tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: skating

Cousins

by tableofcolors

When I was a kid, the cousins and aunts and uncles and of course the grandparents would get together at Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes on Mother’s day and Easter. I think we all have special memories from those times at Gramma’s house. We would always eat well, create music and have old-fashioned quality time together without mobiles phones, iPads or even the internet. I’m not necessarily criticizing todays instagram world since I admit that I am an avid user of social media. In fact, today “the cousins” are spread around in different parts of the globe and facebook, whatsapp and instagram offer the best way to keep up with their lives and their interests. Last Sunday had a some of the same feel as we got together at my sister’s house to celebrate our nephew’s birthday. We had a total of ten cousins together.

pinata2They live in the Puu-Käpylä area of Helsinki which is a fairly quiet and quaint neighborhood tucked in amongst busy roads. The houses have been built in 1920-1925 and are designed by Martti Välikangas. I love the cozy neighborhood with its red orche houses and small gardens. Originally they were built for the working class but today all types of people live there. But more important than the houses are the special people inside. Happy birthday to our Godson!

birthday boyWe were treated to a delicious lunch with homemade potato salad, vegetable sticks and dip and hot dogs. Perhaps my sister will share the recipe to her salad. Her cupcakes were decorated with a marzipan hockey stick and candy puck. The buttercream on the cupcakes had less sugar than normally and it had a rich flavor that both children and adults liked. It was a good way to start the day. The temperatures had warmed up and outside there were puddles and wet snow, but a five minutes walk away was the Käpylä rink with synthetic ice. It was the perfect outing for the cousins…and aunts and uncles after all of the treats.

hockey player Collagekids on the iceThe breeze did not have a sting since it was quite balmy for our circumstances (+2 C). Really where ever you might reside, there usually are those little hidden gems and treasures to be found nearby that make everyday life that much more enjoyable. We had an ice rink just down the block when I was a kid. It was one of the hidden gems of my childhood neighborhood in Golden Valley.

mexican lasagne2This recipe is for the balmy winter days. It has has enough heat in it to remind of warmer temperatures. The name, Tortilla or Mexican lasagne, might cause shudders in true Italian or Mexican connoisseurs. In reality it is a Tex-Mex style dish that has taken a bit of inspiration from the layered form of lasagne. It was quite tasty and tasted even better the next day. So even if it is not a genuine original of any cuisine I give it my recommendation.

Mexican Lasagne

400 g/14 oz ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 stalks of celery
1/4 leek, chopped
2 large handfuls of spinach, chopped (I used frozen spinach, from last summers bounty)
1 paprika, chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes (I used the last of my tomatoes from last summer, blanched, peeled and frozen)
400 g/14 oz refried beans
1/2 dl/1/4 c salsa
200 g mozzarella
3 large whole wheat tortillas
sea salt
black pepper
cumin
smoked paprika powder
oregano

Brown the ground beef and add vegetables except for the spinach and crushed tomatoes. Cook until the onion is opaque. Add the refried beans and stir until combined. Next add the tomatoes and spinach and seasonings. Allow to simmer so that the excess moisture evaporates. Take a tart pan the size of the tortillas and lightly spray with oil. Lay the first tortilla on the bottom and spoon one third of the filling on top and sprinkle with one third of the cheese. Continue alternating with the rest of the tortillas, filling and cheese. Bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 15 minutes or so that the cheese has some color. Serve with a spicy chipotle salsa.

mexican lasagne

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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

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