it. The mattress was rather firm and there might have been cotton crocheted lace along the edge of the spread that was turned over near the head of the bed. I remember sleeping on the bed a few times when staying overnight at Gramma’s. I felt like a princess on the bed, and I think my brother must have been sleeping on the other side of the big double bed. There was something so exciting about sleeping over at Gramma’s that sometimes it took a little while for the sandman to come. I remember watching the shadows of the tree branches swaying. Perhaps it was the street light or the light of the moon that filtered into the room. It felt cozy and safe, Gramma and Grampa were just down the hall and the next thing I knew, it was the light of the sun filtering in the window bringing the new day. Gramma and Grampa were both in the kitchen by the time we made it downstairs. I don’t remember if I woke Pekka up or did he wake me. We sat in the back of the kitchen, where the table had its own niche in the bay window. We had Rice Krispies that crackled and popped quietly in our bowls, while WCCO played softly in the background. Maybe we had a piece of toast as well or a half of a muffin from the bakery.

eating-with-cousins-at-morgan-aveThe recipes below are made to share. The pumpkin pie is gluten-free and made using no refined sugar. It is absolutely delicious and will be going on my list of favorites. My recipe for homemade pumpkin purée can be found here.

gluten-free-refined-sugar-free-pumpkin-pie

Gluten-free and refined sugar free pumpkin pie

The pie crust recipe has been created by Erika from A Little Insanity blog and you can find it from this link.

The flour I used was a mix of white and dark gluten-free flour that had ground flax seed in it giving it a darker color.

Pumpkin pie filling (Refined sugar free)

5 dl/ 2 c pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 dl/ 2/3 c coconut sugar or unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
2 dl/just under 1 c heavy cream

Follow the instructions for the pie crust as can be found in the link above. Roll out the pie crusts, place in pie tins and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes. Prebake at 200 C/400 F for about 10-12 minutes or until the crust has gained slight color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Beat the eggs and coconut sugar until very thick. Mix the spices in with the pumpkin purée. Fold the pumpkin mixture into the egg batter. Using a spoon, add in the cream. Pour the filling into the pie tin and bake at 175 C/350 F for about 35-40 minutes. Test with a skewer.

Allow to cool and serve with whipped cream flavored gently with a bit of coconut sugar and cinnamon.

kurpitsalettuja-taikina

One weekend recently we had pumpkin for every meal. Pumpkin waffles, a DIY Pumpkin spice latte that was better thank Starbucks and Savory Pumpkin sauce over cooked barly. The kids did not complain and even our baby had some pumpkin purée.

Rosemary pumpkin sauce

I browsed a bit online and noticed that Martha Stewart had fried rosemary in olive oil. The rosemary gave my pumpkin sauce a beautiful flavor.

Fresh rosemary
olive or coconut oil

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil on a large frying pan. Place the fresh rosemary into the pan and fry for about 1-2 minutes or until the rosemary is turning a bit brown. These crispy bits will bring the flavor of your sauce to the next level.

Cook barley according to directions on the package. Season with organic vegetable stock.

5 dl/2 cups of pumpkin purée
1 clove of garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
apple vinegar
half and half or cream cheese
salt and pepper
water or barley cooking water

Remove the rosemary and set aside on a plate. Place the minced garlic and onion into the already hot pan. Add in the the pumpkin purée and stir. Since the pumpkin purée is already cooked this sauce is very quick. Add water or barley cooking water to thin the sauce a bit. If you prefer, you may add a splash of half and half or 50 g of cream cheese to bring some creaminess to the sauce.
Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. Check flavor.

