Simple pleasures

Tag: food

Finding Funnel Chanterelles from bear forest

by tableofcolors

I have always been a city girl in my heart. It was not until I was an adult that I was introduced to a real forest, a place far from civilization, not just the little patch of woods in a parkway just down the road. For one year during the early years of our marriage we actually lived in the middle of this wilderness due to my husband’s work. To tell you the truth, I was a bit terrified of going on walks since I knew that bears inhabitated these woods. The town school was just two kilometers from where we lived at the time. I often would walk and pass the school with our oldest daughter who sat in the stroller still at that time. So small was she then. Feels like it was yesterday.

I had heard a story that once when the teacher was letting the kids out for recess, she all of a sudden told everyone to stay inside. There was a mama bear and her two cubs walking across the yard. I believed the story since not too far away, about halfway between our little home and the school, a bear had crossed the road leaving it’s large paw prints in the sand. We happened to drive by shortly after it happened and chatted with a few people that had seen it. But I had decided that I was not to be imprisoned in the apartment, and so nearly each day we would take our walks and I would keep my fingers crossed and occasionally cough to try keep the bears at bay.

In these same woods, we have sometimes gone exploring for mushrooms. Usually it is my husband who goes as he knows all of the good places but sometimes when I have the chance I go along. The funnel chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis) come up after the chanterelle mushroom season and sometimes they may be a bit hidden, but if you find one you will most likely find a whole patch to fill up your basket.

funnel chanterelle

This dish is really so simple but the flavors are fantastic. Our mushroom season is over now but when we still had fresh ones, we dried a part of them and some of them we fried with a bit of butter and then packed using the vacuum packer. They make a wonderful sauce. The savoy cabbage is quick roasted, rounding out the flavor and making a warm salad of sorts as a side.

Funnel chanterelle sauce with leeks

funnel chanterelles
1/2 of a leek, finely sliced
a knob of butter (30 g/10.5 oz)
2 dl/1 c cream
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c milk
or alternatively you may use half and half
black pepper

On a large frying pan, cook the mushrooms, leek and herbs with the butter until the water has evaporated so that it snaps and crackles just a bit. Pour on the cream and milk and allow to gently bubble for a few minutes. Serve over boiled potatoes and roasted Savoy cabbage.

mushroom sauce

Roasted Savoy Cabbage Salad

Savoy cabbage cut into wedges
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
black pepper

Place the wedges of Savoy cabbage on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 175C/350 for about ten minutes.

savoy cabbage


Yellows and Oranges

by tableofcolors

Autumn is definitely a glorious time with the abundance of fresh produce on hand. The berries, mushrooms and the harvest from our small garden has certainly kept us busy. I have taken quite a few photos and have recipes on hand, but my only challenge is that, just like you, I only have twenty-four hours in a day.

Right now the radio is playing classical music in the kitchen. The baby is laying on floor next to me, with his belly full and my two year-old is also keeping me company, ocassionally engaging in conversation and bringing me pieces of paper that she is cutting up. She is quite proud of her scissor skills. Four year-old Erik is running outside with his best friend. Sometimes they hunt lions and sometimes they “motor cross” along the ditches with their motor bikes (read: kick bikes). Three are in school and so the house is calm.

Just down the road and to the right is an old red house that has front yard nearly the size of a small field. Every year in the later summer and early fall it is a field of sunflowers. The owner of the house has placed a sign stating that you may freely pick some flowers and pay what you wish into a little metal cannister attached to a tree. Twice I have visited there for my flowers. The yellow bouquet certainly brings a bit of sunshine into some of our gray fall days.
sunflower bouquet

Now that the crisp and cool weather has arrived I have started using the oven more. I have been roasting vegetables as a side for dinner. These honey glazed carrots really hit the spot. And since there is often a shortage of time, they are so quick even for a week night dinner. My husband had placed some wild grouse into the Crock pot that morning and so the house was filled with delicious scents.

