tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: dairy free

Latvia, The land of flowers

by tableofcolors

It has been some time since my last In My Kitchen post. Some months actually. This time I will tell you a bit about one adventure this past summer and the inspiration it gave me once I made it home. Our garden has been producing nicely and so the Carrot Top Pesto potato salad below is made with mostly fresh produce from our own little patch. A few things I had to buy, the potatoes and beans. The end result was delicious. Currently Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings currently hosts IMK. Thanks for hosting! Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

The past year has had so many ups and downs, many opportunities to learn. Definitely a year full of life. And one of my largest dreams is to travel and to try experience what others experience in their homelands. We were on a budget, so our trip could not be too long or too far away. Latvia was the perfect option. My husband had been at an international seminar and some fellow participants from Latvia told him the places that we should visit. We took the ferry over the Baltic Sea into Tallinn. Estonia has many lovely places to offer but this time our goal was see Latvia. We left Friday evening with another couple, one of our best friends. Most of the summer we had spent with our families and so a little adults-only get-away felt wonderful. My words lack to describe the sense of freedom we had for a few days. No baby schedules to follow, and no one asking are-we-there-yet in the back seat. I do love my kids, mind you. But I realized once again how funny my husband was. We DO have a sense of humor afterall! Often in the everyday scramble, life is carried out and finding the moments to stop takes a bit of effort.

Turaidas pils

 

I know that as a tourist, only the tip of the iceberg is often uncovered. But there are many ways to travel, and perhaps we had a chance to uncover some of the true Latvian spirit, as we drove through the countryside and visited places that the locals visit as well. It truly was the Land of flowers. It seems as if every yard was shown so much love. Even the tall, concrete apartment buildings driving into Riga, from the era of Stalin had flowers generously decorating many of the balconies. Every once in a while, along the roadside there would be a table with flowers for sale. And they were always arranged so nice. If we didn’t have such a long way to go home, I would have brought home a large bouquet. Someday it would be nice to linger a bit longer and maybe get into a conversation with a local. There independence is still quite fresh and the political scientist in me would like to find out how life has changed in the past thirty years. Did they care for their gardens with the same intensity during the era of the Iron Curtain. Was that the thing they held onto and showed their national pride even if their independence was taken away, similar to how the as the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians held onto their tradition of singing and formed the Singing Revolution with the remarkable Baltic Way human chain a peaceful political demonstration that involved about 2 million people that stood hand in hand spanning 675.5 km. (419.7 miles) all the way from the Old town of Tallinn to Riga and then on to Vilnius, singing songs spontaneously.

Riga

 

The countryside was full of gently rolling hills, more so than Estonia. And the season was farther along than in Finland as the grain had taken on a golden hue. In the middle of the fields a few large oaks had been left standing, majestic and strong. As we drove amongst the fields we would occasionally spot a few roe deer. Latvia has wild boars, but those we did not spot them in the wild. But we did spot several pairs of glowing eyes in the dark as we drove back to our hotel after dinner.

Since we were just the four of us, we were able to make random stops. We didn’t make it to the famous beaches, Jurmala or Liepaja, this time but next time they will be places to go to. We did stop by some smaller beaches and even if there was a strong wind, there was still a bit of summer in the air. Next time we will have to play in the waves.

Our intention was to spend our second night in Kuldiga which is a small medieval city in the western part of Latvia. It has the River Venta  running right through the town, which actually is Europe’s broadest waterfall although it is not very high. But we had accidently reserved rooms at the quaint little bed and breakfast, Kursu Krogs which was about 50 km from Kuldiga. It turned out to be the best mistake ever. It was such a lovely place with the most attentive service.

Kursu Krogs, a lovely B&B with friendly service. It used to be part of the old postal route.

 

We decided to drive to Kuldiga for the evening. We found the loveliest restaurant there, Bangert’s. The food was delicious and service was perfect. It seemed like we met so many friendly people in Latvia. The thing I really like about Bangert’s was they had many locally sourced options.

 

The story goes that Captain Bangert brought the house from Paris as a wedding present for his fiancée. The building standing there today is the replica of the original. It sits among large trees, next to a parkway and overlooks the River Venta.

 

Today I will share a recipe for a potato salad that has just the right amount of tartness to it and uses plenty of in-season produce. This dish is perfect to share at a party or get together. And because my garden is full of fresh carrots and I’m in love with the tart pesto the carrot greens make, the potatoes themselves are dressed with Carrot top pesto. The recipe can be found here.

