tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: finnish winter

March, the best days of winter

by tableofcolors

The kids are on ski break this week and the weather has been treating us great! The best days of winter have arrived. This week we have taken the kitchen outside and on Monday the whole family went on a skiing and sledding trek to a laavu, or a classic Finnish lean-to that can be found in the wilderness all over the country. They can be resting spots on a hiking or a berry picking trip and are usually open for public use. In front of the laavu, there usually is a fire pit and so we roasted sausages for lunch with the children.

laavu and finnish winter

laavuretki finnish winter

The children were also hoping for a special snack, something out of the ordinary. I decided to give the vegan avocado-chocolate pudding a try. I found a recipe on the kitchn ‘s website.

It was a simple recipe and quick to make although I ended up having a little mishap in the process. As I was whipping the coconut cream for the topping, my phone rang. I left the immersion wand standing upright in the bowl and the second I turned around, the bowl fell on the floor and into two pieces and I had coconut cream all over the kitchen. Amateur mistake, I know. And I spent the next half hour with one of my daughters cleaning the kitchen. In the end, I did not have any more coconut cream left and but did have some regular heavy cream in the fridge. And so our pudding was only partly vegan. For our crowd, I doubled the recipe.

vegan chocolate pudding 3

Vegan Chocolate pudding cups with Coconut Cream recipe created by Gina Eykemans

pudding cups:

15 Medjool dates, soaked in warm water for an hour
1 ripe Hass avocado
1/4 raw cacao or semisweet cocoa powder
1 c full-fat coconut milk
pinch of sea salt

Coconut cream:
395 g/ 1 (14 oz) can of chilled coconut cream
2 tbsp maple syrup

Soak the dates for an hour in warm water. Drain the dates and remove the pits and place into a blender. Peel the avocado and remove pit. Cut into big chunks and place into the blender along with the cacao, coconut milk and sea salt. Blend until a smooth consistency. I was pleasantly surprised how pudding like the consistency was. Spoon into cups. I made fairly small portions as kids sometimes have a hard time finishing large servings and I hate when food goes to waste. I prefer to start with small servings and give seconds, plus the serving does not look as overwhelming to them and they have an easier time finishing it. This is one thing I learned from my Mom!

For the coconut cream, make sure it has been chilled. Whip with a hand mixer until thick and creamy and swirl in the maple syrup. Top each pudding with a spoonful of coconut cream. Serve immediately or chill and serve later.

vegan chocolate puddingThe kids had their comments. They thought it looked like something that just makes your mouth water, but they would have liked it a bit sweeter and came for another spoonful of cream after they were half way through their puddings. So perhaps next time I’ll add just a bit of sugar.

vegan chocolate pudding2This post is a part of the In My Kitchen series now hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Stop by her blog to find links to kitchens all around the world!

Snow castle hot chocolate

by tableofcolors

Valentine’s day always surprises a bit in Finland as it is not such a commercial happening here and so I all of a sudden realize that it is the middle of February and the day has arrived. The children do remember it though, and usually wish for a little something special. This past week it had been raining and all along the driveway and on many of the smaller roads there was a thick layer of ice under a layer of water. It was slippery.

lumilinnakaakao collageBut today it snowed almost all day. It was heavy, wet snow perfect for building snow castles, snow dogs, snowmen and having snowball fights. And it was a perfect day for having hot chocolate in the snow castle.

Our Erik did complain in the car the other day that no one had given him a Valentine’s day card. Some of the girls had gotten a card or two from a friend, but as it is not such a notable holiday here there are no class parties where everyone exchanges cards. He did seem quite sad. So today my husband told some of the kids to make him a card, and soon they were all making cards for each other. And that is what our Valentine’s day or Friendship day, as it is called in Finnish, was made of: play in the snow, hot chocolate and homemade cards made from the heart that brought smiles to the recipients.

valentine's day cards

vintage chocolate chip cookies spelttijauhoilla edit

Vintage Chocolate Chip cookies with Spelt

 

The original recipe is from BBC’s good food site. I substituted some of the white flour with wholegrain spelt flour to give it an added dimension of flavor.

150 g/5.3 oz softened butter
80 g/2.8 oz light brown sugra
80 g/2.8 oz sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
150 g/5.3 oz flour
75 g/2.6 oz wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
200 g/7 oz dark or semisweet chocolate (I used only 100 g/3.5 oz for this batch)

sunspelt jauhojaFor our family I made a triple batch. For a smaller cookie I make 30 g/1 oz cookie dough balls that I froze and then bake off. For a larger cookie I have made a 56-58 g/ 2 oz ball of dough. Line a freezer safe container with parchment paper and place the balls of cookie dough in rows and freeze. Between each layer place a piece of parchment paper. Plastic bags work just as well but then I suggest to not layer the cookies. Bake the frozen cookies at 180 C/350 F. For small cookies the bake time is 8-9 minutes and for the larger cookies it is about 10-11 minutes. Do not overbake.

