tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: autumn

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.

 

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The poor man’s jam

by tableofcolors

picking rowan berriesWe really did have the perfect weekend. It was just two little ones and myself and the house was quite quiet and clean. I do have to mention that it was actually clean because it stayed that way without too much effort  until everyone came home Sunday evening and all of the laundry from the weekend was suddenly in a pile and our three-year old must have decided that the childrens’ room was just too tidy for her liking. I could hear a thunk and then three more as she was looking for the perfect book and the rest of them also ended up on the floor. Sigh. But I shouldn’t let it spoil my relaxing weekend with just the three of us. We had the most perfect weather. If you have ever spent an autumn in Finland you will know that often it is rainy and gray and somewhat dreary. So far we have been really lucky. It was nearly shorts weathers and the sky was almost cloud-less. We went on a casual bike ride everyday. There was no hurry. We stopped at the store and bought a baguette and some brie cheese and mustard harm for an evening snack. Then we walked back and forth in the ice cream isle and picked out the perfect ice cream. If you have ever visited Finland you will know that the ice cream here is wonderful and there are quite a few options and so that is why it took so long to decide.

rowan berriesOn Saturday morning we made a game plan. We had a lazy breakfast and then a bike ride to go pick some Rowan berries as I had plan for these red-orange berries that decorate the landscape during the early fall. Next we were going to finish cleaning the downstairs and then go swimming at the local swimming hall. Our Hugo who is one, thinks he knows how to swim and kept wanting to put his face into the water and was somewhat annoyed when I would not let go and let him swim independently. For the most part he had a jolly time splashing us all and swimming in his little hand-me-down swimsuit that looks like a wrestling suit. And we had fun laughing at him. After our swim I was looking forward to the sauna which is my favorite part. Hugo thought swimming was much more fun than sitting in a hot sauna. I did have him sit on the steps coming into the sauna as it is not very hot there. But he just didn’t like it and so we didn’t stay for very long. It didn’t matter as we had a little jamming project waiting at home.

rowan berry collageIn Finland it is quite common to make a jam that pairs carrots with another ingredient that is very tart such as rhubarb and call it the Poor Man’s Cloudberry jam. Cloudberries are very valued as they require a lot of work to pick and grow in the bogs and marshes and in wet meadows. They are golden in color and look a little bit like a round yellow raspberry. I decided to make my version of the Poor Man’s jam with the Rowan or pihlajanmarja. The rowan is high in vitamin C and because of it’s thick skin I boiled the rinsed berries in water and then strained them by gently mashing them to get some of the pulp as well.

pihlajanmarja hilloPoor Man’s Jam –using the wild Rowan berry

 

225 g/8 oz rowan berries, rinsed
3 dl/1 and 1/3 c water
225 g/8 oz carrots, peeled and finely chopped
plus 2 dl/1 c of hot water to pour over the strained berries
175 g/6 oz jamming sugar (sugar that has pectin) or regular sugar

Place the berries and water into a pot and allow to simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and pour through a strainer. Gently mash the berries with the back of a spoon and pour about 2 dl/1 cup of hot water over the crushed berries. Place the juice of the berries, sugar and finely chopped carrots back into the sauce pan and cook on low for another 20 minutes. Using an immersion wand, mix until the consistency is desired. I did not purée mine completely as I prefer to have a little texture. At this point the carrots will be a little candied in texture.

Serve with popovers or maybe scones.

