tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: vegan

Barnacle geese

by tableofcolors

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

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

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

 

Black currant herbal tea

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

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

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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Latvia, The land of flowers

by tableofcolors

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

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

Turaidas pils

 

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

Riga

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Carrot Top Pesto potato salad

 

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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

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

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

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

blogging reality

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

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

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

80 years young

by tableofcolors

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

We love you and miss you! ❤

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Five years ago

by tableofcolors

It is just a few days over five years ago that I started my blog. There are many reasons why I started writing. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that I am writing for my children. I don’t do the best job of keeping baby books. Although every once in a while I do get a few photos printed and my husband fills in the blanks better than I do.

boy and his fishing rod

Amongst the millions of people in the world, we all are connected to a larger chain. It is a chain that includes our forefathers from hundreds of years ago and the generations from a bit closer, our grandparents and our parents and finally our own children that will continue from where we left off. Not that I’m planning on leaving off any time soon. My dream has always been to live until very old. Perhaps I will be spry. I’m not sure if I would have a sharp tongue as it does not come so naturally to me. Some might think that I’m not firm enough with my children. But I have my ways, they usually do what I want them to do. But I have learned to become more direct and say what I mean and want. For this I can thank my husband. He has taught me that skill. We really do balance each other out. Afterall, the world is not full of mindreaders and really the worst that can happen when one goes asking is that someone says, No. And people rarely bite. Fish might though.

wilderness fishing

With all of the children home I have been trying to think of a variety of snacks that are  delicious, healthy and easy to make. We’ve even had some lovely warm weather even if  there have been cooler days tucked in between.

cherry berry nondairy popsicle

 

Cherry berry popsicle (dairy-free)

400 g/14 oz fresh strawberries of which 1/3 are set aside and sliced
250 g/9 oz fresh cherries of which 1/3 are set aside and sliced
small fistful of fresh mint (minced) of which 1/3 is set aside
400 g/14 oz coconut milk
1 tsp mint extract (optional)

Place all of the ingredients into a blender, except for the berries and mint that had been set aside. Blend until smooth. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and spoon into molds and freeze.

cherry berry

Not only do I write for my children, for them to someday look back at and find moments from their childhoods but also glimpses into the lives of their grandparents and great grandparents and great great grandparents, I also write for you my dear friends. I have met so many lovely people all the way from the other side of  the globe. Perhaps someday I will make my way to Australia and meet some of you. And really I also write for my family that live so far away across the Atlantic. Perhaps now you might get a glimpse and see the expressions in the faces of the children, see how they skip with joy and the posture of their back and the twinkle in their eye.

Below is a list of all-time most popular blog posts.

The number one most popular post that get searched time and time again is my Grampa’s Almond Braid recipe. Pulla is a traditional Finnish sweet bread that is enjoyed with coffee. Thank you Grampa for sharing ❤

 

Hundreds of Dewdrops greets the dawn but only one mother the wide world over

A blog post about Mother’s day and the delicious recipe for popovers.

 

In My Kitchen in the bleak midwinter. Photos of winter in the nordic, a glimpse into family history and a recipe for whole-grain bread with cherries and walnuts. Perfect for toasting on a cozy morning.

 

Following Elma’s footsteps. One in the many blog posts that follow the footsteps of a very colorful Aunt Elma living her life in the 1930s and making sourdough with starters from two very different parts of the globe. One starter is from Celia, the writer of Fig jam Lime cordial and the other is from my Dad.

 

Expat weekend has the recipe for a simple home-made slowcooker apple cider. Perfect recipe if you happen to have apple trees in your yard and an abundance of apple every fall.

Granola bar for solitary moments is blog post from my very early blogging days and has a luscious recipe for homemade granola bars. Perhaps I might just have to make them again from the kids on summer vacation. They would be perfect beach fare.

 

And last but not least, Jamie Oliver’s recipe for a simple sponge has been popular and it has been made over and over again at our house as it is so very versatile. Hope you enjoy!

In My Kitchen, March Sweetness

 

Happy Midsummer’s my dear friends from the land of the midnight sun!

anemone sylvestris

 

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

 

 

March, the best days of winter

by tableofcolors

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

laavu and finnish winter

laavuretki finnish winter

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

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

vegan chocolate pudding 3

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

pudding cups:

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

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

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

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

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

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