Simple pleasures

Tag: slow-cooker

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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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.


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.


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.

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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

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?