tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: vacation

Queen’s Tart

by tableofcolors

bellasberries2

The inspiration for this post came from a fellow blogger in Sweden and her tart that she made using blackberries. And my little two year-old Isabella and her love for berries was certainly an inspiration as well. My husband snapped these shots of her enjoying her berries at the cabin this summer.

bellas berries3

It’s a favorite past time of the children in the summer to take a long piece of Timothy-grass and slide raspberries and blueberries on it. After their little excursion they might enjoy them while sitting on the porch. I think the most important part of it is that they are their very own berries. Fresh berries always at their prime. But sadly blueberry season is coming to a close, even though I spotted quite a few on a walk yesterday evening. The recipe below can be easily made with frozen berries.

In Finland, when raspberries and blueberries are mixed and served together for example in jam it is called “Queen’s jam”. And so this tart that originally was a plum tart and has been made using blackberries has been now transformed into Queen’s tart.

afternoonh

Queen’s Tart (from the blog Leya, slightly altered)

Gluten-free version

This tart works great with fine grain gluten-free flour. I made a double batch of the recipe below and made a gluten-free version with 1/3 of the batter and regular with the rest. It turned out great and the difference in flavor was very minimal. When baking with gluten-free flour it is helpful to lower the oven temperature a little since the baked goods tend to get color a little faster.

Blueberries and raspberries so that the bottom of the tart pan is covered with two layers of berries.
1 and 1/2 dl/0.6 c sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp sugar
(1 tbsp potato or corn starch)
1 dl/0.4 c flour (or gluten-free flour)
1 tsp baking powder
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dl/0.8 c whipped cream

Butter your tart pan. If using frozen berries mix with potato or corn starch and 4 teaspoons of sugar.

berries

Whip the eggs with the 1.5 dl/0.6 cups of sugar until a light foam. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Whip your cream and fold it into the batter. Pour the batter over the berries and bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 20 minutes. The original recipe called for a bake time of about 45 minutes but this is probably due to shape and depth of the tart pan. I used a wide (22 cm/8 and 1/2 inch) and shallow pan. Enjoy with vanilla sauce or ice cream.

queens tart

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Fiskars

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.

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.

sausage

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.

2013-08-09 20.33.05

Midsummer and Crepes

by tableofcolors

During midsummer it seems as if our internal clock goes into a summer mode. Usually the kids are in bed at 8.30 pm and the wake up is at 7 am during the school year. But once school is out it takes about three days to go into summer schedule where bedtime is closer to 10 pm and wake-up around 9 am for the kids. During midsummers bedtime tends to go even a bit later. Mom, however prefers an earlier bedtime for the kids and after the weekend we try to aim for the 10 pm bedtime.  It is so easy to lose track of time when the day is so long and light. This midsummers we were at home enjoying our new little Hugo, who has been a super baby. We made crêpes on a couple of occasions, as they seem to go hand-in-hand with summer, spending time together and have won the “kid’s choice” award in our house. Making crêpes is somewhat of a whole family affair. In Finnish crêpes are called lettu, lätty or räiskäle, depending on the region or the dialect.

Our little fisherman had gone fishing with Dad one evening. He was quite proud coming home with two rainbow trout.
fishing
We had oven-baked fish one evening and for the next evening we made savory nettle crêpes and rainbow trout filling with the leftover fish. Smoked Salmon could be easily substituted in and would also make a wonderful filling.
lohi crepe

Rainbow Trout filled savory Crêpes

Crêpes

1.5 l/6.3 c milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
2.4 dl/1 c dried nettle
11.8 dl/5 c flour
4 eggs
1/2 dl/1/4 c oil

Mix the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fry on medium hot griddle with a little oil. This is a fairly large batter so you may prefer to halve it to better fit your needs. Serve warm with the Rainbow Trout filling.

