tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: celebrations

It was a party

by tableofcolors

We had a houseful. Twenty little ones, eight big ones, fireworks, one birthday party and the New Year at midnight. If new year’s eve foretold the future, 2014 might be a year on the fast track. It looked like everyone had  a good time. The kids all found friends and at times, nearly everyone went outside and so for a moment there was a calm inside the house. Outside there was a cacophony of bursts, explosions, snaps and pops as the fireworks went off all around us in the neighborhood. Happy New Year to you all!

fireworks

blowing candlesBefore the guests arrived we had a baking project with two of our girls. One had received a cake pops set and the other a tiered mini cake mold for Christmas. With only a little help, they baked for the party. I suppose that for now they will still need help, but it won’t be long and they will be working independently in the kitchen. So quickly they grow up. Whenever there is a birthday, I always think back to the day the child was born and their personality that has unfolded so far. Each one has their own unique character. Our birthday boy is so passionate about the things that are important to him. I’m not sure if he gets that from his Dad or Mom or maybe both. And he is a visualist. We once walked into a sea museum. You could describe the building as contemporary, with lots of light colored wood and curved shapes. He walked in and his eyes became large as plates as he looked around and climbed the stairs that are in the entryway and exclaimed, “This is an art building!” He was four at the time.

grasshopper pie

Grasshopper Pie for a Celebration

This Grasshopper pie is very loosely based on the recipe by Nigella Lawson. I usually do not use food coloring when cooking and baking as I like to go the more natural way, but I do make an exception when there are birthday parties and especially ones for children. I figure that it can’t hurt to have one day a year, in addition to Christmas, that is a “dream-come-true” type of day.

26 cookies (Oreo, Domino etc.)
60 g/2 oz good quality dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
85 g/3 tbsp butter, melted

150 g/5 oz mini marshmallows or large ones cut up into small pieces
1 dl/1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp peppermint flavoring
2 candy canes, crushed
a few drops of green food coloring
3.3 dl/1.4 heavy whipping cream

domino cookies

For the cookie crumb crust, line the bottom of a 20 cm/8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Remove the white filling from the cookies and discard. Crush the cookies and melt the butter. I use a onion chopper (that is not used for onions) as my cookie crusher. It is a neat and effecient way to crush cookies for cookie crumb crusts. In a bowl mix the crushed cookies, melted butter and chopped dark chocolate. Pour into the lined springform pan and press evenly to form the crust. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

marshmallows

For the filling, place the milk and marshmallows (cut into four, if using large ones) into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk is foaming but not boiling and remove from the heat. Stir constantly so that the marshmallows melt and forms a smooth mixture. Allow to cool. After the marshmallow mixture is cooled, whip the cream and fold into the marshmallow mixture. Fold in the peppermint flavoring, green food coloring and crushed candy cane. Pour into the springform pan and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least four hours or until overnight. Using a vegetable peeler, make dark chocolate curls to garnish.

If marshmallows are not on hand, this pie could be made using gelatin leaves and sugar to taste instead of marshmallows and milk. The marshmallows contain gelatin and glucose syrup, giving it a soft texture. This is definitely not a health food, but sometimes a little treat perhaps helps our mental health.

grasshopper pie 2

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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

Steam Pudding and make-believe snow

by tableofcolors

Today it was snowing the kind of snow you see in store displays. They were large, fluffy clumps of flakes that slowly floated down. Occassionally the sun would peak through the clouds and everything glistened. I was shoveling snow as the kids played. And so when the sun came out I ran inside to get the camera. I really tried to run fast but each time when I came outside the light had shifted just a bit.

little hunter2make believe snow

Even the trees had a frosting of powdered sugar.

powdered sugar trees

Since the day was a stay-at-home sort of day and with Christmas just around the corner, I thought it would be the perfect time to try out a family recipe received from my Grampa Jim. Ever since I was small we would gather at my grandparents’ on Christmas day and after dinner we would make music and then we would have dessert which included Gramma’s Steam Pudding. To me it seems as if the Steamed Pudding might be of English tradition. Fitting it would be since in my Gramma’s family tree there is English heritage that traces back to the Revolutionary War and even earlier.

Gramma and GrampaSteam Pudding

2.4 dl/1 c molasses

2.4 dl/1 c hot water
85 g/ 6 tbsp melted butter
2 egg yolks
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp soda

2 cups flour

2 egg whites beaten to firm peak

Pour the hot water into the molasses, add salt and soda, butter and egg yolks and then mix.
Add flour and fold into the molasses mixture.
Fold beaten egg whites into the batter.
steam pudding batterPour batter into greased molds in a steamer and cover. Cook over hot water at medium heat for 90 minutes. Do NOT lift cover before time is up.

After the 90 minutes are up, stick a test skewer and if if comes clean your pudding is done.
I used my double boiler for the cake since I did not have molds for the steamer. My cook time was somewhat longer since the cake did not have the hole in the middle that many molds have.

