Simple pleasures

Tag: crock pot

Homemade yoghurt

by tableofcolors

When I was a girl, we had a brown piano in our living room. My Mom had a collection of glass birds of different sizes that resided on the piano. Some of them were from Finland and had been designed by Oiva Toikka. I remember dusting all of the nooks and crannies of the piano and the birds when it was my dusting turn. On Saturdays we would have cleaning day and everyone had a couple of jobs. Today the piano is still in the same spot but I think the birds have been put some place else and there are photographs on the piano of children who do not live at home anymore. Some years back, when I was a girl, I took piano lessons every week from Susan. I always really liked Susan and felt that she was an adult that I could really relate with. Once we had a recital and if I remember right, I think I may have played the Tarantella Spider Dance from the Michael Aaron Piano Course Book.

Some time ago, Susan mentioned on facebook that she had made homemade yoghurt. She shared her recipe with me. It was delicious. The recipe she sent had two methods, one using the slow cooker. I used my Crock pot but if you prefer, you may make it using the other method.

Since we have been getting our milk straight from the farm, the milk I used was whole milk. Because of the this, the fat rose to the top forming a slightly yellow layer that I mixed in with a whisk when the yoghurt was done. You may use milk that has a lower fat percentage if you wish. The recipe is quite large, feel free to make a smaller quantity.

milkAnnika’s Yoghurt–from Susan
3.8 l/ 1 gallon milk
seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean,
2dl/ 3/4 c sugar/honey or according to taste (optional)
(the original recipe called for 3.5 dl/1.5 cups of sugar)
1.5 dl/ 3/4 c plain yoghurt (I used Turkish yoghurt)

Directions for the Crock pot

Place the milk into the Crock pot and set on high for two and a half hours so that it reaches 75 C/170 F. Let cool until it reaches 38-40 C/100 F. Add the vanilla to the milk. If preferred, whisk in the sugar or honey. Take a cup of hot milk aside and mix with the plain yoghurt and then add into the hot milk mixture. Wrap the Crock pot with towels and allow to rest at room temperature for eight hours (mine was overnight). Remove the towels and place the pot into the refrigerator for six hours. Whisk out any possible lumps. Enjoy with berries, muesli or perhaps a little drizzle of honey.

making crockpot yoghurtFor the more conventional version heat the milk to 75 C/170F. Cool the milk down in a cold water bath to about 38-40 C/100-105 F. Remove a cup of warm milk and mix with the yoghurt. Add in the sugar and vanilla. Place into an oven that is warmed to 43 C/110 F. Turn the oven off, leave the light on and allow to rest for eight hours. If your oven does not heat to such a low temperature turn it on preheat for about three minutes and then turn off. After eight hours place the yoghurt into the refrigerator for six hours to chill. Whisk out an possible lumps.

crockpot yoghurtyoughurt parfaitOur family goes through several liters of plain yoghurt a week and this option is rather budget friendly although it does of course require a little initiative. The flavor was quite mild. This time I added a bit of sugar. I think that this recipe may become a regular at our house.


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.

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First Snow and Crock Pot Lamb

by tableofcolors

The forecast called for snow and I did have a few doubts that we might actually see a few flakes in the morning. The sun was shining and everything looked like it was sugar-crusted. My Godchild however, was very sure that it would snow. I told the kids that a forecast is a prediction and sometimes the weather does not follow the forecast. I could tell that they did not really listen to me, they were so excited to see the first flakes and had wonderful plans of what all they would do once the snow fell. It was about minus 5 degrees Celsius in the morning.

Sugar encrusted landscape

Before the snowfall

Sure enough my Godchild was right. A few hours after the bright morning sun the sky clouded over and soft snowflakes started falling.

My husband had spent the previous evening butchering our summer lamb that had grazed on our neighbors field with their lambs. We had quite a few pounds of fresh meat on hand. Most of it was put into the freezer but the ribs we decided to put in our Crock Pot for the night. It actually worked out great to have dinner halfway finished. I had a 2 kg bag of starchy potatoes in the fridge and peeled them all for mashed potatoes. Since it was a cold day I decided to make a warm vegie side, turnip fries. Or that is what I called them when the kids asked me what they are.

Sautéed turnip fries, carrots, celery and onion

I sautéed the vegetables in some olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, black pepper, a little freshly ground chili flakes and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Peeled spuds


Dinner included mashed potatoes, “turnip fries”+ a few other vegies, slow-cooked lamb and a lingonberry sorbet to go with the meat.
The lingonberry sorbet I have learned from my Mother-in-law. It is simple to make and a perfect way to use the tart berries. Using a wand mixer or a food processor purée about 1 cup/2.4 dl of frozen lingonberries and 1/4 cup/ 0.6 dl sugar (or more if preferred) until a sorbet is formed. I usually mix in a few whole berries in to give it some texture.