Rainbow Trout filling

160 g/5.6 oz Rainbow Trout or Salmon
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
200g/7 oz sour cream
handful of fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
salt
little mustard according to taste

A couple of evening after having our Rainbow Trout-filled crêpes, I was trying to think of a evening snack/supper after a long day of being outdoors and swimming. Since my husband had just gotten our summer kitchen fixed up we decided to give it a try and so Crêpes or lettuja won the popular vote. This time we made the sweeter version.

letun paisto

Sweet Crêpes

1.5 l/6.3 c milk
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
11.8 dl/5 c flour
4 eggs
1/2 dl/1/4 c oil

Combine ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fry on a medium-hot griddle until golden brown. Serve warm. Feel free to halve the recipe if making for a smaller crowd. Serve with a topping of your choice, berries, whipped cream, jams or preserves, ice cream or a simple sprinkle of sugar.

lettu

A Girls’ Weekend in Wintery Helsinki

by tableofcolors

It is common to plan a get-together with friends, but until a date is set in the calendar it often just gets pushed further into the future. We have a dear friend that lives on the outskirts of Helsinki. She is also the Godmother of our oldest daughter. During one phone call we decided to get our calendars out and set a date. We have been friends for many years and so when we meet up, we just pick up from where we left off. It is a comfortable type of friendship. The plan was that I would take our two oldest with me for the weekend. They counted nights and were a little antsy from anticipation. I too, was excited for our girls’ weekend but I have learned to conceal my anticipation a little better. We had wonderful weather both days and so we did a little skating, took long saunas, went out to eat, did a little shopping, enjoyed Sunday brunch and celebrated the birthday of our nine-year old.
beef in a fresh ginger sauce

On Saturday we ate at the Empire Plaza, a Chinese restaurant in the Kamppi shopping center. It is a sit-down restaurant that has friendly service and it is not overpriced. We have been there several times and will come back again sometimes in the future.
chopsticks
Our birthday girl decided before the meal arrived that she would use chopsticks. I was quite impressed that she stuck with it for the entire meal. Even the peas went down without complaint (she is our pickiest eater). Maybe we will need to invest in a pair if it makes eating easier!
skating
In the past few years, brunches have really gained popularity in Helsinki. If I lived closer to Helsinki I wouldn’t mind exploring all of these brunch possibilities as a hobby. After searching the net we decided on going to Cafe Piritta. They are best known for their outdoor terrace that looks over a bay of water and the city of Helsinki. If we would have had our snow pants on, it would have been lovely to sit outdoors. Many strolled across the ice and stopped for a cup of coffee on the terrace.
Cafe Piritta
ice trail
ice trail 2

We arrived just before noon, and indoors the place was hopping. We fortunately found a table and did not have to wait. Reservations should have been made a little earlier and since we called that morning we were not able to reserve a table. The savory brunch menu included a soup, hors d’oeuvre-type little open faced sandwiches, a selection of breads, a feta salad, a potato salad, Carelian pies, mini croissants, meatballs, sausages, omelets and chicken. There was so much to choose from that I did not end up trying the meatballs, sausages, omelets or chicken. They were popular with the kids. The dessert table offered a fresh fruit salad, ice cream, cake and a whipped lingonberry porridge. We left with quite full stomachs and if we would have been dressed properly a Sunday stroll across the ice would have suited perfectly.
cafe piritta

Next time the place I would like to explore for brunch is the whimsical French style flower shop and coffee shop, Fleuriste.
Maybe the opportunity will come sooner than expected, you never know!

Girls like treasure hunts too

by tableofcolors

I have chatted with my friend that often when women take off for the weekend, we have the longest list of things that need to be accomplished. A lined water-proof fall jacket for one, rubber boots for another, underwear for the whole family, indoor gym shoes for our oldest, socks for myself and the list goes on and on. When we return home from our treasure hunt we are not necessarily well rested and possibly a bit crabby because so much money was spent, even if it was due to necessity.

This time we decided to take our girls on a treasure hunt around Helsinki. We were not necessarily hunting for material things (even though a few things were found) rather for experiences and to enjoy the last days of vacation from school. School starts here next week. Our entourage included two ladies and five little ladies. Each with their own personality and lots of nervous excitement and anticipation.

Eat & Joy, Muu milk bar and coffee shop
Smoked fish salad

When we arrived in Helsinki, we had seven hungry bellies. We decided to try the Muu milk bar and coffee shop which is situated in downtown Helsinki in the basement level of the Kluuvi shopping center. They serve a soup daily and smoked fish salads. We ordered the European perch soup for all of us. The lunch comes with a salad, organic bread made in their own wood-burning oven, farm-fresh milk and a cup of coffee or tea. The only down side after we had paid for our meals was that the soup was nearly gone. We arrived a little after two in the afternoon. Fortunately the staff was very nice and everyone got something to eat. The kids ate the soup and the adults had smoked fish salads. The potato rieska (flat bread) was a favorite.

Now we were ready for an adventure. We headed to the harbor and took a ferry to the Suomenlinna sea fortress which is also an Unesco World Heritage Site. It is an affordable place to visit since there is no admission. The ferry over costs five euros for adults and two fifty for children (round trip).