Serve in slices with generous servings of sauce.

steam pudding1Sauce

2 pasteurized eggs

140 g/10 tbsp melted butter
8 dl/3 and 1/2 c powdered sugar
0,5 l/1 pint whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Whip the cream with the vanilla and a generous 2 dl/1 cup of the powdered sugar and set aside. Beat the eggs and half of the remaining powdered sugar, add the melted butter and mix. Fold the egg mixture into the whipped cream, add the remainder of the powdered sugar and refrigerate.

steam pudding2As the children trickled in from the outdoors and school the cake continued to grow smaller and smaller.

little hunter

My kitchen is filled with anticipation

by tableofcolors

December and snow has arrived. That means that there is a sense of waiting and electricity in the air. The little people are waiting for the right moment to bake gingerbread, to sew their teachers’ little gifts, hang up the stockings, make pinwheel prune tarts, and open their advent calendars each morning. This past Sunday we lit the first advent candle. Christmas is coming.
2013-12-01 11.01.09-2
Along with the first advent, the kitchen is filled with Christmas music. “Hoosianna” is traditionally sung during the first advent in Finland in both churches and schools. Below is a recording from the Tampere State Church.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcglATPatgU
I’m not so keen on the shopping frenzy that starts in December and so we did ours in November before the crowds arrived. Now there are only little things to find and those excursions can be quite relaxing since there is no long list in hand and perhaps there might be a minute to stop in a coffee shop. There is a silence outside as so many of the birds have flown south and ones that remained will start their concert again in the spring. This peace I would like to achieve in the kitchen as well; one of everyday tasks sprinkled with little special projects such as these gingerbread trees.
gingerbread trees2
In my kitchen is the cutest mushroom made by my daughter and it brings a little holiday color.
fly agaric 2
Now that winter has arrived it is time to start using all of those berries that we picked last summer. One evening we had french toast with a strawberry sauce. The key to the strawberry sauce is to make the sauce first using a good quality berry juice and potato starch (cornstarch may be used as well) and right when the sauce has been removed from the heat the slightly thawed or frozen berries are added. They will slowly thaw out in the hot sauce while keeping their shape and vitamins.
french toast 3
French Toast

French toast is a great way to use up day old bread. We happened to have some slightly dried out bread on hand and a freezer full of berries which became in turn the inspiration for supper of French toast and berry sauce.

half loaf of sliced light bread (a whole grain variety may be used)
5 dl/2 c milk
2 eggs
1 generous tbsp brown sugar
dash of salt
cinnamon
butter or oil for frying

Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon together. Heat the frying pan or griddle and use a little oil or butter according to your preference. Dip the slices of bread in the milk mixture and allow to soak for a bit. Fry on the hot pan so that both sides are a nice brown color.

Berry sauce

This recipe works with any berries that you may have on hand. If using a more tart berry just increase the amount of sugar.

1 liter/4 c good quality berry juice
sugar to taste
5 dl/2 c frozen or fresh berries
4 tbsp potato starch
1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c water

Bring the juice to boil, adding sugar if needed. Dissolve the potato starch (or corn starch, follow amounts on package) into the water. Whisking constantly, add the potato starch water mixture to the boiling juice. Bring the sauce to a boil and remove from the heat as soon as it bubbles once. Add the berries and set aside for a few minutes allowing the berries to thaw out. A sprinkle of sugar will prevent a “skin” from forming on the surface.

Serve with the French toast or just on its own.

This snowman is not in my kitchen but I could not resist, so cute it is.
2013-12-01 11.43.15-2This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series from Fig Jam Lime Cordial.

Seven is a lucky number

by tableofcolors

Children start first grade here when they are seven. And it might be even a little more exciting if you happen to have a birthday in the same month. Most people have returned from their summer vacations and there is the anticipation of the new school year, new friends, riding your bike to and from school. I remember the feeling so clearly. It was like starting a new adventure.
cake decorator
Last week we celebrated with a house full of little ladies. Birthdays have a certain “routine” at our house. The older children are able to invite a friend or two to help with the games. With the count being at twenty including guests, our kids and helpers it helps to have a set plan. Dad helps supervise the games and makes sure it all goes smoothly. This frees me up a bit to run around with the camera to capture the moment.

A little over a month ago I visited Lahti and one of my favorite little shops there, Millan Putiikki, and found the cutest muffin tins and straws. I thought that they would be perfect for a party where the birthday girl is turning seven. I didn’t make cupcakes this time but they worked as place cards and had few sweets in them.
candy cups
bella and table
The birthday girl had a hard time deciding the flavor of the cake so we decided on alternating a Victoria Sponge and an easy but moist chocolate cake.

Menu
Chocolate and vanilla cake filled with alternating layers of chocolate whipped cream and raspberries and cream
Chocolate chip cookies
Mini hot dogs
Lucky hedgehog (grapes, cucumbers and cheese on cocktail sticks stuck into a half cabbage)
chips
candy
Jaffa and juice

hedgehog
happy birthdayBirthday cake

I baked the Victoria sponge cake that can be found here and alternated it with a chocolate cake recipe that I found from the BBC food website.

