tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Category: Vegetables

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

All my little pumpkins

by tableofcolors

holiday 1

I had been waiting for the right opportunity. And it just so happened that all of the pieces fell into place the other weekend. The light was right, it was not raining, the kids were all home and not at school since it was Saturday and as an extra added bonus there was a little frost that made the tips of hay in the field look like they had been sprinkled with powdered sugar. We were about to take our Christmas card photos. I had been discussing it with the kids for a few days and our Erik definitely wanted us to try redo the idea from our 2010 card below. He was just a little squirt back then and stole the show.

christmas2010I agreed that we could give the idea another try. The way I usually photograph kids is to try get them into their most natural environment. In other words I encourage them to act like kids. I think it brings out the best expressions and their personal nature. As you can imagine it took quite a few shots to get the perfect one.

holiday 5holiday 6As we were getting ready, some were quicker than others as is usually the case and kept asking if they could go outside yet. I was trying to slow them down, knowing that since the temperature was just a bit below freezing, they would be inside complaining about the cold before the slower ones even made it outside. Finally, we were all ready. Which one do you like?

pumpkin puréeMeanwhile in my kitchen I have been experimenting with pumpkins and squash. The thing is that in Finland you cannot really find proper canned pumpkin purée and the stuff I have found is the already spiced variety. Nearly every trip to the States I have taken a can or two back with me. This last time my suitcase was so heavy that I had to do a quick re-pack at the airport counter. I could just blame it on the baby and all of the things he needs, but the truth is that I have not mastered the skill of light packing. I always feel that I should take all those necessary things with me just in case, not to mention the eight pairs of shoes that I had with. That number did not include the baby’s shoes. Almost every autumn I have tried making pumpkin purée and I think I finally learned the trick. My problem in the past has been that it is quite watery and when added to recipes the result is quite bland. The secret is to allow the oven roasted pumpkin to drain for an hour after it has been puréed.

Pumpkin purée

1 pumpkin, cut into half and seeds removed
a large oven pan with sides
water

Line the large pan with parchment paper. This will make for easy clean-up. Cut the pumpkin into half and remove the seeds. I like to use a melon scoop as it is sharp enough to cut the strands surrounding the seeds. Pour about a 1.5 cm or half and inch of water into the pan and place the pumpkin halves cut side down into the pan. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the pumpkin feels tender when poked with a knife.

Allow to cool and remove the skin. It should come off very easily. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and purée with an immersion blender. Place into a sieve over a bowl and allow to drain for at least an hour. Your may gently press down once or twice with a spoon to help release excess water.

spaghetti squash collageThis past week I found a spaghetti squash at our local supermarket. It was a rare find indeed in this part of the world and since there were only two left on the shelf I thought that I must purchase it now, for it might be soon gone. Soon after Halloween, there were no pumpkins to be found at the grocery. Pumpkin just isn’t a thing here. I read a few blogs and then tried my own experimentation. I followed the same steps as with pumpkin purée above.

Spaghetti squash gets it’s name from the strands the flesh forms after it is baked. I used a fork to pull it out of the skin. It would work great with a sauce or sautéed with some garlic and butter. If I was to do this again I would not bake it as long, rather allowing to be al dente as it continues to cook when sautéed and mine turned almost to a mush at that point.

Spaghetti squash with garlic and kale

 

1 spaghetti squash, cut into half and seeds removed
water
knob of butter
handful of kale, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper
blue cheese, crumbled

Line a baking pan with sides with parchment paper and pour about 1.5 cm/ 1/2 inch of water. Place the squash halves so that they are facing cut side down. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 40-45 minutes or so that it feels tender but not too soft. I baked my for an hour and it was too long.

Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Turn the squash over and using a fork remove the inside of the squash and set aside. Mince three cloves of garlic and heat a generous knob of butter on a frying pan. Add the garlic and squash and sautée for a bit. Add the chopped kale and parsely. Last add in a sprinkle of blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Check for flavor.

sautéed spaghetti squashholiday 10

October

by tableofcolors

There is something quite soothing about October. There are still some leaves on the trees although they have become a bit sparse and the foliage has turned quite bright. In another two weeks those leaves will be gone. Up in the sky the geese are flying in a v-shape formation. It is as if nature is giving permission to turn in for the night a bit earlier. The sleep has felt so good and is deep in quality. It is dark in the mornings when I awake and start to make my rounds, gently shaking the shoulders of my sleepyheads. Some of them wake-up easier than others. I’ve thought of maybe buying a wake-up lamp (sarastuslamppu) that gently makes the room brighter replicating dawn. It might be the solution on dark mornings for the ones that just are not morning people.

