tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: times gone by

Friendship in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

My kitchen often reaches a state of mess, or perhaps I should state it another way. It attains a lived-in feel. As I write, I can hear my oldest and fourth and fifth oldest making carrot sticks and dip for a snack and the youngest is asking for samples. Occasionally his voice becomes high-pitched if the hand-outs do not come fast enough. With so many little ones and hands, messes are bound to happen. But all around the kitchen are little tokens from friends or from my children. Tokens of friendship and love, and they brighten up my kitchen even if there is a grand mess to greet my eyes. Messes can fortunately be cleaned up.

hay papertowel holder and flower stand

I used to have an issue with my paper towel roll, that I would tuck it into this drawer or that cupboard. It just didn’t look appealing to my eye, until I received this Hay paper towel holder from some friends for my birthday. Everyday I enjoy this little thing in my kitchen and move it around to where there are sticky little hands and bright eyes looking at me, or a spot of juice on the floor. Underneath the flower pot is a blue wooden flower stand made with love by one of my daughters at school. She had chosen the paint color and thought it might bring a pop of color.

japanese graterThis Japanese grater was a gift from a friend and a souvenir from the Helsinki design expo, Habitare. The idea has been brought from Japan, but the grater has been made locally about an hour and half away, in Porvoo. It is so pretty that it can hold a block of parmesean cheese at the table so that each may grate their own cheese on to their pasta or salad.

green tea marimekko teapotOne day a friend stopped over and brought me a little bag of the most heavenly tea. Many teas smell wonderful but often the flavor does not match up. This green tea with little pieces of dried strawberries tastes like it smell. It is from a little tea shop in Helsinki called The Ounce. And as the name suggests, they sell tea by the ounce which is certainly a rarity in Finland. The Marimekko teapot is one of my favorite little things and is perfect for brewing tea as it has a ceramic sift on the inside that is easy to remove and wash. The pot came to be ours by accident. We were buying a group Christmas present and I noticed that they had great sale at Marimekko in November that was held on only that particular weekend. So without consulting any of the others, I popped in and bought it. Well it came to be, that not everyone was as keen on the idea of a teapot and together we came up with another good idea. And so in the end, I had a teapot all wrapped up pretty perched on my wood-burning oven. I asked my husband, if it should be our Christmas present that year. Really I didn’t mind, as I was in love with the pot and had been eyeing for a few years already.

party cakes with chocolate garnish

Last weekend we celebrated my father-in-law’s sixtieth birthday. My mother-in-law had made the cakes, but asked for a little help with the garnishes. With a little help of a youtube video I decided on these chocolate circles.

circles for chcocolate garnishes

Lay a sheet of foil on your work surface. Next, using a piece of parchment paper, cut out circles of different size. Melt and temper your chocolate. I feel that tempering the chocolate is the most challenging part of the process. Basically tempering chocolate involves melting chocolate that is not higher in than 70% in cocoa solids, and then cooling it down while mixing or working the chocolate. Basically what happens is the fatty acid crystals separate and in the tempering process they brought back together giving them all of the wonderful qualities that are desired of chocolate. In Finland, I usually use the Fazer taloussuklaa or baking chocolate which has a cocoa solid percentage of about 55%. I’ve noticed that chocolates with a higher percentage do not behave the way I wish. I have used these two sites as my tempering guide when working with chocolate. Chocolate tempering guide by cookbook author David Lebovitz and Chocolate #101: Tempering at home, by the lovely Celia who also hosts In My Kitchen every month.

diy chocolate garnishesThen very carefully remove the paper and allow to harden.

drying chocolate garnishes

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably. –William Penn

Aggie & Ray's cousins etcTo end I thought to share a couple of keepsake photos that I have been looking at. The one above is of cousins having a good time. I wonder what the occasion might have been, might it have been a wedding? They certainly were dressed up splendid.

Elma & SofieAnd in many previous posts I have followed the travels and stories of great-aunt Elma. Perhaps some of the photos that have survived can be attributed to Sofie Wuollet who is standing next to Elma in the photo above. Sofie was a photographer capturing many images that had an every-day quality to them in a time where most photos are quite posed. But how lucky we are today to have these photos. Friendship carries, even if your kitchen is a mess.