Carrot Top Pesto potato salad

 

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

1 kg/ 2 lbs waxy potatoes, cooked and cooled
Carrot top pesto (recipe in the previous post and can be found here.)
A mix of fresh lettuce and kale
A generous bunch of string beans
3 large kale leaves, stem removed and roughly chopped
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
chili flakes
black pepper

Boil the potatoes until tender but be careful to not overcook. Pour the water out of the pot and place the lid back on. Allow to cool for a few hours at room temperature. Make the Carrot Top Pesto (recipe here) and set aside until potatoes are cool. If the potatoes used are new potatoes, leave the skins on and cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size desired. Gently fold the carrot top pesto with the potatoes and set aside to marinate in the refrigerator.

Before serving. Spread the cleaned string beans or haricot vert onto a parchment lined oven sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle sea salt and black pepper. Bake at 160 C/ 320 F until they have a few brown spots and are nicely sizzling. (about 12-15 minutes). On another parchment lined baking sheet place the roughly chopped kale that has the stem removed. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and a few chili flakes. After the string beans are done bake the kale chips at 150 C/ 300 F for about 15-20 minutes or until they are dried but not too dark in color.

To serve the salad. Finely chop the remaining kale and mix in with the roughly chopped lettuce mix. Place the greens on a large platter. Next remove the potatoes from the refrigerator and layer them on top of the greens. Next place the roasted green beans on top of the potatoes and right before serving garnish with the kale chips.

blogging reality

As I was making the salad in the kitchen, our Hugo had parked his cars right in the midst of my photoshoot. First I started to move them, but then I thought to leave them. It is real life afterall.

The story of Latvia continues in the next post. I have posted pictures and moments from our trip on Instagram, feel free to check it out.

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

Tallenna

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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
honey

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.

Goexpo Helsinki

by tableofcolors

Last weekend we visited the Helsinki Goexpo Fair at the Helsinki Messukeskus or Convention Center. It is Finland’s largest sport and outdoor event and there was something for everyone. There was bikes to try, volleyball, soccer, golf, hunting, fishing, photography, horses, rock climbing, fitness, running, nordic walking, and sailing amongst others. On the day we visited it was open from 10 am to 5 pm. We were there the whole time and probably would have been even a bit longer if it would have been possible.

goexpo helsinki 2I’m usually not such a convention or fair person but this time it exceeded my expectations. It was very reasonably priced as everything except for the rock climbing was included. For our family of eight it was 37 euros. Not bad.

goexpo helsinkirock climbing2We had packed lunches and the horse show was the perfect place to sit down and eat.

police horse show speedThe police horse show was quite impressive. They showed how they train the horses for possible protest and demonstration situations.

police horse showAfter the busy day full of noise and activity it was nice to visit some family before heading home. On the drive home, the car was silent. Just about everyone fell asleep. A calming drink was in order. My sister’s recipe was perfect for the occasion.

moomins

Tin’s Lemon and Ginger Concoction

for one cup

1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 cm/ 1/3 inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp honey or according to taste
boiling water

Place the lemon juice and roughly chopped ginger into the cup. Pour boiling water over and allow to seep for about five minutes. Remove the pieces of ginger and add honey. Stir and enjoy immediately. It is claimed that both lemon and ginger may help with digestion and helps flush out toxins. Those claims are not perhaps scientifically proven, but I did find the drink to be the perfect way to end the day. Tart and calming.
vikellysThis post is a part of Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday series.

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

There is always a first time

by tableofcolors

first time skatingShe was so excited to go try it out for the first the time. Skating was something that the big kids do and our two year-old likes to do everything they do. And maybe because she is so independent by nature, she is usually quite successful. That day it was sunny and cold and we skated for almost an hour and so did she. She did not complain once. The baby was in the buggy and ocassionally we would skate and push him around as well. Learning to skate on ice with a bit of snow coverage is a little easier, as it is not so slippery.

the baby in the buggySome days have been sunny and some days gray during this past week, but quite often ice skating has been on the agenda. There is a skating trail made at “our” lake and another one at the Kuusaanlampi which is a nook on the Kymijoki or Kymi river. The loop is 2.5 km/1.5 miles. Four times around is a good workout and a pleasant way to start the day. There is a car track as well on the ice, but drifting the car with the hand brake is one skill I must still learn someday. Before learing that trick, I wouldn’t dare to attempt to join the ranks. It would be a first for me.

kuusanlampiThere is something about this time of year and pancakes. Maybe it is the need for a quick lunch or supper, or perhaps it is comforting after being out in the cold, but a year ago I was serving up buckwheat pancakes after our ice skating excursions. This year our go-to lunch has been banana pancakes made with almond meal or flour. They are a great way to use up the brown bananas on the counter and their ingredient list is so short and simple. I had been running across recipes for banana pancakes that used no traditional flour and the the following is my take on it. The first version has a bit more egg in proportion and the second one has less. You may choose your favorite, both work out great.

gluten free dairy free pancakesBanana pancakes, gluten-free and dairy-free

Version one:

makes 4-5 pancakes
2 ripe bananas mashed
3 eggs
1 dl/ 1/2 c almond flour
sprinkle of cinnamon

Version two:
makes 6 pancakes
4 bananas mashed
4 eggs
2 dl/1 c almond flour
sprinkle of cinnamon

Mix all of the ingredients. Fry on a griddle over medium heat and serve with a drizzle of honey and garnish with slices of banana.

gluten-free dairy-free pancakelittle angelDo you remember your first time on skates? I certainly do, and I remember falling down quite a few times at first. Our little angel seemed to fall so softly and was ready to get up right after. It brought back my childhood for a moment.

