Simple pleasures

Tag: brunch

Tapas for Brunch

by tableofcolors

Midnight sun

Midnight sun

Brunch has become a habit in our kitchen. It happens every year. And every year I tell myself that maybe this summer we will try hold a schedule. I have been trying to get up on some mornings early to go for a run, a bikeride, a little trip to the flea market or maybe some pilates. I don’t leave the house too early as it is usually already eight o’clock. When I return an hour or two later, as I often have met a friend along the way and ended up chatting for quite some time, the house is still quiet and only a few are at breakfast. June was chilly but July has really warmed up. Maybe it is all the swimming the children do that really tires them out or perhaps it is the light evenings that stretches bedtimes hours later than in the winter.

baking tin

On Saturday morning I slipped out to the outdoor flea market. Sometimes I take some of the children with but as they were all in deep sleep I left by myself. I found this baking tin with very shallow rounded forms and it says, made in England. It was looking quite worn but I think it will still work and it only cost an euro. It is sitting on my counter in my kitchen waiting for me to do a little research. Perhaps there is a traditional pastry that the tin was used for and perhaps someone brought it from England as a souvenir. The gentleman selling it had a whole collection of antiques and old things. I’m quite sure he had not baked with it as he didn’t seem to have answers to my questions. Perhaps one of my dear readers might know the original purpose of the tin?

tapasLast April when I visited my sister in Detroit we visited a tapas restaurant called La Feria. We had grilled portobella with a sauce of parsely, lemon and garlic, mussels in a white wine sauce and a fried eggplant with honey. They were all just perfect in their simplicity with clean and fresh flavors and we both agreed that fried eggplant drizzled with honey tasted similar to French toast. And so in my kitchen this July is fried eggplant.

fried eggplantI would suggest using the graffiti eggplant or Japanese eggplant which are lighter purple in color and have a thinner skin. I used the most common variety, globe eggplant, and the skin was a bit tough chewing. I first cut them into thick sticks, spread them on paper towels and sprinkled them with salt. I let them sit for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The salt help pulls out the excess moisture and will make frying easier.

breading eggplantThe eggplant at La Feria was deep fried but since I don’t have a deep fryer and I didn’t want to have the excess of oil leftover after frying in a sauce pan, I just heavily coated the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil.

Berenjenas Fritas – Fried eggplant

1 eggplant, cut into thick sticks
salt for sprinkling on the egglplants and a dash to mix with the almond meal
1.5 dl/ generous half cup almond meal
olive oil

After the eggplant has been sprinkled with salt and has rested for about fifteen to twenty minutes, gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place the almond meal in a bowl and mix in a dash of salt. Generously pour olive oil into the pan so that coats the whole bottom. Coat each piece of eggplant with the almond meal before placing in the frying pan. Allow to fry to so that it gains a bit color and then turn. You may fry several pieces of eggplant at the same time. In between batches I removed some of the almond meal that was swimming in the oil as it was starting to darken and added a bit of fresh oil. Enjoy for brunch or in the evening after a day of swimming. Serve hot with a drizzle of honey.
swimming in july collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for July. Check out her blog for a great list of blogs from around the world that all invite you into their kitchens.


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.
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.
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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.
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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

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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

Who Killed the Cow Part 2 and Whipped Lingonberry Porridge

by tableofcolors

The criticism that I have sometime heard about blogs is that they give an unrealistic view of life. The house is shiny clean, the food looks perfect and the kids have their ponytails just so. I agree. Often blogs do show what we might see as an ideal lifestyle. The main thing to realize is that photography is about capturing a split second in time. The photographer makes the decision to include and exclude certain elements. It might actually be that outside of the frame of the photo there is drawing paper spread all over the table and little pieces of cut up “confetti” when one of the little ones had spent a morning practicing their fine motor skills.

This post is the sequel to the post “Who Killed the Cow“. When we were growing up we would often say “Who killed the cow?” when the last cup of milk was taken from the carton. For the complete story click on the link. 🙂
I have from time to time taken photos capturing “real life.” Here are a few snap shots from those times and a recipe that works perfect for the days full of little surprises.
One morning when I came downstairs I found clementines all over the place. One of our kids had just learned to peel clementines and was practicing. My first thought was, “Oh, NO! What a mess and there went the entire kilo of clementines that I had bought the day before!” I really couldn’t get too mad, it was innocent exploration and finding the floor full of orange crescents isn’t the worst that could happen.
We would occasionally have this whipped lingonberry porridge as an after school snack when I was a kid. Since lingonberries were not readily available in the US, my Mom would use cranberries and they work just as well. The recipe is for a fairly large amount so feel free to halve it if preferred. When I make it, I will often serve it first warm to the little ones at home for lunch and when it has cooled I will whip it as a snack for the school kids.