Moist Chocolate Cake

225 g/8 oz flour

350 g/12 and 1/2 oz sugar

85 g/30 oz dark cocoa powder

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 and 1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

250 ml/ 9 fl oz milk

125 ml/ 4 and 1/2 fl oz vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

250 ml/9 fl oz boiling water

Mix everything else except for the boiling water. Add the boiling water little at a time. The texture of the batter is quite liquid. Divide the batter between two tins that have been greased and floured or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180 C/ 350 F for about 25-35 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Filling:

Whip 5 dl/ generous 2 cups of whipping cream and divide into two bowls. Melt 30 grams/1 ounce of dark chocolate and allow to slightly cool. Mix the melted chocolate with one half of the whipped cream.For the other filling mix 1 dl/ 1/2 cup of good quality raspberry preserve with 1 dl/ 1/2 cup of raspberries. Fill the cake by alternating the chocolate whipped cream and by spreading the raspberries and a layer of cream.

cut cakeI used a buttercream to frost the cake. Buttercream is versatile and works great at kids’ birthday parties. It is an easier medium to use when decorating the cake since it holds shape quite well. My favorite buttercream recipe can be found in my “Gone Fishing” post.

presentsInspiration for this post was found from a blog called “Liemessä”.

Previous posts on birthday parties: Birthdays are only once a year, A Cupcake birthday party, Gone Fishing and Congratulations and Celebrations

A celebration at home

by tableofcolors

This past Sunday we had the baptism for our little Hugo. We have always held our baptisms at home and it is a fairly small, intimate affair with family members and close friends. I really enjoy organizing the celebration for the small baby, even though the baby has not an inkling of the color coordinated napkins, ribbons or macarons. Really those things are not the essence of the celebration but just something that I enjoy and find pleasing to the eye.
Hugo4
We had balmy weather, perfect for being outside and running barefoot on the lawn. Although I appreciate all seasons, my favorite season is summer. I love the warm days, the spring greens of early summer and the deeper greens of late summer. I chose green ribbons for our summer baby’s baptismal gown. The previous weekend I went to the local flea market on Saturday morning with a couple of our girls and the baby. I felt like I had found a treasure when I found some glass bottles for only an euro. Right away I could envision the flowers that they might hold and perhaps sometimes later, juice and a straw.
flowers outside
EllenkakkujaOrganizing the baptism involves the whole family. Everyone helps in their own way depending on their age and capabilities. Some helped with the baking, others helped pick the sprigs of blueberry and tall grasses and everyone helped clean and organize the house.

baking
Sugar cookies

We had a mix of sugar cut-outs and traditional gingerbread cookies that were in a variety of shapes and decorated using dark and white chocolate and nonpareils. The gingerbread recipe can be found here.The recipe below is one I have received from my sister a few years ago that I have altered a bit.

6 dl/2 and 1/2 c flour
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
115 g/1/2 c butter
2.4 dl/1 c sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
1.2 dl/ 1/2 c sour cream (I have also used greek yoghurt)

Beat the softened, room temperature butter with the sugar until fluffy and light in color. If using a stand mixer use the paddle attachment. Add the eggs in one at a time and beat at high speed until they incorporated into the cookie dough. Next add in the sour cream and almond or vanilla extract. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and fold into the dough. Allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Roll the dough on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Bake at 175 C/350 F for a few minutes so that they have just a little color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Easily the day slips by and it is nice to have a few savory items on the menu. One of them is this Broccoli salad. It has become one of my new favorite salads. The recipe to the salad I found from the great REMcooks blog.

broccoli salad I tried it out and it tasted absolutely fantastic and all of my taste testers agreed with me. Not to mention that it fit the color scheme as well, a definite bonus! Other than two tiny alterations to the original recipe, I followed the recipe quite closely. I used dried cranberries instead of dried cherries just because they were not readily available here and I did not blanch the broccoli as the original recipe suggested. Either way it works fine.

3 crowns fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 1 to 1-1/2 lb)
1.2 dl/1/2 cup red onion, small dice
1.2 dl/1/2 cup celery, small dice
0.8 dl/1/3 cup raisins
0.8 dl/1/3 cup dried cherries (or dried cranberries)
2.4 dl/1 cup almond slivers, toasted
0.8 dl/1/3 cup mayonnaise
1.6 dl/2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp wildflower honey
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
170 g/6 oz chorizo, cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt

Chop up the broccoli, red onion and celery and mixed them together. You may toast your almonds on the pan quickly before frying the chorizo or in the oven. Next I fried the chorizo and tossed them in with the broccoli. Then combine the remaining ingredients: raisin, cherries (cranberries), mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt. Pour over the salad and mix until combined.

roses

In my next post I will share a few more recipes from the baptism menu.

Menu

Broccoli Salad
Garden Fresh Salad with Feta
Oven-toasted baguette slices with a rosmary honey-butter

Sugar cut-out cookies
Gingerbread cookies
Kiwi white chocolate cake
Macarons with a ganache and pistachio filling
Turtle brownies
Princess torte

The Season of Celebrations

by tableofcolors

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

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

filling2

Sandwich cake with asparagus

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

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

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

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

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

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

voileipäkakku

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

asparagus

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

voileipäkakku2