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.

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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

Colors and Flavors of Late Summer

by tableofcolors

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.
cheerios
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.
clementines
bodyart
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
puolukka
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.
puolukkapuuro
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.
vispipuuro
Afterall there is a beauty in everyday life!

Tulips of Spring

by tableofcolors

tulips
Just a little over a month ago, the mornings were pitch black and I would have lanterns outside burning throughout the day and night. The hours of actual daylight were quite short and it sometimes seemed like it was challenging to take pictures. By the time everything was ready the light would be gone!

Although we have crisp and cold wintery weather, spring is clearly coming. The night has become shorter and when I awake each morning the sun is shining brightly. We have to actually close our miniblinds for the night to get some sleep, this was not the case a few months ago. As I walk downstairs, the light from the large windows softly highlight the tulips on the table. For me they are a symbol of spring and the promise of lengthening days.
cafe latte
Enjoying a latté in the quiet of the house is the perfect way to start a weekend morning. Everything is still and serene. Step outside to get the newspaper and the birds are singing. They have been quiet all winter. And if we got our weekly clean-up done, everything might be neat and tidy for a few hours. It pays to wake up early and enjoy the clean house while it lasts.
cheerio
One by one they awake and make their way downstairs to find breakfast and a morning hug.
smoothies

Smoothies (for two)

Gluten free

1 banana
3 dl/1.3 c plain yoghurt
2 dl/0.8 c berries of your choice (raspberries, blueberries, lingonberries, blackberries or strawberries)
a little honey

If you prefer add a handful of spinach, or a tablespoon or ground flax seed or wheat germ to the mix.

Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.

Fruitie (for two)

This recipe is both gluten and dairy free.

1 banana
1,5 dl/0.6 c orange juice
fruit (choose one of the following: 1 pealed and sliced pear, 10 slices of canned mango, 1 peach pealed and sliced, 6 large pieces of pineapple or 10 balls of honey dew or cantaloupe melon)
Blend until smooth and enjoy immediately. Canned fruit can be substituted if fresh is not on hand.

smoothies2

Outdoor fun on ski break and “fast food”

by tableofcolors

The kids are on ski break this week and we have been lucky to have perfect weather. During the day the temperatures have hovered at just below freezing and in the sun it has been much warmer. During the night the temperature has dipped enough to keep the skating rinks and ski trails in good condition. It is a sure sign of spring when sunglasses become a necessity and teenage boys drive their mopeds back and forth on the patches of road that have thawed.

We decided to try out a local skating trail that has been ploughed on a crook of the Kymijoki river. It is two kilometers long and was the perfect loop for the kids. I had my camera with and checked that the ISO and white balance were adjusted and even took a few test pictures. I slipped the camera back into its case and didn’t notice that when I took it back out to capture the movement of skating children and their expressions of enjoyment, I had nudged one adjustment off. It was not until I came home that I noticed that all of the photos were a washed-out white. I was left the photos I had taken with Instragram. I was a bit disapointed! But, the main thing was that we had a good time skating and breathing fresh air and enjoying the sun after the long dark winter. We even had hot chocolate in thermos bottles, sandwiches and pulla with. Eating snacks outside is always a highlight for the kids.
skaters
hot chocolate
Upon arriving home we needed a “fast food” that would not take too long to make. I decided on buckwheat pancakes with blueberries. The buckwheat and blueberries add a bit of nutrition to the batter. This batter is fairly thick. If you prefer a thinner pancake, add more milk. I made the batter milk free since one of our kids has been reacting to the milk. The dairy free alternative is in parentheses.
pancakes

Pancakes with Buckwheat

7 dl / 3 c flour
2.3 dl/ 1 c buckwheat flour
6 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
50 g/ 2 oz butter melted (or oil)
4 eggs
5 1/2 dl / 2.3 c milk (or alternatively 2.5 dl Oatley oat cream +water for a total of 5 1/2 dl liquid)
1 dl/ 0.5 c sparking mineral water

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add the milk, butter or oil, and eggs. Mix with a whisk until their are no large lumps. Add the mineral water and mix. Allow to stand at room temperature for a few minutes before frying on a hot griddle. If you prefer blueberry pancakes, sprinkle a few blueberries on each pancake while they are frying. Serve with additional blueberries and maple syrup.
blueberries and batter
pancakes frying