migrating geeseIn October my kitchen has pumpkins and squash and a bright soup to warm up the chilly afternoons.

pumpkins and squashThe soup is quite simple. I peeled and removed the seeds from both the pumpkin and butternut squash and cut in into cubes. Then I just barely covered the cubes with water and added a container of stock that I had in my freezer. I allowed it to boil until tender. I then added some salt and freshly ground black pepper, a bit of smoked paprika and one container of cream cheese. I brought it back to a boil and thickened it with cornstarch mixed into water and allowed it to come back to a boil once again.

pumpkin soup collageWe have had some freezing weather during the nights. The kale is still in the garden as it can handle a bit of frost. Some say the flavor is better after a little frost. What is your experience with growing kale? After all of our attempts to grow little seedlings, we watched them get eaten by little black beetles and so we nearly gave up. We threw the rest of the seeds into the planting box and just let them grow even if the little bugs tried to get at them a second time. I guess we just needed to be patient as they have been growing big and strong into the autumn season. kaleThis past week has been surprisingly full of variety from the regular week. We had a chance to go hiking with my husband at the nearby national park, Repovesi. I will share those photos in my next post. It was a beautiful day. Sometimes the unplanned turns out the best. And this past weekend I had a chance to spend the day with my sister. We stopped by my favorite coffee roastery in Helsinki, the Kluuvikadun Kahvipaahtamo. They are selling their coffee online as well and you are able to select your own mix of beans. Perhaps soon their site will be in English as well. This past Sunday was the perfect kind of day for spelt scones with blueberry and their Autumn blend which is a medium roast coffee.

sunday spelt sconesIn the soft October light there are coffee cups for two, Antti’s is almost full and mine has just a little as I am so sensitive to caffeine. There is juice for the children. In the middle of the upper cupboards is a shelf for all of my favorite cook books and even the rough draft version of my own. Perhaps it will become an e-book or even printed on paper. I followed my Grampa’s recipe for the scones but made a couple of changes to fit the mood for the day. Two-thirds of the flour is spelt and the sugar I replaced with brown sugar as spelt has more nutty, wholesome flavor.

Spelt scones with blueberries

150 g/5 and 1/3 oz spelt flour
75 g/2 and 2/3 oz flour
2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
110 g/4 oz butter, cold and cubed
2.4 dl/ 1 c milk
2.4 dl/ 1 c blueberries

Mix the spelt flour, flour, baking soda and powder along with the sugar and salt. Cut in the cold, cubed butter until it is about pea-sized in texture. Mix in the milk and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Last, add in the blueberries. Using a spoon, divide the dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 220 C/425 F for about 16 minutes or until golden brown.

autumn blend spelt scones

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series that she host every month at Fig Jam Lime Cordial.

 

Everyday life in January

by tableofcolors

The kids have returned back to school and the Christmas tree has been taken down. Life has returned almost back to normal. Our little two year-old is a night-owl and still very much on a vacation schedule and sleeps like a teenager. I’m sure as the days pass, she will start going to bed each day a little earlier. I love Christmas, the school Christmas programs and family time but there is something quite nice about regular everyday life. We’ve been having gray weather and a warm winter. It seems like all of the cold went to the northern states in the US. I would suggest that those of you, living in the midst of the bitter cold send us half and everyone would be happier. The kids and I are able to spend hours in the snow, skiing in the fields and just playing. But since there is only just a bit of slush outside, I’ll invite you into my January kitchen for a cup of tea and to flip through a cook book my daughter received as a gift and maybe for something delicious and cleansing after the rich holiday food.

clipper tea  and tea cozyI will admit that my discovery of the Clipper teas started from the packaging. My first thought when I saw them was that they were so pretty. So of course I bought one box. Much to my delight the contents matched the promise of the packaging. The tea cozy is a gift from a dear friend from a while back and it brings a little color into my kitchen. It is reversible and therefore it can match the mood and season easily.

suomen lasten leivontakirjaThe photos in this cook book for children are inpirational. It explains all of the basics to baking very explicitly. We have already enjoyed tunafish sandwiches made by Silvia one evening. The rough translation of the title of the book is, “A Baking Book for Finnish Children”, by Ulla Svensk.