Honey Glazed Carrots

carrots, peeled and cut into long sticks
olive oil
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
herbs according to taste
honey glazed carrots
Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and honey and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add herbs according to taste. Bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 10-15 minutes or until the carrots have gained a little color. I have noticed that when using the fan, the time is reduced and I usually reduce the temperature as well about 20 degrees.
honey glazed carrots and wild game

Fall, the zoo and scalloped potatoes

by tableofcolors

Nearly every year we visit the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki. The zoo is on a little island right off the shore of downtown Helsinki. There is even a ferry that will take you there for a small fee or you can drive and park on a neighboring island and make the short walk along the path and across the bridge. We usually always go when the weather has become crisp and cool. The animals tend to be more active than under the hot summer sun.
We had taken a picnic lunch with us and were eating in this little pavilion while a flock of Barnacle Geese looked on and tried to sample our sandwiches and cookies at every chance. Once our two year-old Isabella had finished her lunch she went to explore nearby among the trees. She is equipped with a strong sense of innocent curiosity, a real life Curious George including the part about getting in a little bit of trouble. (Yesterday she nearly arranged us some water damage in the upstairs bathroom as a surprise, but that is another story) It was not long that she came enthusiastically running after an entire flock of geese. The Barnacle Geese are wild birds and had stopped to feed as they migrate.
bella and geese
She certainly never has boring days, nor does her mother.
After an active day at the zoo, we had our own group of hungry little people. Now that fall has arrived foods made in the oven feel comforting after spending time in the chilly outdoors. This recipe of scalloped potatoes reminds me of childhood and suppers at home. My version has fresh spinach in it but you may substitute it with frozen spinach if it is more readily available.

on the plate

Scalloped potatoes with Spinach

about 1 kg/2 lbs potatoes (or about 9-10 large potatoes)
1 onion, chopped
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
400 g ground beef or pork
dashes of thyme, rosemary, cumin, mustard, garlic, oregano, paprika and coriander
black pepper
200 g/7 oz plain cream cheese
6 dl /2.5 c milk
3 eggs
1 dl / 1/2 c cracker/panko bread crumbs
handful of grated strong cheese (Emmental)

Brown the ground meat with the onion. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbs and spices to taste. Stir in the chopped spinach and take off heat. Wash and thinly slice the potatoes. I decided to leave the skin on since they had such thin skins. If you prefer, you may peel them. Line a 22×33 cm or 9×13” pan with parchment paper. Layer one third of the potatoes so that they are somewhat overlapping. Add one half of the meat and spinach mixture and one third of the cream cheese in dollops.

spinach and potatoesContinue so that in the end there are three layers of overlapping potatoes and two layers of filling. Add the last third of the cream cheese in dollops on top. Whisk the milk, eggs and some more salt and pepper together. Pour over the potatoes.

cream cheese dollopsSprinkle with the grated cheese and bread crumbs. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated (200 C/ 390 F) and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or so that the potatoes are tender.

on the plate2bella

I know, she looks like Serenity herself.

Summer Picnics

by tableofcolors

Sometimes summer makes you wait in Finland, and it feels like it doesn’t really arrive until July. But this year summer arrived at the end of May. We have been enjoying our time at the beach just down the road. One important part of making a trek to the beach is the “picnic”. It is not always fancy depending on our schedule but having a little snack or lunch after the swim is key. Today we didn’t happen to have a snack along, only juice and there was a few protests to be heard!

This peppered smoked Mackerel salad with new potatoes works great at a picnic. If eating at home, I have used freshly smoked fish but when picnicing I have used the canned version and added it on the salad just before serving. It’s filling enough after a long day in the sun but not so heavy to weigh you down.

peppered mackeral salad

Peppered Mackerel Salad

1 kg/2.2 lbs new potatos cooked, cooled and peeled
1 small spring cabbage or kale, chopped
3-4 generous handfuls of chopped lettuce of your choice (Lollo Rossa, arugula etc)
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed
1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed
About 15 pickle slices cut into small pieces
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 filets of smoked and peppered Mackerel

The salad can be assembled either in individual serving containers or in a bowl. Toss the variety of lettuce, cabbage/kale and place as the bottom layer. Next mix the beans and use it as the second layer. Third place the finely chopped pickles and red onion on top of the beans. Cut the potatoes into fourths or sixths depending on their size and place on the onion mixture. Last add the Mackerel and garnish with a few spears of steamed and seasoned asparagus spears. Drizzle on the dressing and enjoy!