Whipped lingonberry porridge
2 l/ 8.5 c water
8 dl/3.4 c lingonberries or cranberries
2 dl/ 0.8 c sugar
Bring the water, lingonberries and sugar to a boil. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes. Strain the berries and return juice to the pot. Whisk in 4 dl/1.7 c of Cream of wheat warm cereal to the juice. Allow to cook for about 7-10 minutes, whisking the cereal so that it does not stick to the bottom. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Allow to rest for a few minutes. Serve warm with milk if desired.
For the whipped porridge, allow it to cool completely. When cool, whip it until it has become light and fluffy. Serve with milk or a dollop of cream.
Afterall there is a beauty in everyday life!

A Girls’ Weekend in Wintery Helsinki

by tableofcolors

It is common to plan a get-together with friends, but until a date is set in the calendar it often just gets pushed further into the future. We have a dear friend that lives on the outskirts of Helsinki. She is also the Godmother of our oldest daughter. During one phone call we decided to get our calendars out and set a date. We have been friends for many years and so when we meet up, we just pick up from where we left off. It is a comfortable type of friendship. The plan was that I would take our two oldest with me for the weekend. They counted nights and were a little antsy from anticipation. I too, was excited for our girls’ weekend but I have learned to conceal my anticipation a little better. We had wonderful weather both days and so we did a little skating, took long saunas, went out to eat, did a little shopping, enjoyed Sunday brunch and celebrated the birthday of our nine-year old.
beef in a fresh ginger sauce

On Saturday we ate at the Empire Plaza, a Chinese restaurant in the Kamppi shopping center. It is a sit-down restaurant that has friendly service and it is not overpriced. We have been there several times and will come back again sometimes in the future.
Our birthday girl decided before the meal arrived that she would use chopsticks. I was quite impressed that she stuck with it for the entire meal. Even the peas went down without complaint (she is our pickiest eater). Maybe we will need to invest in a pair if it makes eating easier!
In the past few years, brunches have really gained popularity in Helsinki. If I lived closer to Helsinki I wouldn’t mind exploring all of these brunch possibilities as a hobby. After searching the net we decided on going to Cafe Piritta. They are best known for their outdoor terrace that looks over a bay of water and the city of Helsinki. If we would have had our snow pants on, it would have been lovely to sit outdoors. Many strolled across the ice and stopped for a cup of coffee on the terrace.
Cafe Piritta
ice trail
ice trail 2

We arrived just before noon, and indoors the place was hopping. We fortunately found a table and did not have to wait. Reservations should have been made a little earlier and since we called that morning we were not able to reserve a table. The savory brunch menu included a soup, hors d’oeuvre-type little open faced sandwiches, a selection of breads, a feta salad, a potato salad, Carelian pies, mini croissants, meatballs, sausages, omelets and chicken. There was so much to choose from that I did not end up trying the meatballs, sausages, omelets or chicken. They were popular with the kids. The dessert table offered a fresh fruit salad, ice cream, cake and a whipped lingonberry porridge. We left with quite full stomachs and if we would have been dressed properly a Sunday stroll across the ice would have suited perfectly.
cafe piritta

Next time the place I would like to explore for brunch is the whimsical French style flower shop and coffee shop, Fleuriste.
Maybe the opportunity will come sooner than expected, you never know!

Breakfast at Gramma’s

by tableofcolors

When one lives so far away from close family and friends it is easy to become nostalgic about the “old country.” Occassionally my sister and I will reminisce about Breakfast at Gramma’s. In addition to being able to spend some quality time with Gramma and Grampa, I think a part of the appeal comes from non-hurried pace of the morning. It starts with a cup of coffee and checking the latest online news and newest facebook updates. Next we will have a bowl of whole grain cereal with blueberries, some sliced bananas and pecans. And then for dessert another cup of coffee, maybe a couple slices of oranges a popover or a scone. This all happens without glancing at the moving hands of the clock.

My usual morning starts at seven and is a process of waking up kids, fixing them breakfast and doing french braids and ponytails and hurrying them out the door. And while I wouldn’t change my current life for anything having breakfast at Gramma’s is special little mini vacation.

Grampa Jim sent me his Cranberry Walnut scone recipe and some photos to go with it. Enjoy them with a slow weekend breakfast or brunch and imagine that you are sitting at your Gramma’s house.

(Please excuse the variation in the font size…I tried all my tricks without being successful!)

cranberry scone

The simple recipe is:

225 g/9 0z flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

dry ingredients and butter
mix dry ingredients and then add
110 g/4 oz. butter (cold)
pea size pieces
cut the dry ingredients an butter into pea sized pieces. Add 2.4 dl/1 cup milk being careful to not over mix.
Next fold in 2.4 dl/1 cup cranberris and 1.8 dl/ 3/4 cups walnuts.
cranberries and walnuts

Divide unto a papered sheet and bake at 220 C/425 F for about 16 minutes.


Serve hot with apricot jam. If you happen to have left overs stick them in the freezer and warm them up another morning in the oven at 160 C/325 F. Enjoy!
baked scones