Simple pleasures

Category: Sandwiches

Carrot top pesto

by tableofcolors

girl and organic garden produce

One thing leads to another. The past several years these little black bugs have eaten our cabbage and kale seedlings. And the end result is that these only the tough middle stem is left standing with a leaf that looks like lace as it is mostly filled with holes and turning whitish and sorry looking. This year my husband put a garden fabric on the planting box out back and the outcome has been completely different. I would have never thought that such a simple solution would yield such a change! Now they are vibrantly growing. Fortunately the kids love kale chips! We have several different kinds of leafy greens that all belong to the cabbage family and we totally forgot that we had planted broccoli as well, until this morning we spied small broccoli forming amongst the dark green leaves. We had accidentally taken a few of the bottom leaves and added to our cabbage stew yesterday. But I don’t think any harm was kale

Yesterday we decided to make a lightly sautéed garden stew. Cabbage soup raises mixed feelings amongst the public, especially if the cabbage has been cooked for a very long time. That is why I decided to lightly sauté all of the vegetables and brown the meat before putting it all together and finishing it off with a short cook time. I thought it was delicious.

garden fresh produce

Lightly sautéed kale stew

a variety of kale or cabbage
5-6 carrots, grated
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 vegetable bouillon cube (I used an organic bouillon cube that has many garden varieties of herbs in it)
1 liter/ 2 pints of water
salt and black pepper to taste
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
400 g/ 14 oz minced meat (We happened to have fresh ground horse meat on hand, so that is what we used)

Mince the onions and garlic. Set aside. Grate the carrot and chop the kale. Brown the minced meat along with the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. In the same pan lightly sautée the kale and carrots for a few minutes in a bit of olive oil. Set aside. Put all of the sautéed vegetables and browned minced meat into a large pot. Pour the water over it along with the vegetable bouillon cube. Bring to a simmer. Season with fresh parsley and salt and pepper. Finish with the apple cider vinegar and check taste. Allow to simmer until preferred level of doneness. I preferred my soup to have a bit more texture and for the kids I cooked it a bit more. Total cook time was about 20 minutes.

cabbage stew

I had a large bunch of beautifully green carrot tops in wrapped up in a paper towel and tucked in my fridge. Ann from Eat Simply Eat Well suggested that I use them for a pesto. I did a little research online and found the most lovely recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich with roasted carrots and carrot green pesto inspired by the Happyolks blog. It was so delicious that I have not had such a good sandwich in a long time. Even the kids loved them.

garden fresh carrots and sourdough bread

Grilled Cheese sandwiches with roasted carrots and carrot green pesto

You will need:

Good quality sourdough bread and good quality cheese. I used Oltermanni which is similar to the Danish Havarti in texture and flavor.

Roasting the carrots:
Wash about 4-5 small carrots per sandwich.
Leave a bit of the greens on them, as they become delicious and crispy in the oven.
A drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast in oven for about 20 minutes at 160 C/320 F or until the tip are crispy and the carrots have a bit of color.

organic carrots

While the carrots are roasting, make the carrot green pesto.

Carrot Green pesto

a couple of large bunches of carrot greens, washed
2 cloves of garlic
juice of one lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the stems of the carrot greens and use only the leafy parts. Place them into a blender of food processor. Add in the garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Add in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend for a few more seconds. Check flavor.

roasted carrot and carrot top pesto sandwich

Slice thin slices of bread. The bread I used was a homemade sourdough with about 60% wholegrain making the texture of the bread somewhat heavy. That is why I opted for thinner slices.

Butter the outer side of the slice and smear some of the carrot green pesto on the other side. Place butter side down onto a pan that is medium hot. Add a layer of cheese and then 4-5 roasted carrots. Place another layer of cheese before placing the second slice of bread, pesto side down. Fry until golden brown and the cheese has started to melt. Flip over and continue to fry until the other side is a golden brown. Enjoy!