After all of the date cakes, ham, casseroles and cookies the smell of sautéed vegetables is so enticing and indeed the perfect choice for the season of sniffles and colds that seem to fly about. Fennel has many characteristics making it beneficial for health as it is gentle to the digestive tract and may reduce inflammation.

fennel

Sautéed fennel

These vegetables can be eaten on their own as a side or tossed in with some pasta.

1 bulb of fennel
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of piri piri (my piri piri contained chili, basil, garlic, onion and rock salt)
sea salt
black pepper
olive oil

Remove the stalks from the fennel and any bruised spots. Chop into fine slices. Chop the onion finely. Mince the garlic. Heat a frying pan to medium heat and add about two glugs of olive oil. Add the vegetables and seasoning and sauté for about 5 minutes.

sauteed fennel

The kitchen is the heart of the home and that is often where everyone congregates when they come home. The kitchen table is used for so much more than eating. Some might do their homework there while others draw and work on their art projects. It is a place to sit and talk about the day. As the family trickles back home after a day at work or school the first question is often, “What is for snack or supper?” I discovered this recipe on facebook from a blog called The Foodie Army Wife and decided to try it out. They proved to be very popular. And like the author said they almost jumped into the mouths of the hungry kids if I would not have rationed at all. We had them for supper along with some stewed rabbit meat, diced tomatoes, paprika, cheese, salsa and some freshly ground black pepper. In my husband’s family we always draw names among the siblings and sisters and brothers-in-law for Christmas. We usually complete the name-drawing at Christmas and everyone is informed even if they are not present and this way everyone has a whole year to think of a gift or perhaps do a little detective work to find out what might be pleasant for the gift receiver. I received this Peugeot pepper mill from my sister-in-law. It has been in daily use and turns with ease.

tortillas and vegetablesTortillas by The Foodie Army Wife

Tortillas or any type of flat bread is a symbol of an anciet food for me. I can imagine that just like I am making them for my school children, a mother hundreds or thousands of years ago might have made flat bread for their young ones that have returned after gathering herbs or berries. They might not have had formal education like we do today, but they had the school of life in order to learn the important skills for survival. The rules for survival in today’s world has changed greatly from times past. One thing has not changed though, children become hungry from time to time.

makes 12 tortillas

7 dl/ 3 dl flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
170 g/ 3/4 c cold butter, cut into cubes
1.75 dl/ 3/4 c hot water

You may use a food processor, a stand mixer or make them by hand. I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the cubed butter and mix until it forms a crumb-like texture. Pour the hot water in slowly and work into the dough so that it forms a ball. Do not overwork the dough. Cover in cling film and let rest in the refrigerator for a half hour.

tortilla doughAfter the dough has chilled, remove and cut into twelve pieces.

dough cut into pieces

Form balls and roll out into tortillas using a rolling pin. Fry on a dry pan at medium heat. Flip over once large bubbles start to form and there is some color on the bottom. Enjoy on their own or with your choice of filling.

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for January. Check out her blog for links to many other In My Kitchen posts around the world.

The joy of Christmas

by tableofcolors

Not long before Christmas we had two storms and rain. The landscape was not white like it often is during this time of year. When we went on a little walk down to the beach, many of the large trees that sway in the wind during our summer excursions had fallen. This was the landscape on Christmas.

winter storm CollageInside there was a contagious excitement only children know how to spread. The sparkling eyes and smiling faces shined, as soon joulupukki or Santa Claus would be arriving.

christmas elfchristmas treeBut before he arrives, there is Christmas dinner and for some reason the appetites are not always the best on Christmas. The night before the salted ham was put in the wood fired oven after the fire had died down and the coals pushed aside. The 7 kilo/15.5 pound ham was in the oven for about eight hours. It is allowed to cool and it is served cold with the Christmas casseroles.

wood ovenchristmas hamLast year I shared recipes for the rutabaga and carrot casserole. The casserole or laatikko tradition is a little different in each family but one thing that is similar is that most are made from root vegetables. Carrots, potato and rutabaga are probably the most common but many families also serve a beetroot casserole and some even make their liver casserole. While these casseroles are traditionally Christmas food in Finland they can be frozen unbaked and served later during the cold winter months as a side.

beetroot laatikko

Beetroot casserole

three beetroots, boil peeled beetroots until tender so a fork can be inserted.