Vinaigrette dressing
1 dl/0.4 c olive oil
1/2 dl/0.2 c balsamic vinegar
one handful of fresh dill finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sugar
fine seasalt to taste


Friday Night Pizza

by tableofcolors

Winter hikes and Chicken Wok with Avocado Pasta

by tableofcolors

outdoor fun
We have been having beautiful weather. The sun has been so bright and the sky cloudless. Nevermind that the temperature has hovered close to -30C/-22C. After a long stretch of gray winter colors and clouds, I could not resist. I put on snowshoes since my ski boots were being used by one of the kids and walked across the lake. No one else was out on the lake right then, and it was just me and the vast space and the tracks of a skiier from earlier in the morning.


Every once in a while I would spot the tracks of the hare and the fox and it made me think, did they cross paths last night in the moonlight?
tracks of the hare

Near the shore was a beautiful display of frozen ice crystals that bounced light like little diamonds.

With everyone hungry and rosy cheeked lunch needed to be quick. This avocado pasta with the chicken wok has many nutrients slipped in that the kids didn’t even notice.

chicken wok with avocado pasta 2

400 g/14 oz whole grain pasta
cooked according to directions on the package.

Chicken wok:
400 g/14 oz chicken breast cut into strips
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic minced
2 stalks of celery
1 head of broccoli cut into bite size pieces
1 head of cauliflower cut into bite size pieces
juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp freshly ground chili pepper
freshly ground black pepper
0.8 dl/ 1/3 c sesame seeds
olive oil

Sautée the onions and celery in olive oil. Next add the chicken and after a few minutes add the soy sauce, lemon juice, black pepper and chili pepper.
When the chicken is done move it away from direct heat and add the cauliflower, broccoli and sesame seeds. Sautée for a few more minutes. Serve on top of the avocado pasta.

For the avocado pasta, mash 1-2 avocados and mix with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix with the cooked pasta.

winter sparkles
I’m participating in the online adventure travel and photography magazine’s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for bloggersThis week’s Challenge is: People in Nature!

Laatikko or Casserole

by tableofcolors

Epiphany has traditionally been a time to eat a second Christmas dinner. Sometimes it may be a bit of a varied version but it is a good time to pull out things in the freezer that did not get eaten the first time around. Last Sunday we had asked some friends to come over for dinner. I had a couple carrot and rutabaga casseroles left in the freezer. To tell you the truth, they actually tasted better last weekend than they did at Christmas. Carrot and Rutabaga casseroles are a very traditional part of the Finnish Christmas meal. I emailed my Mom to ask if I could share her recipe since I think that she makes the best ones and she gave me permission. These casseroles are perfect in the winter as a side dish.
The carrot casserole above is before going into the oven. The casserole on the botton right has not been sprinkled with bread crumbs.

Carrot Casserole Porkkanalaatikko

1.5 dl/0.63 cups pearl rice
1/2 l/generous 2 cups water
1/2 l/generous 2 cups milk
1/2 kg/17 oz carrots
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1-2 eggs (beaten)
1 dl/1/2 c fine bread crumbs

Boil the water and add rice. Cook for about 7-10 minutes and add milk. Allow to simmer for another 40 minutes. A double boiler is wonderful for this stage so that the rice porridge does not burn. While the rice porridge is cooking, peel and chop the carrots. Cook them in salted water until tender. Drain the water from the carrots and purée. Add the salt, brown sugar and eggs to the carrots and stir until smooth. Add the carrot mixture to the rice porridge and mix. Pour into greased tins. Sprinkle generously with the bread crumbs and make indentations with a spoon. Cut butter into little cubes and press them into every other indentation. If you would like to save them for future use, freeze them at this stage. Bake them at 160C/325F for 1 to 2 hours(depending on the depth of your casserole tins). If your casseroles are frozen give them at least a day in the fridge to defrost before baking.


Rutabaga casserole Lanttulaatikko

2 rutabaga
1/2 l/generous 2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1.5 dl/0.63 cups fine bread crumbs
2 dl/ 0.85 c milk
2 tbsp molasses
1 egg (beaten)
1/3 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp butter melted

1/dl/1/2 c fine bread crumbs to sprinkle on the casserole
and little butter cubes for the indentations

Peel the rutabaga and cut into wedges. Cook until tender. Purée until smooth and add the bread crumbs. In a separate bowl mix the egg, milk, melted butter, ginger and white pepper. Mix the milk mixture into the puréed rutabaga. Spoon into greased baking tins. Bake at 160C/325F for 1-1.5 hours or until golden brown. The bake time is dependent on the depth of your casserole dish.