lumilinnaleikitHappy Valentine’s to all my dear readers! “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Sun dogs and squeaky cheese

by tableofcolors

The real winter has arrived. None of this sort-of-cold-weather, but a cold front had arrived from Siberia making our eyelashes all frosty white after being outside. It has been just beautiful and the sun has been almost blinding. In spite of the cold, the kids have been skiing in the yard, even the two-year old. But I have been concerned at times for our school children as they leave for school around 7.30 or 8.30 am, depending on their schedule that day and the temperature has at times been close to -30 C/-22 F. We try to drive them whenever possible in this weather, but sometimes that is not an option. So they bike and walk when the car is not available.

sun dogs haloilmiöWe had an incident last week, where our little Professor who is first grade had had skating in gym class right during his last period. He tends to get cold easier, unlike his older sister who didn’t start wearing gloves to school until right before Christmas. Older kids often help the little ones with tying their skates and his were in double knots. The teacher had another class scheduled in a different school and left these little ones on their own to take their skates off outside and leave for home. I know that my feet often get cold when I go skating and so I’m pretty sure his were a bit chilly, not to mention his hands as he was trying to undo the laces. Finally a bigger kid had noticed him and helped him out. Time had passed and I kept looking out of the window to see if he was coming home. I generally do give him an hour to come home from school, since he is the type of kid who stops and watches the swans as they feed on the field or swim in the river. Or once he told me after he had been late to school and I was interviewing him to see if he had taken some sort of a long-cut, “But, Mom. It is much slower to ride my bike on the grass than it is on the bike path.” He never did tell me if he had ridden his bike in the ditches the whole way to school. It may perhaps remain always a mystery as he seemed completelyand innocently surprised when the teacher told him that he has been late once again. I do believe though that he has made it to school on time recently as we haven’t received quite as many notes, but I suppose we will find out tomorrow at conferences.

But back to last week. An hour had passed. It just happened to be a day that I did not have a car to use and I was home with just the little ones. I was just at the point that perhaps I should go look for him as it was really windy day even though the temperatures where not quite so cold , when a pedestrian on a walk called me. He asked me if I was expecting a first-grader home. I certainly was. Our little one was cold and had been crying. It just so happened that a police car was driving by and as we were on the phone, he flagged it down. And so in the end our little Professor  got a ride home with the police. This was a first in our family.

ice crystals

So this week, I have been trying to walk to school at the end of the day to meet him and help him come home a bit quicker. Today I pulled our little one in a sled and Bella ran along side hopping on the sled every once in a while. We had made it almost to the school and I was beginning to wonder where he might be. Well, there he was not far from the school standing on the sidewalk, thinking about something someone had said at school that day, and school had ended an hour ago. Not that this would really matter, but the temperature was below -20C/-4F and there was a little over a mile to walk.

valokeidas metsässäWith a little encouragement, we made it home and had hot chocolate to warm our cold fingers.hot chocolateI thought I would share a recipe that has long traditions in Finland and will warm up any winter day. Leipäjuusto or Finnish squeaky cheese was traditionally made in the summer and fall when milk was available and the English name for it comes from the sound it makes when one eats it. The old way of enjoying leipäjuusto is with coffee. The dessert I will suggest is newer way of serving it and is perfect for these cold winter days.

My childhood piano teacher, Susan, grew up on a farm and with the tradition of squeaky cheese. I think her recipe on the video below is clear and my husband gave it a try before Christmas. It turned out perfect. If you don’t have farm fresh milk available, skim milk works as well. Low-fat or whole milk are not suggested. Click on the link below to see the whole process.

In Finland the cloudberry is very prized as it not the easiest berry to pick. It grows in the marshes, and one may need to cover a lot of ground when picking them. The marsh is a springy surface so it feels like walking on a wet mattress as your foot sinks in a bit with each step. Last summer when we were in northern Sweden and Norway, I was hoping to find some berries to photograph and to eat, of course. But the summer was late in coming and all I found was few late blooms and a few raw berries. The photo below is from wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the cloudberry grows in all of the northern regions across Russia, the Nordic countries across Canada and Alaska.

cloudberry dessert

Cloudberry dessert with Finnish Leipäjuusto

 

Finnish leipäjuusto, cut into traditional diamond shapes or triangles
good quality cloudberry jam or preserves
100 g/3.5 oz white chocolate, melted
cinnamon

Heat a cast iron skillet so that it reaches a medium heat. Add the triangles to the heated pan and allow the pieces of cheese cook until the bottom is a golden brown and the top is slightly melted. Remove the pieces of cheese and place them on dessert plates or alternatively on pieces of thin crisp bread. Drizzle with white chocolate and add a teaspoon of cloudberry preserves on each serving. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon. Enjoy immediately.