3 onion minced very fine
2 dl/1 cup cream
100 g/3.5 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1 dl/ 1/2 c Greek or Turkish yoghurt
salt
black pepper
beetroot with onion and blue cheeseGrate the cooked beetroot and mix in a bowl with minced onion and crumbled blue cheese. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon into one large casserole dish or several small ones and bake at 200 C/390 F for a half hour or bake at 160 C/320 F for one hour. I made three small casseroles with this amount.

Christmas Collage

Finding Funnel Chanterelles from bear forest

by tableofcolors

I have always been a city girl in my heart. It was not until I was an adult that I was introduced to a real forest, a place far from civilization, not just the little patch of woods in a parkway just down the road. For one year during the early years of our marriage we actually lived in the middle of this wilderness due to my husband’s work. To tell you the truth, I was a bit terrified of going on walks since I knew that bears inhabitated these woods. The town school was just two kilometers from where we lived at the time. I often would walk and pass the school with our oldest daughter who sat in the stroller still at that time. So small was she then. Feels like it was yesterday.

I had heard a story that once when the teacher was letting the kids out for recess, she all of a sudden told everyone to stay inside. There was a mama bear and her two cubs walking across the yard. I believed the story since not too far away, about halfway between our little home and the school, a bear had crossed the road leaving it’s large paw prints in the sand. We happened to drive by shortly after it happened and chatted with a few people that had seen it. But I had decided that I was not to be imprisoned in the apartment, and so nearly each day we would take our walks and I would keep my fingers crossed and occasionally cough to try keep the bears at bay.

In these same woods, we have sometimes gone exploring for mushrooms. Usually it is my husband who goes as he knows all of the good places but sometimes when I have the chance I go along. The funnel chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis) come up after the chanterelle mushroom season and sometimes they may be a bit hidden, but if you find one you will most likely find a whole patch to fill up your basket.

funnel chanterelle

This dish is really so simple but the flavors are fantastic. Our mushroom season is over now but when we still had fresh ones, we dried a part of them and some of them we fried with a bit of butter and then packed using the vacuum packer. They make a wonderful sauce. The savoy cabbage is quick roasted, rounding out the flavor and making a warm salad of sorts as a side.

Funnel chanterelle sauce with leeks

funnel chanterelles
1/2 of a leek, finely sliced
a knob of butter (30 g/10.5 oz)
2 dl/1 c cream
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c milk
or alternatively you may use half and half
rosemary
thyme
black pepper
salt

On a large frying pan, cook the mushrooms, leek and herbs with the butter until the water has evaporated so that it snaps and crackles just a bit. Pour on the cream and milk and allow to gently bubble for a few minutes. Serve over boiled potatoes and roasted Savoy cabbage.

mushroom sauce

Roasted Savoy Cabbage Salad

Savoy cabbage cut into wedges
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt
black pepper

Place the wedges of Savoy cabbage on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 175C/350 for about ten minutes.

savoy cabbage

All Saints’ Day

by tableofcolors

Traditionally Halloween is not celebrated in Finland but in the past years it has been making an entrance. Costumes can be found in various stores and instead of Trick or Treating, some choose to host Halloween parties with their friends. Yesterday was All Saints’ day. We stopped at the cemetary before visiting friends. The photos were taken a bit before six o’clock in the evening and it was already completely dark. The cloud coverage added to the darkness. Last year we spent the evening at home with our own family and enjoyed tea bread after the visit to the cemetary.

While Halloween is all about ghosts and ghouls and all things scary, the atmosphere of the cemetary on All Saints’ Day is peaceful, calm and safe. The cemetary was full of people and as I was there the bells rang calling people to service. In Finland the cemetaries are usually cared for by loved ones as well as the church gardener. It often is in the center of town next to the church. The Valkeala Church in the photo below has been built in the early 1900’s and taken into use in 1927. It is not a very old church and in its current place there have been three previous churches with the first one being in the late 1600s. The first church became too small and was torn down to allow for a larger church. The next two churches were burned down with only the altar painting being saved.
cemetary
The cemetary was a sea of candles in memory of the loved ones that have gone before us. There is usually a place to place your candle if your loved ones are buried somewhere far away.

jerusalmen artichoke soup

I don’t think that the day is intended to be downcast, but it is full of emotion. I thought this soup was perfect for the day, not something too elaborate but something a bit special with a gentle flavor.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