Since I am still a beginner when it comes to canning, I would recommend the canning instructions by John at Bartolini Kitchens. His posts are always very thorough and enjoyable to read.

rowan berries and bikesunflowers and berriesOn the way home from our little outing we picked sunflowers for our dining room table. It is that time of year again when the sunflowers are in bloom. There is an entire field of them just the down the road from us and there is a sign that says “Pick flowers—pay what you want” I once wandered down their long drive way to see if they might be home, that time nobody answered my knock. I know it is an elderly couple and thought it would be fun to chat for a bit as I’m sure they brighten the days of so many with their yellow sunflowers. I will have to try another time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

by tableofcolors

sweet potato pie 2

If there was one thing that I could transport from America to Finland, and I could not choose to have my family imported, Thanksgiving might be that one thing. It is one of my favorite holidays. I like the message that it contains; being thankful for the people and things in life and not just simply taking everything for granted. When life is smooth sailing it is not hard to find the things to be thankful for, but I would like to believe that even during the most trying times that there would be something positive in everyones’ lives. It just might need a little soul-searching to find them.
sweet potato
Here in Finland, the fourth Thursday in November is a normal school and business day. I would like to instill some of the American traditions in my children, especially the ones that are special to me. During the fall, it is possible to find the “jack-o-lantern” pumpkins in the grocery store, but not the variety pumpkin pies are made from. I have tried making them from the “jack-o-lantern” pumpkins sometime in the past and it was a watery mess. Yesterday I was reading Suzanne’s blog, a pug in the kitchen and she had made a pie using baked sweet potato. Perfect, I thought! The consistency, color and flavor are close enough. So today I made sweet potato pies with my go-to pumpkin pie recipe by Jane Whitman Tierney.
mashed sweet potato
To make things go smoother, I baked the sweet potatoes in their jackets for about an hour to an hour and a half the night before and just set them on a rack to cool overnight. The next morning I mashed them with my immersion mixer.
pie crust
First thing in the morning I started with the pie crust so that it would have some time to rest in the refrigerator.

Jane Whitman Tierney’s Pie Crust for one 23 cm/9 inch pie

You may make this pie crust by hand, in a food processor or in stand mixer using the paddle attachment. I made a triple amount and put the extras in the freezer for later use.

3 dl/1.3 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
115 g/4 oz cold butter cut into small cubes
1 and 1/2 tbsp cold lemon juice
2-3 tbsp ice water
lemon juice
I think that the secret to this pie crust is in the lemon juice giving it the perfect contrast to any pie filling.
Mix the flour, butter and salt so that it forms a crumb mixture. Add the ice water and cold lemon juice and mix until if forms a ball. Place in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the refrigerator. You may allow it to rest over night as well.

Roll out the dough on a table sprinkled with flour. Using a fork or your index finger and thumb make a pattern along the edge of the crust. Allow to chill for another 20-30 minutes before baking. This will prevent the pie crust from shrinking. Bake the crusts at 225 C/435 F for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven. While the pie crusts are baking make the filling.

Filling

5 dl/generous 2 cups of mashed sweet potato (a raw 700 g/24 oz sweet potato will be needed for this amount)

2 eggs
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp ground cloves
dash of salt
2 dl/just under 1 cup of heavy cream

filled pies

Whip the eggs and sugars until they form a fluffly light brown foam. Mix the spices (I use smaller amounts than what the recipe calls for) into a small amount of the mashed sweet potato and combine the spice mixture with the rest of the sweet potatoes. Fold in the sweet potato mixture into the egg foam and finally mix in the heavy cream. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crusts and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 225 C/435 F. Reduce the temperature to 175 C/350 F and continue baking for another 40 minutes or so that skewer comes out clean when tested in the middle. Allow to cool until it is a luke warm and enjoy it with a dollop of whipped cream.

sweet potato pieHappy Thanksgiving to everyone near and far!

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.

Expat weekend

by tableofcolors

Last weekend was dedicated for the expatriates. We have all been friends for years and one of them is my sister as well. The weekend had been reserved many weeks in advance. All weekend long we spoke in English, which is a rare treat and good practice. I’m always a little nervous that my English might become rusty. We stayed up late, played board games, had some of Christine’s delicious hot apple cider, ate well, walked in beautiful Helsinki full of fall colors, went bowling, visited Fleuriste for brunch on Saturday, made a nostalgic Starbucks run to the airport (it is the only Starbucks in Finland at the moment) and just enjoyed each other’s company. We also had two little babies along.