“My best friend is a man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.” –Aristotle

This post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series, check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

 

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Motherhood in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

Do you ever have days when you reflect back over the past year or years. Think of whether the job you are doing is good enough. School just ended for our children. Traditionally in Finland the children and parents will sing the suvivirsi or summer hymn. In my kitchen I had children practicing the song for their last day of school last Saturday. Some schools will have a hour long spring program at the school starting in the morning and other schools have spring church which closes their school year. After the spring program or church the teachers will hand out the report cards in the church yard or classrooms. We have children in two schools and so we have a bit of both traditions. The video clip below is of the children and adults singing the suvivirsi at the Kannus church.

The song pulls on my heart strings. The children are so excited to give their teachers little gifts and start summer vacation and on the other hand I wonder where another year went. Two of our six children have severe dyslexia, and I often find that on the last day I wonder if we had done enough or if there might have been another opportunity that we might have realized or delved into. I have found that with dyslexia success needs to be found outside the standard measures of academia. Often they know how to be quite creative as thinking outside of the box is norm for them rather than the exception. It is, I believe the secret to their success. But finding that secret and the toolbox of skills is like a long treasure hunt. Every stone needs to be turned and every method tried but fortunately there is always next year and a new opportunity to try again. But carefree summer is here. We’ll put it all aside for moment and just enoy lunches eaten out on the patio and the rustle of the leaves on the trees and maybe when it warms up, we’ll go for a swim.

last day of school collageThe last day of school is also graduation day for the high schools or lukio. This year our trusted babysitter graduated and received her white cap as is the tradition here. So in my kitchen I had a gluten-free and milk-free cake that I made for her graduation party. Congratulations and best wishes Lotta!

gradution in finlandGluten-free and Milk-free chocolate cake

3 eggs
1 dl/85 g/ 1/2 c sugar
3/4 dl/ 50 g/ 1/3 c brown sugar
225 g/8 oz light naturally gluten-free flour mix (I used Viljatuote)
75 g/2.5 oz dark unsweetened cocoa
dash of salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c olive oil

20 cm/ 8 inch cake form, buttered with vegetable fat and floured with gluten-free flour

Beat the eggs and sugars until it is light in color and thick. Fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and salt. Mix in the olive oil. Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and bake in the oven at 170 C/340 F for about 22 minutes or until the test skewer comes out clean. Do not over bake, as the texure is somewhere between a cake and a brownie.

If your cake does not need to be a milk-free version, you may use dairy whipped cream. For this version, I used a soy cream.

Frosting

2 dl/ generous cup of heavy whipping cream or whippable soy cream
sugar to taste

rhubarbI can’t tell you how much joy spring and the beginning of summer bring. It is so much fun to watch as plants grow and over years become larger, fuller and produce more fruit. Our apple trees we planted last summer have a few delicate blooms on them. Another measure of time. In the very back of the yard is the new home for the rhubarb. We noticed that they did not really like the planting box that was in direct sunlight and prefers the partly shady patch under the trees in our Pikkumetsä or Little Forest as the kids call it. It truly is little. We built our house on what used to be an agricultural field and a mere fifty years ago was a lake bottom. In the back triangular corner of our lot there is a little group of trees, five in total and some shrubs and tall grasses. That is the Little Forest. And so, the other day I went to go inspect their growth and decided to make Gramma Reeni’s Rhubarb Tart, which has become a tradition in the early summer. Gramma Reeni or Irene is my Great-grandmother and lived many years outside of Rochester, Minnesota. The photo below is taken before she was married. What a pretty lady. I’m assuming that the photo would have been taken in Southern Minnesota, as travel required a bit more effort than today and was not quite as common.

gramma reeni collage This time around I served the tart with whipped cream to which I had added a carton of créme fraîche and just a touch of sugar. It got rave reviews as always with this tart, as it is a foolproof recipe and one that even those who do not like rhubarb might like. Click on the link above to go to the original recipe posted two years ago.

hobby horse

In my kitchen yesterday, I had bits and pieces of string and yarn everywhere. The situation was, that there where not enough hobby horses. And so we had to make a couple more, or rather the kids made a couple more. I happened to have a pair of my husband’s wool socks that he has not used for probably thirteen years, if ever and so they were now donated to the children to be repurposed. Erik ran to the Little Forest and hauled a couple of sticks back to the garage which I helped saw and remove the bark to reveal a smoother surface. I found some left over cotton filling and wool socks that had holes in them to be used as the filling, and although I am not really an active sewer or knitter, we did have enough wool yarn for them to make a mane. The project turned into an all-day project, and every once in a while I would leave my baking that I was doing in the kitchen to help out or be their judge for the competition complete with hurdles.

hobby horse raceshobby horse race track demoIrene and DarleneIn the photo is Great-gramma Reeni and Gramma Darlene as a baby. I suppose even then, or perhaps always, mothers have reflected on their success as mothers. Some days we are more successful than others, but truly I think we try almost harder on the days we are not.