350 g/12.3 oz Jerusalem artichoke, peeled and cut into cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 parsnip (about 100 g /3.5 oz) peeled and chopped
500-600 g/17-21 oz floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
olive oil
5 dl/ 2 c broth ( I used broth that had Spanish NOMU flavoring in it, which includes: paprika, chilli, oregano, cumin, basil and saffron)
fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
fine sea salt
250 g/ 8.8 oz marscapone cheese
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
water

jerusalem artichokes2

Place the peeled and cut vegetables in a pot and sautée with the oil for a few minutes until the onions have become a bit transparent. Add the sprig of fresh rosemary, seasoning, broth and water and so that all of the vegetables are covered evenly. I usually have broth in the freezer ready to go. Whenever I make a roast in the Crock Pot I set aside some of the broth and freeze it for later use. Be careful to not over season so that the mild flavor of the Jerusalem artichoke is not completely covered up.

parsnip

Allow to simmer until the potatoes have become tender adding more water as needed. Take off heat, remove rosemary and purée with an immersion mixer until smooth. Return to the stove and add the white balsamic vinegar, more water or broth (if it is too thick for you) and marscapone cheese. Stir and allow to simmer until the cheese has been incorporated into the soup. Check the flavor and adjust with seasoning to your taste. Enjoy with fresh crusty bread.

valkeala church and cemetary

This post is a part of Tablescaper’s Seasonal Sundays. For an abundance of links to seasonal inpiration, check out her website.

Yellows and Oranges

by tableofcolors

Autumn is definitely a glorious time with the abundance of fresh produce on hand. The berries, mushrooms and the harvest from our small garden has certainly kept us busy. I have taken quite a few photos and have recipes on hand, but my only challenge is that, just like you, I only have twenty-four hours in a day.

Right now the radio is playing classical music in the kitchen. The baby is laying on floor next to me, with his belly full and my two year-old is also keeping me company, ocassionally engaging in conversation and bringing me pieces of paper that she is cutting up. She is quite proud of her scissor skills. Four year-old Erik is running outside with his best friend. Sometimes they hunt lions and sometimes they “motor cross” along the ditches with their motor bikes (read: kick bikes). Three are in school and so the house is calm.

Just down the road and to the right is an old red house that has front yard nearly the size of a small field. Every year in the later summer and early fall it is a field of sunflowers. The owner of the house has placed a sign stating that you may freely pick some flowers and pay what you wish into a little metal cannister attached to a tree. Twice I have visited there for my flowers. The yellow bouquet certainly brings a bit of sunshine into some of our gray fall days.
sunflowers
sunflower bouquet

Now that the crisp and cool weather has arrived I have started using the oven more. I have been roasting vegetables as a side for dinner. These honey glazed carrots really hit the spot. And since there is often a shortage of time, they are so quick even for a week night dinner. My husband had placed some wild grouse into the Crock pot that morning and so the house was filled with delicious scents.
carrots

Honey Glazed Carrots

carrots, peeled and cut into long sticks
honey
olive oil
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
herbs according to taste
honey glazed carrots
Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and honey and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add herbs according to taste. Bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 10-15 minutes or until the carrots have gained a little color. I have noticed that when using the fan, the time is reduced and I usually reduce the temperature as well about 20 degrees.
honey glazed carrots and wild game

Tomato Season

by tableofcolors

We’ve had many beautiful mornings and fairly warm days giving our tomato plants in the backyard a little more time before Jack Frost arrives. The moist fog that rests right above the fields disappears quite quickly when the sun is out giving the photographer only a few minutes to capture the shot while getting kids up, dressed and fed. So out I ran still in my pyjamas because I knew from experience that if I was to wait until they were safely on their way it would be gone.
August morning
The other week I made an inquiry on my facebook page. What should I do with all of the tomatoes that might be coming. This was the first time that we would be getting a significant amount of tomatoes. One commenter suggested that they could be frozen whole, without any treatment and then used placed in sauces or other dishes. I thought this was a fantastic idea for days when there is just not time to start the time-consuming project of preservation. Afterall that is what I do with my extra berries. I just freeze them and later in the fall or winter when the weather might not be so enticing  I make juice in the crockpot giving the house a wonderful smell. But I did want to try make something new. My husband found a recipe to try on a blog he follows and it turned out wonderful. Homemade ketchup. Kids may still prefer Heinz just because it is the flavor they are used to but in my opinion it just doesn’t get much better than this.
plant
tomatoes

Homemade Tomato Ketchup from the Terveiset ravintoketjun huipulta blog

This recipe is fairly large I made a generous 1/3 of the amount below.