Modesty is sometimes overrated

by tableofcolors

Until recent days, paper mills have been at the heart of everyday life in Kouvola for thousands. According to Wikipedia, paper has been produced in Finland since the 1600s although it was not until the 1860s that the industry started to grow. We live in Valkeala which used to be an independent county, large in area but small in population right next to the cities of Kouvola and Kuusankoski. A few years back politicians decided to join the counties and along with a few other to make one large county now called Kouvola. The making of large counties in the name of saving expenses has been strongly trending in recent years. Whether this will be a good long-term decision can be determined perhaps in a few years as we will all be so much wiser in hindsight, as the case usually is. Finland has long been and still is a welfare state, but things are changing. And with change there is always some good, some bad.

kymintehdasalueI actually think that it is probably a good thing that more room is made for the private sector, giving space for healthy competition. Maybe the best thing would be to have the best of both worlds. A safety net for those that need it as we might all be in that situation someday but an environment that encourages entrepreneurs and hard work. One of my largest criticisms of the current Finnish systems is that unemployment benefits are so good and seemingly endless that some decide it is better to just stay at home doing nothing instead of working. My second criticism is that modesty is over-rated. Finns are really quite good at many things. They need to believe that others might think so as well. One good example of this collective way of thinking is Angry Birds. For the longest time after Rovio succeeded with their angry chicks the following collective comment could be heard, “Just wait and see, it won’t last long.” Slowly this attitude has changed towards Rovio and it has attained an iconic status. Why do you think the Swedes succeeded with their IKEA and H&M? Finland is full of wonderful little companies full of new designs and ideas.

old paper millsThey just need to own it.

brick wallThese old Kymintehtaan paper mills would not have ever achieved what they did without some risks. Operation first began in 1874 and it has continued until recent years. Industries, societies and economic situations change. Today some of the buildings are empty but quite a few are being used by small business. One building is full of creative entrepreneurs. In another building there is one of my favorite organic bakeries called Tuomon Luomu. They make the best handmade rye bread and I really think that they would really have potential to grow.parkway kymintehdasThe entryway into the area is a bit forbidding as there is an old guard house with mirrored windows. For the longest time I did not even know that the area was open for the general public. The area is much more friendly after passing the entrance as it has a lovely parkway with old trees forming a canopy over the lawn. Partially hidden behind the trees is an old house that reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.

vanha talo kymintehdasI tried to do some research and find out the history behind the house and it’s name but it has remained a mystery. Perhaps it has been used for company social occasions and receptions. On one side of the wall was a hydrangea overflowing with blooms.

hortensia hydrangeaMy new favorite food is perfect for fall when the mushrooms are in season. I bought a package of portobello mushrooms from the grocery and thought to make burgers from them for lunch. I searched online and found some inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie grilled his burgers but I broiled them in the oven as our cook-out season has pretty much come to a close. The version below is slightly different to Jamie’s, as I used what was on hand.

portobello mushroomPortobello burgers for two

2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 small onions or one large onion sliced into fine rings
three glugs of olive oil
juice of one lemon
sprig of fresh rosemary
black pepper

2 good quality rolls of bread
olive oil
two cloves of garlic, halved

four sundried tomatoes in oil
black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh oregano and chives and a few leaves of fresh spinach
a few slices of your favorite cheese (optional)

Place all of the ingredients into a plastic bag and shake until the mushrooms and onions are coated. Allow to marinate for about fifteen minutes. While marinating heat the oven to 200 C/390 F at the broil setting. Place the marinated portobello and onions on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Take two good quality rolls of bread and slice them into halves. I used the Fazer grain ciabatta. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with a clove of garlic cut into half. Place the halved garlic into an air pocket of the bread and place on the baking sheet alongside the portobello and onions. Bake for about ten to twelve minutes, removing once the onions and bread have attained some color and the mushrooms have released some liquid. Make sure to keep watch that your rolls do not burn. If using a very light bread, remove the rolls after five minutes.

While the the mushrooms are baking, finely slice the sundried tomatoes and sprinkle with black pepper. Once the mushrooms and onions are done, remove from the oven and assemble the sandwich. Place two slices of cheese on the bottom half if preferred. Next place the mushroom and then finish with the onion and sundried tomatoes. Garnish with a few sprigs of herbs and spinach.

portobello mushroom burger

Lunch for two…or for eight

by tableofcolors

The other day I was just thinking about years past and about us. Our fairytale started when we were both in our late teens, the world was wide open with options. It was a lovely time. We’ve had fourteen quite extraordinary years together. There has not been a boring moment. Our six beautiful children make sure that everyday is full of activity. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs and crash courses as well. Now as I look back, I feel like we got married as kids and grew up together. Legally we were definitely adults and not in our teens anymore, but just barely. For the most part, we get along great even though we are both the first born children from large families. I guess in theory it shouldn’t work since we are both used to bossing directing people around, but fortunately that is just a theory. In reality, we rarely argue although we do get into very animated discussions. Ultimately, we want to get along.