spelttinäkkäri ja itsetehty leipäjuusto

spelttinäkkäri ja leipäjuustoa lakkahillolla

The best days of winter

by tableofcolors

The best days of winter have arrived. The day is noticeably longer and in the morning when I come downstairs into my kitchen it is not quite as dark as it was just a month ago. The children are able to leave for school in the soft morning light and after they arrive home there is still some light to be outside. And in my kitchen there is a bouquet of yellow tulips reminding me that spring is on it’s way.

tulips 2

We have been skating quite often on the lake; just across the road and through the little patch of woods that line the shore. With the abundance of fresh air and exercise comes healthy appetites to match it. This month in my kitchen I have food that will hopefully satisfy the appetites. Not too long ago I made a discovery at the grocery store. I bought a package of crisp bread made by a local bakery, Leipomo J. Martin. I have a personal connection to the bakery as I worked there for a summer a few years back. After making the initial discovery of the crisp bread I have bought several packages. The flavor is wonderful as it is full of toasted seeds and whole grain bran. In fact, every year the Finnish food union hosts a contest for the most innovative and best tasting new product on the market. Five finalists are chosen from which the winner is selected. This crisp bread was one of the finalists for the Tähtituote award last year. In addition it was selected as the best crisp bread of the year by the Gloria Ruoka ja Viini magazine. Congratulations to the bakers!

skarppi näkkäriWe have been exploring the Suomen lasten leivontakirja cook book with my kids. They suggested the following Mimmi’s meat pie for supper and had intended to help, but something more interesting came up and so I found myself left alone in the kitchen. Jumping hurdles over the sofa pillows actually does sound like fun.

2014-02-03 18.15.20-2

I actually did not mind that I was left alone. The benefit of the kids disappearing from the kitchen at the critical moment was that I was free to adapt the recipe and add a generous amount of vegetables and seasonings. When baking or cooking with the kids, we usually follow the recipe quite closely so that it is easy for the kids to follow. Maybe it is a mother’s instinct but I do secretly try to add nutrients that the picky eaters might not so easily notice. Grated carrots is one that works in many recipes.

venison meat pie

Mimmi’s Meat Pie with Minced Venison

One of the benefits of having a hunter in the family is that we are able to enjoy truly organic meat. I used minced venison for the meat pie but you may subsitute with a ground meat of your choice. For a lighter version, make only half of the dough for the crust for a single crust pie. Place the filling in a lasagne pan lined with parchment paper and covering with the pastry. The recipe below is the traditional version.

Pie crust

250 g/8.8 oz butter, softened
1 dl/slightly under 1/2 c milk
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 dl/1/4 c oat bran
5 dl/generous 2 c wheat flour

Filling
300 g/10.5 oz minced venison or meat of your choice
1 onion, chopped fine
two cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
2 carrots, grated
1 tsp roasted pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt
1-2 tsp NoMU smokey peri-peri, contains a mixture of chili, paprika, garlic, coriander, black pepper, mustard, parsely, cumin, oregano, ginger and natural smoke flavor
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
8 dl/3 and 1/3 c cooked rice of your choice, I used a mixture of rice, barley, whole grain wheat, rye and oat kernels (or 3 and 1/2 dl/1.5 c uncooked rice)
meat pie fillingThis meat pie would be the perfect thing to make if you happened to have some left over rice from the day before. Feel free to add to the recipe those ingredients that you might have on hand. The filling can be seasoned quitely strongly since it loses some of its strength when put in between the pie crust.

If you do not have cooked rice on hand, start by cooking the rice and boiling the eggs. While they are cooking on the stove, start the pie crust. Beat the softened butter until it is fluffy. Next add the egg and milk. I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients in with the butter mixture. Do not over mix. Place into the refrigerator while the filling is completed.

For the filling, chop the vegetables. Place the onions, garlic and celery and minced meat of choice on a large frying pan. Cook at medium heat until the meat is browned. Add the seasonings and other vegetables and continue cooking for a few minutes.

In my kitchen I have a collection of seasonings that work great with this recipe. The NoMU seasonings are among my favorites as they don’t contain any additives. Their flavor could be described as East meets West in the culinary world.

nomu seasoningCombine the cooked rice, chopped eggs, and meat and vegetable mixture. Remove the pie crust dough from the refrigerator and roll out 2/3 of it on a floured surface. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add the filling and roll out the rest for the top crust. I cut mine into strips. Lay the top crust on the filling and seal the edges. Prick holes to let the steam out if the top crust is made from one piece. Brush with an egg wash. Bake in the oven for thirty minutes at 200 C/390 F.

hockey playersSoon the little hockey players will be arriving in the kitchen. And they will have a large appetite.

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series that she host every month. Visit her blog to see links to other  kitchens from around the world.

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.