After bowling at noon on Saturday, we headed into the center of Helsinki, walking part of the way. The sun shone bright and trees almost looked like they were on fire with their foilage of bright colors. It was the last of the bright colors, as the trees are now dropping their leaves at a rapid pace.
Helsinki
I had been wanting to visit the Fleuriste (Uudenmaankatu 13, Helsinki) ever since we had been looking for brunch places last spring when we visited Cafe Piritta. Fleuriste is a French style cafe and flower shop. And it was love at first sight. I definitely want to revisit. It is advisable to make reservations during the weekend as it is very busy, small but very charming.
2013-10-12 14.45.31
We tried our luck and went without reservations. This time luck was on our side. We found a table in the back room which was just as attractive as the front with large old windows letting in soft natural light. Our only challenge was that we were travelling with a stroller. Without friends along, it would have been fairly challenging to maneuver the narrow passage to the back. On weekends Fleuriste serves brunch all day. We all decided on the brunch menu (19,50 euros) which includes three courses, tea or coffee. Service to the table made the experience a little more personal.
2013-10-12 14.45.14
I was so impressed with the smoothie served. We chose the lingonberry smoothie that had ground flax seed. It was not too sweet, letting you taste the slight sourness of the yoghurt. It certainly was to my taste.

Lingonberry smoothies and chai tea

Lingonberry smoothies and chai tea

2013-10-12 14.47.18
The main course included a slice of tomato and roquefort quiche and salad with dates and sprinkled with a soft goat’s cheese. My chai tea was served in a little pot with steamed milk on the side, and it was enough for three cups. We were delighting in every bite after our activities and walk. And I enjoyed the relaxed pace. It seems that at the moment I look for opportunities to just slow the pace of life. We ate for an hour and a half. There was no schedule to meet and no where to be.
2013-10-12 15.11.48
For dessert there was the option of four or five different cakes. And although we had lovely table service, we all went to go see the selection that were on display. I chose a cake that had fresh fig, pear and chocolate. I think I will be trying to recreate it, possibly for Christmas. By the time we finished I was pleasantly full and the meal carried me well into the evening.
2013-10-12 15.38.31

And in the evening, we revisited our growing up years and hit Starbucks. What fun we had!

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Hot Apple Cider, inspired by Christine (non-alcoholic)

This recipe is made in the Crock Pot and really quite easy. It fits perfectly for those dark starry nights and perhaps a board game. Since I used the apple in its entirety, I used locally grown apples that have not been sprayed.

2013-10-15 08.39.46

1.8 kg/3.9 lbs locally grown apples, cut into quarters (the peels and core are not removed)
2.5 dl/ 1 c raw cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2-3 sticks of cinnamon
1.5 l/1.5 qt water

Place all of the ingredients into the Crock pot and set it on low for about eight hours. Allow to cool and strain through a mesh metal sieve pressing some of the fruit pulp through for a more hearty cider. Enjoy hot.

2013-10-15 09.03.46hot apple cider

In my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial hosts a series every month called “In My Kitchen”. I thought I would participate this month and give you a little peek into my kitchen. Since it is October, it really is the end of the berry season. Lingonberries are the last of the berries, bright red and tart. My husband picked close to fifty liters of the little round berries this year.
lingonberry
Some of them we freeze. We collected empty milk cartons, washed them and dried them and reused them for freezing the berries. The cartons fit neatly in a row and are easy to stack in a chest freezer.
freezing lingonberries
The berries that are not frozen end up in juice. It was the perfect thing to do when the weather was rainy.
2013-09-21 12.38.24
In my kitchen can by found my favorite appliance. It was my graduation gift when I graduated with my Master’s and so it has some sentimental value as well. It is in use nearly everyday. In addition to being a trusty workhorse it is a design classic that never goes out of style. In my opinion.
kitchen aid
In my kitchen I have plenty of fingerprints.
tart crust
Of these little monkeys.
beautiful eyes
little monkeys
As I bake and cook, I can see the living room room from the kitchen since it is an open area, the heart of the house.
tart berries
In my kitchen is a collection of recipes. The following is from my Mother-in-law and it was my husband’s favorite as a child and as he grew up. It is called Pyhäpiirakka. Pyhä in Finnish means holy or in this case sabbath and piirakka could be translated as tart or pie. So this tart could be called “Sunday tart”. Possibly meant to be enjoyed on Sunday afternoon with coffee or tea.