butternut squash and sweet potato

One of our first crash courses was learning how communicate. He came from a family where everyone is very direct and I came from a family that was not so direct. He was used to receiving and giving direct commands and I was not. I was more used to reading between the lines and he was not. I would like to think that through these years we have found a middle ground that works for both.

squash and sweet potato

We have some standard topics that we discuss with irregular frequency and feel quite strongly about, one of them being immigration policy. See, in the end we usually actually agree with the ultimate goal or solution but our ways of achieving the goal differ quite often. He is soldier and I am a political scientist. If all else fails we just agree to disagree. I personally don’t think that we need to agree on everything in order for our marriage to work. We like to give each other a little space. For us it works.

spelt breadWe’ve also learned how to genuinely support each other. In the early years, we might have claimed that we support each other but we didn’t really know what it was in practice. We might have counted dish or diaper changing turns back then and said that we support each other with our career plans. In reality, we had to learn how to put those words into actions. We were learning how to be a mother and father. It is a whole process of growth. We’re still not done growing. We don’t count dish turns or anything else anymore, we try to help out where we can and if one is a bit tired the other ones cuts some slack. My husband is not the type to bring flowers. But sometimes when I am a bit tired he will tell me to go out and do whatever I would like to for a couple of hours. After skating 10K and enjoying coffee at a local place, coming home feels great. Especially since the house has been cleaned while I was gone. He gets the kids organized and moving, faster than I am ever able to and they produce magic. These are his flowers.

squash soup eggs in the basket

Anne from Life in Mud Spattered Boots inspired to make these Eggs in the Basket toasts. They turned out perfect with the whole grain spelt bread that I had made earlier in the day. The trick that I learned from Anne is that the piece of bread needs to be thick enough. I had tried sometime earlier with thinner slices and ended up having egg all over the frying pan.

Egg in a basket

Slice thick slices of bread and butter on both sides lightly. Press a cookie cutter in the middle. Place both the pieces separately on a frying pan at low heat. First toast one side and then the other. After the bread is flipped, carefully break one egg into the hole and allow to cook until the egg white is set. This took several minutes for me. Enjoy with soup with someone special.

Whole-grain spelt bread

The trick to making a bread with spelt is to keep the dough moist and a bit sticky. This way your end result will be loaf with a soft texture.

0,5 l/2 cups warm water
one block of fresh yeast (50 g) or one package of dry yeast (11 g)
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1 generous tbsp brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
4 dl/1.7 c whole-grain spelt flour
5 dl/ 2 c flour
3 tbsp olive oil

I used a stand mixer with the dough hook, but you may knead the dough by hand as well. Place the warm water, yeast (I often use frozen fresh yeast that I just place directly into the bowl and allow to thaw), brown sugar and salt. Mix and allow to sit for a few minutes. Continue by adding the wheat bran and spelt flour and one third of the flour. Knead the dough and continue adding the rest of the flour in small increments. The dough should not be too dry. Allow to rise until doubled and split into two. This amount will make two loaves that have a raw weight of about 570 g/20 ounces. Work the dough on a well floured surface so that the air bubbles are released. Shape into loaves and place into bread pans or in a long shape on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 18-20 minutes or until the bread sounds a bit hollow and it has a nice color on the bottom as well.

Butternut Squash Soup

3 tbsp olive oil
700 g/2 lbs sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 onion, chopped
1.2 kg/2.6 lbs butternut squash
water to cover the vegetables (about 1 and 1/2 liters/1.6 quarts)
0.5 l/2 c stock
250 g/8.8 oz marscapone cheese
sea salt
black pepper
dash of nutmeg

Peel and cut the vegetables into large chunks. Place into a large pot with the olive oil and sautée for a few minutes so that the vegetables release some of their flavors. Pour the water and stock over the vegetables and allow to simmer until tender. Remove from heat and using an immersion mixer, purée until smooth. Return to the stove top and add the marscapone cheese. Simmer until smooth, mixing at the same time. Take of heat and serve.

soup and sandwichThis could be a lunch for two or it could be for eight. For us, it was a table with eight, including all of the special people in our house. Today I feel that there is a stronger bond of love than ever before. May your adventure called life continue in a pleasant way. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Season of Celebrations

by tableofcolors

As the season of celebrations approaches I thought I would share a very traditional Finnish savory dish that has been done in a very non-Finnish way.
The sandwich cake or voileipäkakku is served at many graduation and confirmation parties as well as at baptisms. I was able to make one for a friend this past weekend and I thought to give it an untraditional twist in flavor.