Spoon sauce over the cooked barley and garnish with the fried rosemary.

rosemary-pumpkin-sauce

Last rays of Summer

by tableofcolors

Where to start. Life is going by faster than I can write. A few days ago the announcer on the radio said that Wednesday would be the last day of summery-like weather. It wasn’t really summer anymore and hasn’t been so for some time. The air had the chill of autumn. In the sun, the air feels warm but in the shade, it feels like a jacket would be in place. I decided that I would take the day off from work related things and try to catch the last rays of summer sun with the kids. A cold front was arriving.

bella-and-the-september-beachI asked the little ones, that are not at school during the day, if we should make one last trip to the beach. Bella became all excited. She wanted to play mermaid one last time. She took off on her bike without shoes. I asked if she might need shoes. “No, then I don’t have to wait for my feet to dry after swimming.” I had to agree. It is rather uncomfortable to put on shoes when they are covered in partially wet sand.

When we arrived at the beach, it was empty. The sand was filled with rings made with light motorcycles, most likely in the evening time by a group of teenagers. No one had walked on these circles yet, and the wind had not shifted the sand erasing their existence. Perhaps it had been the night before. Bella left her bike under the tree that has become our designated bike park. It is the spot where the hard ground turns into the sandy beach. I continued to push the stroller through the sand to the other side of the reeds. It is the side we always go to and usually spread our blanket under the shade of a group of trees that stand right in the middle of the beach. The sand is smoother on this side of the reeds and there are not as many rocks. But now it was fall and the sun was in a different position and all along the beach there were long shadows. So we sat in the sun this time to warm us up and Bella played Mermaid.

last-rays-of-summer-collage

She was completely immersed in her own world of make-believe play. There is something so satisfactory about playing. I felt like I almost got to participate through the lens of my camera. Perhaps it is my play, photography that is. Completely de-stressing.

baby-and-the-beachMy husband and I have a little goal that we started in the beginning of August. To eat as little refined sugar as possible. The original goal was to have no sugar until Christmas. Five exceptions were allowed. I haven’t quite kept with the goal, having a little taste of something sweet a few times and on special occasions. I see it as a lifestyle and so I don’t dare to lay down too strict rules of what can and cannot be eaten. But in the end I have been pleased that we have had very little refined sugar and if the sweet tooth seems to get the better of me, I have tried making things sweetened with maple syrup or honey. Afterall, I see this as something will continue after Christmas and not just a crash course to try suffer through.

giant-zucchini

One day when I came home, I found a bag by the door with some giant zucchini. At first they sat on our counter as a decoration showing off their vibrant summer greens. We spent almost two weeks eating them. We were having some young people over one evening and I felt like having something sweet, so I searched the web for a recipe that would not contain refined sugar. I found the following recipe for zucchini and applesauce muffins from the Ambitious Kitchen. First I tried the recipe as is, the second batch I gently tweeked by adding in a bit more olive oil to give the muffin a softer crumb. Here is my version.

Zucchini Applesauce muffins without refined sugar

3.5 dl/1.5 c whole wheat flour (I used a half and half mix of white and whole-grain spelt flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
generous 2 dl/1 c shredded zucchini
generous 1 dl/ 1/2 c pure maple syrup or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
0.7 dl/ 1/3 c olive oil
1dl/1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c milk (any milk will work including nondairy options)

Preheat your oven to 175 C/350 C. Spray the muffin tin with a non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients including the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium sized bowl mix all of the wet ingredients. Start by gently whisking the egg, olive oil, applesauce, milk, vanilla extract and almond extract. Add in the shredded zucchini. Combine with the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Spoon muffin batter in the muffin tin and bake for about 19-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

zucchini-and-applesauce-muffinsIf you have a special occasion and want to take the muffins up a notch. This frosting brings a delightful twist. (It contains just a bit sugar.)

2 dl/1 c whipping cream
250 g/9 oz quark
100 g/3.5 oz cream cheese
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp sugar

Whip the cream until fluffy. Fold in the quark and cream cheese and mix until smooth. Add in the lemon juice and sugar. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe dollops onto eat muffin. In the picture about I have cut the muffins into halves and then garnished with the frosting. Enjoy!

We opened our second Cabana de Empanadas coffee shop this past August in the Iso Omena shopping center in Espoo (15 minutes from downtown Helsinki). It has been busy and delightful! Opening weekend was wonderfully busy!

iso-omena cabana de empanadas