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

Thing One and Thing Two

by tableofcolors

I obviously have never been a little boy and to be truthful I was a little nervous when I was expecting Erik as to how I would cope as a Mom to a boy after our girls. My qualms were unfounded. Such sweethearts my boys are even if they do keep me on my toes both in mind and body. Erik often will have facts and quiz me during the day. I took him grocery shopping the evening before his party so that he could decide which chips and soft drinks we should buy. He decided on “Sahara” chips as it had a picture of a desert on the package. As we walked down an aisle, he would stop to inspect a package of macaroni or some sausage and explain his world to me. He told me about how the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem and quized me to see if I knew what prehistoric species are still living after the “turmoil of the dinosaurs” as he calls it. I fortunately had been pop-quized on the subject before and so I passed. If you do not happen to know that the alligator and gar are both prehistoric…and he went on to explain that from the scales of the gar, indigenous people made arrowheads. FYI

erik and snowmenAs we were in the baking section there was a package that had a picture of macarons. He stopped and very dramatically exclaimed, “This is what I have always wanted for my birthday!” And yes, indeed it would be have been a great idea as his cake was to be a hockey cake and so the macarons colored black could have been little pucks. But my time was running short and so I promised that we would try to remember next year. Fortunately he was perfectly pleased with the melting snowmen.

melting snowmenI happened to have about one pound or half a kilo of gingerbread dough still in the freezer leftover from Christmas. This helped speed things up considerably. You may find the recipe to the gingerbread here. I thawed out the gingerbread dough so that it was still cool but not frozen and rolled it out and made cutouts with a round cookie cutter.

Melting snowmen

24 round cookies (ginger, sugar or a cookie of your choice)
2 egg whites
powdered sugar
12 large marshmallows cut into halves
50 g/1 and 3/4 oz dark chocolate, melted

Buttercream
Basic buttercream (from the book, Maailman Parhaat Kakut by Barbara Maher)
125 g/4.4 oz unsalted butter
250 g/8.8 oz confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk or cream to make it more pliable
a few drops of red and yellow food coloring for making the orange noses

Separate the egg whites from the yolks and mix enough powdered sugar with the whites so that the frosting becomes a soft white with some consistency. Make sure that it is not too thick so that ou are able to squeeze through a parchment paper icing bag or a plastic bag with the tip cut off.

First make the outline of the puddle for the melting snowman on each cookie. By the time all twentyfour outlines have been made, fill it in with zig zag line of frosting. You do not need to fill in every spot as the frosting will spread out. If needed, use a palet knife or a butter knife to help spread the frosting out. Place the marshmallow where you would like the head to be. Next melt the chocolate and make an icing bag out of parchment paper. Spoon the melted chocolate into it and make button, eyes, a smile, and stick hands.

Next make the buttercream and color it a desired orange. Make another icing bag out of parchment paper or use a plastic bag with the tip cut off, give each snowman a carrot nose and a scarf.

making melting snowman cookiesDuring the first few minutes of the party, the house was quite quiet and I was just beginning to wonder if the next two hours would actually pass in considerable peace. I shouldn’t have wondered. As they warmed up we barely had to come up with party games as they had a fast paced game of indoor tag so that their cheeks were quite rosy from the exercise. Even some of our girls got involved and soon there were about eleven kids zipping about. I know that photos below are not quite in chronological order with the previous post of Elma and represent the next generation when they were children, but I promise that I will get back to Elma and all of the interesting stories that belong to her era. When these photos of my Grampa and his cousins arrived in my inbox, I felt like they could have just as easily walked in my door for a wild game of tag with their irresistable grins. I kind of felt like I had Thing One and Thing Two come over from the Cat and the Hat, but just add in Things Three through Nine to the count.

Anderson cousins

Anderson cousins

“There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Jim and Don

Jim and Don

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” -Willian Shakespeare

 

Anderson cousins

Anderson cousins

And I do believe that they might have like my melted snowman gingerbread cookies just as well as Thing One through Nine did at the party the other night.