The sandwich cake is basically a loaf of good quality bread sliced lengthwise. Each layer is filled with a filling, often alternating between two different fillings. The most common sandwich cakes have either a meat filling or a fish filling. The recipe below uses meat as one ingredient. The frosting is often a cream cheese or mayonnaise. My recipe uses a combination of marscapone and cream cheese. I find that cream cheese has a fairly strong flavor and the marscapone brings a nice soft flavor and texture.


Sandwich cake with asparagus

Start by slicing the bread lenghtwise and cutting off both the top and bottom crusts. For this cake I actually used two loaves of bread side by side so that it made a bigger cake. Make sure to cut away the crusts since that will insure ease when cutting and serving the cake.

Next make the fillings. Feel free to use your imagination. I veered away from the traditional fillings and made a pesto for one layer and used a good quality hummus to flavor the second filling.

Pesto filling:
2 handfuls of fresh basil (about 40 grams)
1 clove of garlic
0.6 dl/ 1/4 c pine nuts
50 g parmesean cheese
black pepper
little dash of sea salt
0.6 dl/ 1/4 c olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place in the blender and pulse until fairly smooth.
Mix the pesto with 100g /3.5 oz of cream cheese and 125 g/4.4 oz marscapone cheese. When combined at 100 g /3.5 oz of finely chopped good quality deli ham.

Beef and hummus filling:
20 g/ 0.7 oz chopped fresh parsley
A few sprigs of chives, chopped finely
100 g/3.5 oz deli cut peppered beef finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped
3 generous tablespoons of hummus
200 g /7 oz cream cheese
125 g/4.4 oz marscapone cheese
sea salt
black pepper

Before spreading the filling on each layer pour milk in a glass and spoon it on the bread to soften it up a bit. The amount of milk needed depends on the bread. If the bread if very soft less milk will be needed and for a more courser grain bread a little more milk is necessary.

After the sandwich cake has been filled, cut off the crusts and cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.


250 g/8.8 oz marscapone cheese
300g /10.6 oz cream cheese
handful of parsley, chopped finely
2 tbsp of finely chopped fresh chives
sea salt
black pepper
dash of freshly ground chili flakes
Mix until smooth and spread evenly over the sandwich cake.


Since asparagus is in season and it is a nice looking vegetable I thought to try for a springy “asparagus forest” look. I cut away the tough ends and peeled away the tougher skin along the bottom half of the stem before steaming them lightly in the microwave. After steaming them, drizzle olive oil and lightly season them with salt and pepper. Allow to cool a bit before placing them on the cake. The top is garnished with prosciutto ham tied with a sprig of fresh chives. The decorating part is fun since there are really no rules to follow, just be creative!


Arugula, roasted beets and goat cheese on a rosemary seasalt olive oil bagel

by tableofcolors

Usually the best ideas come from others, as is the case with this Arugula (rucola), roasted beet and goat cheese bagel. I received an email from a reader suggesting this combination. Last week I gave it a try and it was delicious in my opinion.
Since it is hard to find quality bagels here in Finland, I made my own. I googled the history of bagels and found out that there are several different versions from different regions. The version that I made is the American style brought over by the Polish Jews at the turn of the century. The bagel is made from a wheat dough with yeast. It is boiled in salt water for a short time before baking. This gives it a chewy crust and soft inside. My kids are eager taste-testers. Whenever I make these, they disappear before my eyes. I also learned that the original bagels that the Polish Jews made in New York City were not perfect circles since they were all made by hand. This made me feel better since mine were not perfectly uniform either.

Bagels in salt water. Boil them for thirty seconds a side.

I sprinkled my bagels with seasalt and rosemary before they went into the oven and gave them a little drizzle of olive oil after they came out.

The next step was to oven roast the beets. This can be done well in advance. Refrigerate and used as needed. These roasted beets are so good that they would be a great addition to a salad or a side for dinner.
Peel the beets, cut into thin slices and lay flat on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle a little salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 200C/390F.

Sliced beets

Baked beets

Cut the bagels into half. Drizzle a little olive oil on the bottoms and sprinkle them with fresh rosemary and pepper.

Sliced bagels

Fill the bagels with goat cheese (I alternated using goat cheese and Manchego cheese (a hard cheese made from lamb’s milk), roasted beets, and arugula(rucola). Garnish the bagels with a little drizzle of olive oil and rosemary.


If you an idea that you would like me to try or a recipe that you are struggling with, leave a comment below or send me an email.

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