3 kg/6.6 lbs tomatoes
300 g/10.6 oz (red) onion
1 stick of cellery (I used a whole stick for my smaller batch)
garlic (I used 2 cloves)
1.5 dl/0.6 c balsamic vinegar
1 dl/0.4 c sugar (optionally 1.5 dl/ 0.6 c maple syrup)
splash of olive oil
3 bay leaves
1 chili (I used a mild green chili pepper)
handful of basil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp bell pepper powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace
1/2 tsp allspice
(I used only a dash of the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)

ketchup in the making

1. Sauté the onion, cellery and garlic for a few minutes.
2. Add the washed and quartered tomatoes.
3. Add the balsamic vinegar so that they don’t burn to the bottom of the pot.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients according to your taste.
5. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while.
6. Purée using a blender or wand mixer.
7. Strain using a collander.
8. Allow to simmer until reduced to half.
9. Bottle and cool.

2013-09-10 17.56.20home fries

Fiskars

by tableofcolors

When I think of travel, I automatically think of far away places, but sometimes there are unique places to visit close by. We had an opportunity to take a little mini get-away for just a night. Of course we had our little baby with. The kids had a trusted sitter and so with pleasant expectations we packed our overnight bags for a little excursion. Fiskars and Billnäs are only about three hours away. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, Taika Villa. Really I think hotels are quite boring. This old house had gardens and flower patches circling around the yard. The other house guests that we met at breakfast were so friendly that they really made the visit that much more enjoyable.

Fiskars is an old industrial town located in South-Western Finland. Fiskars Ironworks was founded in 1649 by Dutch businessman Peter Thorwörste. The town slowly was built up and the work of many architects can be seen in the buildings, one being Carl Ludwig Engel. Some of Engel’s works include the buildings surrounding the Senate square in Helsinki including the Helsinki Cathedral. As was typical for these types of industrial towns, they were quite self sufficient. The village had its own school and doctor. Later in the 18902, a hospital was built. Here is a link to the history of Fiskars.

 

old mill
fire station

In the 1980s, the Fiskars Ironworks was reorganized. Production was moved to more up-to-date facilities in Billnäs which is close by. Today the Fiskars village area is mainly used by artisans, designers and artists.

Amongst the studios are homes. And nestled between some trees, on top of a hill was a little playhouse.

playhouse

We had dinner at the Kuparipaja, which means copper smithy. The location of the restaurant was an actual copper smithy during a time when the water rushed in large volumes past the mill. Today the river was much more tame.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We both ordered their menu of the day. I usually order fish when I dine out since I usually only eat quite small amounts of meat at one time and restaurant portions are usually quite large. This time I made an exception since our waitress guaranteed that the portion would not be too large. It was perfect in size. I did not feel like I had to digest it for the rest of night! Our appetizer was egghash with smoked Baltic herring on a rye bread made with malt. It tasted quite similar to the tuna salad that we often make at home. It did not have the wow effect, but it was plenty tasty. Our main course was braised cheek of pork with organic, homemade sausage on celeraic purée and stewed red cabbage and a very strong mustard garnish. I was pleasantly surprised how well everything worked. I am not really a sausage person but this sausage definitely won me over. It was flavored with herbs and we even found a few fennel seeds in the mix. The stewed cabbage was so good that we decided to try out our own version at home. For dessert we had strawberry sorbet, rhubarb compote and yoghurt mousse. Perfect end to a well balanced meal.

Stewed Cabbage using a slow cooker

500 g/17 oz red cabbage sliced into thin strips

3 granny smith apples peeled and sliced

1.5 dl/ 1/2 c apple juice

salt and pepper

Place all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and set on low. Allow to cook for about 4 hours.

I served it with organic sausage that has a meat content of 90%. Garnish with Dijon mustard.

sausage

On the way home we stopped in Billnäs, another early industrial town and there I spotted a neat car I wouldn’t mind to have as my summer ride. We took the scenic route, avoiding the freeway and visited the Raasepori fortress.

When we arrived home Saturday afternoon we still had time to take saunas with the whole family and spend all of Sunday together. Just perfect.

2013-08-09 20.33.05