In my kitchen in the bleak mid-winter

by tableofcolors

My kitchen is still full of the remnants of Christmas and New Years. The tree in Finland is traditionally taken down after epiphany and so it will be up for a few more days, perhaps a week. When we put the tree up, our Hugo, who is now a year and a half was in awe and WOW and Hieno (nice) became his new words. In January there are still little angels in my kitchen that that fly like fairies across the house and ocassionally giggle very loud and have a sparkle in the corner of their eyes as they jump off the high stool and do many tricks with considerable grace but not necessarily very angel-like in manner. How I love their company.

angel black and whiteIn my kitchen this month I have been spending some time looking through old photographs and reading and rereading emails from my Grampa. The photographs are treasures and when I spend time in the kitchen cooking or putting away dishes it offers the perfect moment of my very own that no one can really steal, to let the mind and imagination soar back into a different era. How I wished as a kid that it might have been possible to travel in time. I suppose back then I had very romantic notions of the olden days. I have sometimes wondered how I would have actually managed, now that I am used to all of the modern conveniences of life and society.

 

Anderson Store in Minneapolis circa 1906

Anderson Store in Minneapolis circa 1906

Like most immigrant groups, the Finns created their own Finntowns in communities. Minneapolis had one of the larger Finnish populations. What was new to me was that many of the Finns that arrived were looking to homestead land in Cokato, which is about 50 miles West of Minneapolis and used Minneapolis as their big city. This took place in the 1860 to 1880s and if I remember correctly some of the Wuollets had also settled in the Cokato area. The pattern of life that was created was that the men would come into the city to work in brick-yards, sawmills and carpenters as well as other jobs and then return home in regular intervals. After the 1880s many of the children of the homesteaders moved and settled permanently in the city. I referenced the History of Finnish Community pages and it mentioned the grocery of Isaac Anderson on 238 Humboldt Avenue. The picture above is of the shop and was taken in 1906. My great-grandmother is the baby in the arms of great-great-grandma Ida Anderson.

Wedding portrait of Isaac and Ida Anderson

Wedding portrait of Isaac and Ida Anderson

There is an interesting story behind the sirname of Anderson. When Isaac and his brother John Kauvosaari emigrated from Finland the official at the port of entrance asked for their name. They replied with their names and I am assuming that the Finnish name of Kauvosaari was quite difficult to the non-Finnish tongue. The official next asked what their father’s name was and when they replied, Antti Kauvosaari the official gave them a new last name of Anderson.

Humboldt Avenue 238 Minneapolis Anderson store

Anderson store at an earlier date

Inside the Anderson store

Inside the Anderson store

I’m not quite sure exactly the kind of butter-nut bread that they might have been selling, but just a few days ago when we had ice-skating weather I was making a whole-grain bread with spelt and buckwheat. I rolled the dough into a quarter of an inch thick sheet and then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pecans and dried sour cherries. It tasted wonderful after all of the rich holiday foods and the fresh air and tag that was taking place on the ice.

 

pähkinäleipäplaying tag

Whole-grain bread with sour cherries and pecans
3 dl/1 and 1/4 c warm water
1/2 block of fresh yeast (25 g) or 1/2 sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 dl/ 1/2 c spelt flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c buckwheat flour
about 5 dl/generous 2 c whole-grain bread flour with cracked wheat (8% fiber content)
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c olive oil

bread with sour cherries, pecans, spelt  and buckwheat
Mix the yeast in with the luke warm water. I usually have my fresh yeast frozen as I buy it in bulk and that way there is always some on hand and it doesn’t grow old. I learned the trick from my mother-in-law. I just add the frozen block to the warm water and let it sit for about 5-7 minutes and then add in the honey, salt, buckwheat flour and spelt flour. I used my stand mixer freeing up my hands and allowed for it to knead on the lowest setting. It is better to allow the flours to absorb as much of the water as possible, so haste is not encouraged when adding the flour. Add in little by little the whole grain bread flour. The dough should be soft and may be a little sticky. Allow the stand mixer to knead thoroughly or alternatively you may knead by hand. Add in the oil. If the dough seems much too sticky, add more flour to your liking. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Spray a bread tin with a non-stick spray and warm the oven to 200 C/390 F. Once the dough has risen, sprinkle the counter with flour and tip the dough on top. Gently roll the dough out and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with the pecans and dried sour cherries. Roll up the dough forming a log and place into the bread tin. Allow to rise once again and back for about 20 or 25 minutes or so that the bottom of the bread has a nice color and sounds a bit hollow when knocked with your knuckle. Enjoy toasted with butter and maybe even a drizzle of honey. Perfect after skating fare.

angel wingsThis post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series. Check out her blog for links into the kitchens of bloggers from around the world.