Pyhäpiirakka

Crust:
300 g/10.5 oz softened butter
3 dl/1.3 c sugar
2 eggs
3 dl/1.3 c flour
3 dl/1.3 c whole wheat flour
dash salt

lingonberries, blueberries or berry of choice.

Filling:
6 dl/2.6 c kermaviili(sour milk product) or Greek yoghurt
3 eggs
1.5 dl/0.6 c sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Place the softened butter and sugar in your stand mixer and use the paddle attachment. Whip until light and fluffy. You may alternatively use an electric hand mixer. Add in one egg at a time, beating vigorously. Fold in the flours and salt. Scrape the batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flouring your hands, pat the batter evenly. Sprinkle the berries over the crust.

Using a whisk, mix the ingredient for the filling just until it is smooth and pour over the berries. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C/390 F. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

scenic fall2

From my kitchen I am able to observe the passing of seasons of the birch forest across the road.

Lingonberry tart

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

Fall, the zoo and scalloped potatoes

by tableofcolors

Nearly every year we visit the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki. The zoo is on a little island right off the shore of downtown Helsinki. There is even a ferry that will take you there for a small fee or you can drive and park on a neighboring island and make the short walk along the path and across the bridge. We usually always go when the weather has become crisp and cool. The animals tend to be more active than under the hot summer sun.
camels
We had taken a picnic lunch with us and were eating in this little pavilion while a flock of Barnacle Geese looked on and tried to sample our sandwiches and cookies at every chance. Once our two year-old Isabella had finished her lunch she went to explore nearby among the trees. She is equipped with a strong sense of innocent curiosity, a real life Curious George including the part about getting in a little bit of trouble. (Yesterday she nearly arranged us some water damage in the upstairs bathroom as a surprise, but that is another story) It was not long that she came enthusiastically running after an entire flock of geese. The Barnacle Geese are wild birds and had stopped to feed as they migrate.
bella and geese
She certainly never has boring days, nor does her mother.
zoo
After an active day at the zoo, we had our own group of hungry little people. Now that fall has arrived foods made in the oven feel comforting after spending time in the chilly outdoors. This recipe of scalloped potatoes reminds me of childhood and suppers at home. My version has fresh spinach in it but you may substitute it with frozen spinach if it is more readily available.

on the plate

Scalloped potatoes with Spinach

about 1 kg/2 lbs potatoes (or about 9-10 large potatoes)
1 onion, chopped
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
400 g ground beef or pork
dashes of thyme, rosemary, cumin, mustard, garlic, oregano, paprika and coriander
salt
black pepper
200 g/7 oz plain cream cheese
6 dl /2.5 c milk
3 eggs
1 dl / 1/2 c cracker/panko bread crumbs
handful of grated strong cheese (Emmental)

Brown the ground meat with the onion. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbs and spices to taste. Stir in the chopped spinach and take off heat. Wash and thinly slice the potatoes. I decided to leave the skin on since they had such thin skins. If you prefer, you may peel them. Line a 22×33 cm or 9×13” pan with parchment paper. Layer one third of the potatoes so that they are somewhat overlapping. Add one half of the meat and spinach mixture and one third of the cream cheese in dollops.

spinach and potatoesContinue so that in the end there are three layers of overlapping potatoes and two layers of filling. Add the last third of the cream cheese in dollops on top. Whisk the milk, eggs and some more salt and pepper together. Pour over the potatoes.

cream cheese dollopsSprinkle with the grated cheese and bread crumbs. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated (200 C/ 390 F) and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or so that the potatoes are tender.

on the plate2bella

I know, she looks like Serenity herself.