tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: vegetarian

Carrot top pesto

by tableofcolors

girl and organic garden produce

One thing leads to another. The past several years these little black bugs have eaten our cabbage and kale seedlings. And the end result is that these only the tough middle stem is left standing with a leaf that looks like lace as it is mostly filled with holes and turning whitish and sorry looking. This year my husband put a garden fabric on the planting box out back and the outcome has been completely different. I would have never thought that such a simple solution would yield such a change! Now they are vibrantly growing. Fortunately the kids love kale chips! We have several different kinds of leafy greens that all belong to the cabbage family and we totally forgot that we had planted broccoli as well, until this morning we spied small broccoli forming amongst the dark green leaves. We had accidentally taken a few of the bottom leaves and added to our cabbage stew yesterday. But I don’t think any harm was done.garden kale

Yesterday we decided to make a lightly sautéed garden stew. Cabbage soup raises mixed feelings amongst the public, especially if the cabbage has been cooked for a very long time. That is why I decided to lightly sauté all of the vegetables and brown the meat before putting it all together and finishing it off with a short cook time. I thought it was delicious.

garden fresh produce

Lightly sautéed kale stew

a variety of kale or cabbage
5-6 carrots, grated
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 vegetable bouillon cube (I used an organic bouillon cube that has many garden varieties of herbs in it)
1 liter/ 2 pints of water
salt and black pepper to taste
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
400 g/ 14 oz minced meat (We happened to have fresh ground horse meat on hand, so that is what we used)

Mince the onions and garlic. Set aside. Grate the carrot and chop the kale. Brown the minced meat along with the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. In the same pan lightly sautée the kale and carrots for a few minutes in a bit of olive oil. Set aside. Put all of the sautéed vegetables and browned minced meat into a large pot. Pour the water over it along with the vegetable bouillon cube. Bring to a simmer. Season with fresh parsley and salt and pepper. Finish with the apple cider vinegar and check taste. Allow to simmer until preferred level of doneness. I preferred my soup to have a bit more texture and for the kids I cooked it a bit more. Total cook time was about 20 minutes.

cabbage stew

I had a large bunch of beautifully green carrot tops in wrapped up in a paper towel and tucked in my fridge. Ann from Eat Simply Eat Well suggested that I use them for a pesto. I did a little research online and found the most lovely recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich with roasted carrots and carrot green pesto inspired by the Happyolks blog. It was so delicious that I have not had such a good sandwich in a long time. Even the kids loved them.

garden fresh carrots and sourdough bread

Grilled Cheese sandwiches with roasted carrots and carrot green pesto

You will need:

Good quality sourdough bread and good quality cheese. I used Oltermanni which is similar to the Danish Havarti in texture and flavor.

Roasting the carrots:
Wash about 4-5 small carrots per sandwich.
Leave a bit of the greens on them, as they become delicious and crispy in the oven.
A drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast in oven for about 20 minutes at 160 C/320 F or until the tip are crispy and the carrots have a bit of color.

organic carrots

While the carrots are roasting, make the carrot green pesto.

Carrot Green pesto

a couple of large bunches of carrot greens, washed
2 cloves of garlic
juice of one lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the stems of the carrot greens and use only the leafy parts. Place them into a blender of food processor. Add in the garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Add in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend for a few more seconds. Check flavor.

roasted carrot and carrot top pesto sandwich

Slice thin slices of bread. The bread I used was a homemade sourdough with about 60% wholegrain making the texture of the bread somewhat heavy. That is why I opted for thinner slices.

Butter the outer side of the slice and smear some of the carrot green pesto on the other side. Place butter side down onto a pan that is medium hot. Add a layer of cheese and then 4-5 roasted carrots. Place another layer of cheese before placing the second slice of bread, pesto side down. Fry until golden brown and the cheese has started to melt. Flip over and continue to fry until the other side is a golden brown. Enjoy!

 

Sand sculptures and picnic lunches

by tableofcolors

School was about to begin and we decided with another Mom friend of mine to take the kids on one last outing before they would need to go to school. Just about an hour away is Lappeenranta, which is right next to the Russian border and is has been built on the shores of the great lake area, the Saimaa. Every year the city opens a park full of sand sculptures. This year the theme was heroes. There were all sorts of heroes featured, superheroes from the comic books, athletes and everyday heroes such as doctors. Since the beginning of the summer had been so rainy, some of the sculptures had suffered a bit and were being fixed up.

lappenranta hiekkalinna

It was not long after we arrived and it was almost noon, so we decided to give the kids a little snack of watermelon, as we would have our picnic lunch later in the afternoon. My four year old was sitting on the bench eating her watermelon when a reporter for the local YLE (Finnish national public radio) radio station stopped by and asked if she interview one of the children. Bella just happened to be right there.

Have you been here before? “Yes, many times.”