Recipe for the Crock Pot lamb (this recipe is very simple but it works)

Ribs of one lamb

1 liter/4.2 cups of water
2 tbsp sea salt (mix until dissolved into the water)
Garlic minced
Black pepper
Place all ingredients into the Crock Pot and set the timer for ten hours on low.

First snow

We got a little snow, not enough for winter wonderland but enough to make the roads and landscape a little whiter and brighter. I did not have to coax the children outside, they were eagerly filling their sand toys with snow and making “snow soup”.

Swans taking flight

Evening sun

The migration of geese and an apple treat for the occassion

by tableofcolors

This week has been gray, rainy and even a bit drab. What made it unique was that right over our house and in the fields around us gathered hundreds of Barnacle geese. There were a few White-fronted and Bean geese in the mix. It was a real cachophony of sound and when they all took off to circle in the sky and to land a few minutes later, the flutter of the wings sounded as if an airplane took off. In past years they have flown over with only a few stopping to feed. This time our address was in their navigator and we even got some residue on the windows as a souvenir.

The flight of the geese

As you can probably imagine the event raised the interest of bird watchers and hunters (the Barnacle geese are protected). We actually had a bit more traffic on our country road. They would drive by slowly, peering out of the windows with binoculars do a U-turn and creep by again. But I really can’t blame them. I did the same thing!

The following recipe is perfect for those gray days of fall and best of all there are two ways to do it depending on what your schedule demands. The first version is a Crock Pot version.

Apple treat and two ways to make it

Peel and slice 1 kg/2 lb of apples. (I prefer to use Granny smith, they keep their shape better)

Place the apple slices into your slow cooker along with 50 g/1.8 oz of butter, the juice of half a lemon and a generous 1 dl or 1/2 c of brown sugar. Sprinkle a little cinnamon to taste. Turn your cooker on low and set the timer for 2 hours. Stir once while cooking. Before serving whip 1.5 dl/0.6 c of whipping cream until fluffly. Fold in 1 dl /1/2 c of turkish youghurt and 3 tablespoons of sugar or to taste. This recipe works great for those on a gluten-free diet.

The slow cooker version is great if you are having company over. It can be prepared a couple hours in advance freeing up your time to enjoy your guests.

Version 2: This version is slightly different in texture even if the ingredients are identical. Place all of the ingredients above (except for the cream and turkish yoghurt) into a wok. Wok the apples for a few minutes until the brown sugar and butter caramelizes and the apples have slightly softened. Do not overcook. Serve with the whipped cream-turkish yoghurt mixture. Enjoy!

The evening sun and migrating geese

Spring Cabbage Casserole AKA Kaalilaatikko

by tableofcolors

Afternoon at the Kouvola Traffic Park

As much as I love cooking and baking there are days when the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect for an outing in the park. On those days I pull out my trusty slow-cooker.

Last week we had one of those days. We usually go to the traffic park at least once every summer. The traffic park is great. It has traffic signs, crosswalks, one-way streets, sidewalks and an intersection with real traffic lights. Not only did we have loads of fun (even Mom and Dad took turns driving the adult-size “car”) it is a very pocketbook friendly place to go since it is free of charge.

Before we left for the park, I browned the ground hamburger, chopped up one spring cabbage, an onion and some herbs. Next I grated some carrots and mixed in some uncooked rice, water, salt, pepper and chili. I prefer using the Crock Pot 5.7 liter slow cooker with a timer. As we headed out the door I set the timer on my slow cooker for four hours. When we came home with our bunch of hungry kids it was all ready to go. Very easy and very simple.

The spring cabbage casserole is an interesting dish. It strongly divides opinions. Some love it and others don’t. It may not be a beauty when it comes to outward appearances but it definately is worth a try. It is good wholesome food made out of simple ingredients that are both healthy and budget friendly. In the recipe below I used spring cabbage but regular cabbage works just as well. In Finland the first batch of spring cabbage to appear in the produce section is from Hungary. Around mid-summer, spring cabbage from local producers is also available.

Spring cabbage casserole

Spring Cabbage Casserole

750 g/1.6 lbs ground beef/hamburger, browned
1 onion chopped
1 spring cabbage (about 700 g/1.5 lbs) chopped
150 g/5.3 oz or about three carrots coarsely grated
2 dl/just under one cup of rice
4 dl/1.7 cups of water
2 tsp of NoMU Pork ( a spice mix from South Africa that contains no additives or flavor enhancers) includes thyme, rosemary, cumin, black pepper, oregano, paprika, coriander and natural smoke flavor.
one handful of fresh parley and chives chopped fine
a pinch of freshly ground chili
salt and pepper to taste

Brown hamburger meat. Add all other ingredients into the slow cooker and let it do its magic.

Cook on low for four hours. Serves 8.

Who do you think is having more fun, the kids or Mom?