Chocolate Crescents

by tableofcolors

2014-01-19 15.24.43chocolate crescents

At first there was not a soul in sight. Just as I was leaving our bay, I saw one elderly gentleman skiing, traditional style. As I skiied into the bigger, open lake area there were three skaters in the horizon and a little later I spotted someone on a kicksled. I felt like I was almost all alone in the peaceful calm of the outdoors. The sun was starting to dip and soon the “blue moment” would arrive. We took turns skating and skiing on the lake since some of the kids had been a little sick. That way everyone well enough made it outside. There was only about 2-3 centimeters of snow on the lake. It was enough snow to allow the skiiers to ski and little enough that the skaters could skate.

instructions

What would pair excellently with the crisp cold air and bright sunshine? The decision was unanimous when I asked the children: hot chocolate and chocolate crescents. Silvia had been waiting to try out her new cook book that she got for Christmas. It is a children’s baking book by Ulla Svensk and I mentioned it in a post a couple of weeks back. So this time she was to be our master baker and I was to be the sous chef. A pleasant situation indeed. In a couple of years she may take on the role of master chef more often.

chocolate crescents collage

Chocolate Crescents (recipe by Ulla Svensk)

150 g/5.3 oz butter, softened
4 dl/1.7 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 dl/1/4 c sugar
100 g/3.5 oz quark or drained, thick yoghurt

1 egg, 2 tbsp water and a pinch of salt for the egg wash

dark chocolate, roughly chopped for the crescents and some melted for garnish

Combine the butter and dry ingredients so that it forms a crumbly mixture. We used the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the quark or yoghurt and mix only until combined.  Divide into two and form in a ball. We allowed our dough to rest in the fridge for a bit while chopping the chocolate. Roll each ball of dough in to a circle and using a pastry or pizza cutter, cut into eighths. Place some chopped chocolate at the wider end of the triangle and roll from the wider end to the narrower tip. Place onto a lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 10-15 minutes. We used the convection oven and our bake time was reduced to about 8-9 minutes with the temperature being at 180 C/360 F.

Allow to cool and garnish with melted chocolate.

Winter Collage

Oh, Mr. Sun, Please shine down on me

by tableofcolors

The winter Sun in Finland tends to be a bit moody and even stubborn with a mind of his own. He will at times shine down in beautiful splendor turning the landscape into winter wonderland, but for the most part it stays hidden behind the clouds. Until Spring arrives. Come March, and the Sun starts making an appearance nearly daily, suggesting that soon the white landscape may turn into first brown and then into a spring green.

Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun
Mr. Golden Sun
Please shine down on me.
Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun
Mr. Golden Sun
Hiding behind a tree.
These little children are asking you,
To please come out so we can play with you.
Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun
Mr. Golden Sun,
Please shine down on me.

This song and first or second grade music class came to mind today when Mr. Sun finally made an appearance. The last time it appeared was a week ago on Saturday, just peeking for a bit from behind the clouds. The time before that, I could not even recall. Even though I have had some sort of a flu bug and my voice sounds like a bassoon I bundled up well and went out just for a bit with my camera in hand. Today has been a beautiful day. As I write, the sun is descending in the horizon like a bright orange ball of fire throwing up a reflection up into the sky somewhat like the reflection that it makes over the surface of a lake. There are hues of pink and purple in the sky lining the clouds.

snowy field

By no means, am I suggesting that you should become a mood-eater just because the sun does not shine, but with temperatures dipping today to a -9 C/15.8 F today the Cinnamon Roll Cake below seems like the perfect match with a cold winter day. This could be a celebratory cake since the sun did decide to come and play today. If you happen to have a case of the sniffles, it is even a more perfect match as you soak in the rays through the window.

cinnamon roll cakeCinnamon Roll Cake

This recipe is from my good friend Jess and we have both tweaked the recipe making it not so sweet. Even now, it has plenty of sweetness. The filling and glaze below is half of the original amount, so for a sweeter version double the filling and glaze.

4.7 dl/ 2 c flour
2.4 dl/ 1 c raw sugar/granulated sugar
(I used half raw sugar and half granulated sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c sour cream or Greek yoghurt
150 g/ 5.3 oz softened butter
1 tsp vanilla extract or sugar
3 eggs

Mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls and then combine. Pour into a lined 23×33 cm or 9×13 inch pan.
cinnamon roll cake dollops
Cinnamon Swirl

85 g/3 oz softened butter
0.8 dl/ 1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients together. Place evenly dollops of the swirl filling on the batter. Use a knife to make swirls.
cinnamon swirls
Bake in the oven at 190 C/375 F for about 18 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes. Make holes with a fork and add glaze.

Glaze

2.4 dl/ 1 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or sugar

Drizzle and lightly spread over the cake.
bella in the winter sunSo glad that Mr. Sun decided to come out today.