Happy New Year

by tableofcolors

Happy New Year 2013! A new year is always exciting, full of the unknown, new opportunities and new adventures.

Between Christmas and New Year’s we were lucky to get a beautiful day. The three older girls tried downhill skiing for the first time. I was impressed with how quickly they learned. The little ones focused on sledding and eating snacks that they well knew we had along.
eating snacks
A tradition has slowly formed with our New Year’s celebration. It started four years ago when our son was born shortly after Christmas. He was a little sad this past year that his birthday is so close to Christmas until we told him that he gets to celebrate his birthday on the only day that firecrackers are allowed in Finland. They are allowed from 6 pm New Year’s Eve to 6 am New Year’s day. It has become a tradition to invite friends and family over for dinner, a little walk outside and firecrackers and later in the evening birthday cake for our little birthday boy.

For dinner we had a shoulder of a lamb and vegetables baked in the oven, a tossed green salad, mashed potatoes with butternut squash and my Gramma’s wild rice. As a child we would have this wild rice side dish at Thanksgiving and on Christmas day. Whenever I visit Minnesota, I always bring back wild rice which is native to the area. Wild rice is high in iron and protein and contains the amino acid lycine. I have recently found it sold here in Finland in a few select shops.


The following recipe is not quite identical to my Gramma’s version. I know that she uses sour cream and since I did not have it on hand I used a mixture of creme fraîche, Turkish yoghurt and a little cream. The final result was still quite similar and delicious.


Wild Rice

2 cups of wild rice cooked according to directions on the package

3 stalks celery

2 onion

mushrooms ( I used a handful of dried chanterelle mushroom that I rehydrated in some water)

200 g/7 oz creme fraîche

0.8 dl/ 1/3 c cream

200 g Turkish yoghurt


black pepper




2 tbsp butter

After the wild rice is cooked and set aside, chop the onion, celery and mushrooms until they are small. Sauté the vegetables in a little butter. When they are nearly done add the herbs. Mix the sautéed herbs with the rice. Add the creme fraîche to the rice and vegetable mixture. Check flavor.

This dish is easy to prepare in advance. At this point the wild rice can be refrigerated(if desired) and the final preparation can be done shortly before serving.

Before serving add the turkish yoghurt and cream and warm until steaming.

Happy Birthday Erik!

Happy Birthday Erik!

Wishing you all a prosperous New Year 2013!

Wishing you all a prosperous New Year 2013!

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.

Macaroni and Cheese

by tableofcolors

Macaroni and Cheese is such a classic. I could almost bet on it that nearly every child in America has had macaroni and cheese for supper at some time. Most have probably had the Kraft box version. Since there are no box versions available here, I got a little excited when I stumbled upon this recipe. Now I could share some the macaroni and cheese nostalgia with my kids. It was a hit! Since it was so popular with our family I thought I would share it with you.

Even if your local grocery store does carry the box version, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with recipe. It was so quick, easy and delicious. A perfect week night dinner!

The recipe to this dish was originally found on a great blog, petit4chocolatier.

The original recipe called for extra sharp White Vermont Cheddar Cheese. Since cheese from Vermont is hard to find on the this side of the pond, I used an extra sharp Cheddar from England.

1 package of sea shell pasta (16 oz/450 g) cooked according to instructions on package.

Creamy Extra Sharp White Vermont Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese (click here for the original recipe.)
1/4 cups/60 g butter
1/2 cups/1.2 dl flour
2 1/2 cups/6 dl milk
4.2 oz/ 120 g Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
6 slices or about 75 g American Cheese (white) (I used Edam cheese)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard (I used 2 tbsp)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp hot sauce

optional topping: salt and pepper, parmesan cheese and parsley

Chopped Cheddar and Edam cheese

To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk for about a minute. Next add the milk. Continue stirring until the sauce has thickened. After it has thickened add in the cheeses, mustard, salt, pepper if desired and hot sauce.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix.

Cheese sauce


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