The fortress was built in the 1700s to defend the Eastern part of the Swedish empire. During Russian rule Suomenlinna was used to defend the sea passage to St. Petersburg. It is full of cannons for the girls to climb on, tunnels to explore and walls to run on.

Suomenlinna, sea fortress

Exploring the tunnels

Friendly ghosts

Sunday morning we headed to flea market in Hietalahti. Usually kids get told to only look and not touch. Flea markets are meant for digging and touching, except for glassware. We even found a few treasures to take home with us.

Hunting for treasures

Kids can sometimes be picky eaters but we thought exposure to different tastes is always a good thing and so we had lunch at a Nepalese restaurant, Kantipur. After we ordered, the kids asked many questions about Nepal and the paintings of Himalayan scenery. The ladies had Bhendo Khursani or lamb in a ginger, capsicum, soy and spicy chili sauce. The little ladies had Kukhurmo Korma or chicken in a tomato and cream sauce. The little ladies really impressed us! Quite a few of them cleaned their plates. Lunch was served with fresh Nan bread which was popular with everyone. “When would I make Nan bread at home?” was the next request.

Himalayan scenery

Kids are great because often they don’t need toys, they come up with games to play in almost every setting.

Jumping from rock to rock in Kaivopuisto

The bungee jumpers had a captive audience.

Bungee jumping

Although we didn’t find the new backpack for school we did find a few keepsakes to put into our pockets and many experiences richer, we headed home ready for a new school year to start.

“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”
― Ansel Adams

St. John’s or Juhannus

by tableofcolors

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In Finland the celebration of St. John’s is also a celebration of midsummer. The cities become deserted as people flee to their summer cottages to spend time with family and friends. Food and drink is in abundance.

The ideal summer cottage is on a lake with a sauna. Birch trees line the yard creating some shade. It is easy to lose track of time since it is light day or night. There are no strict bedtimes for kids and they enjoy the lack of a schedule. This image is familiar from tourist magazines but I do think that people actually strive for this ideal to create a balance to the long dark winter.

In the US, paid vacations are fairly minimal in comparison to Finnish standards. The idea that an entire population is on vacation for a month after St. John’s was an adjustment for me. Employees receive “vacation money” in June to help cover the costs of vacation. Since moving here I have gotten used to planning my vacation for July and I really cannot object. Note: remember to take care of any current business before St. John’s. Most bureaus do not function properly during this month.

One mid-summer our family ventured into Helsinki to go visit the zoo. The zoo was populated by the tourists and us. It was an especially memorable trip for the whole family. The male lion gave us a display of his majestic greatness. The roar made us happy that there were strong metal bars between us.

This year I was lucky to spend St. John’s day with some of my siblings. The weekend included a trip to the beach, making food on the grill, enjoying saunas, and laughing until my cheeks hurt.

Recipe for Raspberry Brownie Trifles:

For the trifles you will need the following the ingredients: Brownies cut into small chunks (uses half a pan of the recipe below), 4 dl or 1 3/4 c whipping cream and 200 g or 7 oz. cream cheese combined, sugar to taste. Raspberries and brownie crumbs. Yield 15 servings.

Place about 4 to 5 brownie chunks on the bottom of the cup, spoon a large dollop of the whipped cream-cream cheese mixture as the next layer. Let trifles set in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Garnish with raspberries and a few brownie crumbs. Enjoy with coffee!

The brownie recipe is adapted from a Pirkka magazine recipe 5/2009:
100 g or 3.5 oz dark chocolate
50 g or 1,75 oz butter
2 eggs
1 dl sugar or slightly under 1/2 c sugar
1/2 dl or 1/4 c dark cocoa

1.5 dl or 3/4 c flour
1 tl or tsp of vanilla extract (vanilla sugar maybe also used)
dash of salt

In a saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate until a smooth mixture forms. Remove from heat. Whip eggs and sugar until it is a firm foam. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cocoa, and salt. Take turns folding small parts of the dry ingredients and melted butter/chocolate mixture into the egg batter. Pour into a lined spring pan 26cm (approx. 10 inches) and bake at a 175 C or 350 F for about 10 minutes. Don’t overbake. Place the extra brownies into the freezer for later use.

This brownie recipe is intended to be used as a base for cakes and not by itself. It makes a great base for chocolate or fresh berry mousse-style cakes.