Did you think the sculptures are better this year than before? “Yes, much better.”

Which is your favorite sculpture? “That castle over there” (It was the only sculpture that we had had a chance to look at since we had just arrived.)

What is your favorite thing to do here? “Eating” (munching on her watermelon, all through the interview)

I do have to mention, that she had never been to Lappeenranta before nor had we ever visited the sand sculptures before. She just conveniently came up with answers to the questions. After the interview, we had to let the reporter in on this little detail. I’m not sure I would have handled an interview so smoothly at four years old. At least she did give her correct name and age, when asked! And I forgot to take a photo of the whole deal. I was concentrating so hard on listening to her answers that I completely forgot even if I was holding my camera the entire time.

lappeenranta sand sculpturesrakuuna dragonlappenranta finland sand sculptures

It was quite late into the afternoon before we left the sand sculptures and went to find a greener park with shade for our picnic. We found a park that had a pavilion that the kids enjoyed creating their own performances and large trees that brought us a bit of shade after being in the sun all afternoon.

IMG_1745
roasted vegetable salad

I had made a salad bar style salad, with a basic salad base and then different options all in their own containers. This was the most convenient since we had different age eaters and sometimes the little ones haven’t really learned to eat nuts or if there is someone with a dietary restriction everyone is able to build a salad to their taste.

Roasted Vegetable salad

Roasted vegetables

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 generous handful of string beans, washed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepapre the vegetables. Peel and cut the sweet potato into sticks. Wash the string beens and cut the tips off. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until tender and the vegetables have gained a bit of color at 180 C/ 350 F. Allow to cool and then place into a separate container.

Salad
Mixed greens (Romano, kale, curly endive lettuce, spinach…)
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Grapes, sliced in half
Cucumber, cubed
A few sliced strawberries (I happened to find a few last strawberries in my patch)
light vinaigrette dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, handful of parsely, or other gardern herbs, finely chopped)

Toss the salad and place into a larger container.

In separate containers pack with: roasted and shelled peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries, cheese cubed, pumpkin seeds, or anything else that takes your fancy.

picnic lunch

Lappenranta picnic

fixing the sand sculptures

October

by tableofcolors

There is something quite soothing about October. There are still some leaves on the trees although they have become a bit sparse and the foliage has turned quite bright. In another two weeks those leaves will be gone. Up in the sky the geese are flying in a v-shape formation. It is as if nature is giving permission to turn in for the night a bit earlier. The sleep has felt so good and is deep in quality. It is dark in the mornings when I awake and start to make my rounds, gently shaking the shoulders of my sleepyheads. Some of them wake-up easier than others. I’ve thought of maybe buying a wake-up lamp (sarastuslamppu) that gently makes the room brighter replicating dawn. It might be the solution on dark mornings for the ones that just are not morning people.

migrating geeseIn October my kitchen has pumpkins and squash and a bright soup to warm up the chilly afternoons.

pumpkins and squashThe soup is quite simple. I peeled and removed the seeds from both the pumpkin and butternut squash and cut in into cubes. Then I just barely covered the cubes with water and added a container of stock that I had in my freezer. I allowed it to boil until tender. I then added some salt and freshly ground black pepper, a bit of smoked paprika and one container of cream cheese. I brought it back to a boil and thickened it with cornstarch mixed into water and allowed it to come back to a boil once again.

pumpkin soup collageWe have had some freezing weather during the nights. The kale is still in the garden as it can handle a bit of frost. Some say the flavor is better after a little frost. What is your experience with growing kale? After all of our attempts to grow little seedlings, we watched them get eaten by little black beetles and so we nearly gave up. We threw the rest of the seeds into the planting box and just let them grow even if the little bugs tried to get at them a second time. I guess we just needed to be patient as they have been growing big and strong into the autumn season. kaleThis past week has been surprisingly full of variety from the regular week. We had a chance to go hiking with my husband at the nearby national park, Repovesi. I will share those photos in my next post. It was a beautiful day. Sometimes the unplanned turns out the best. And this past weekend I had a chance to spend the day with my sister. We stopped by my favorite coffee roastery in Helsinki, the Kluuvikadun Kahvipaahtamo. They are selling their coffee online as well and you are able to select your own mix of beans. Perhaps soon their site will be in English as well. This past Sunday was the perfect kind of day for spelt scones with blueberry and their Autumn blend which is a medium roast coffee.

sunday spelt sconesIn the soft October light there are coffee cups for two, Antti’s is almost full and mine has just a little as I am so sensitive to caffeine. There is juice for the children. In the middle of the upper cupboards is a shelf for all of my favorite cook books and even the rough draft version of my own. Perhaps it will become an e-book or even printed on paper. I followed my Grampa’s recipe for the scones but made a couple of changes to fit the mood for the day. Two-thirds of the flour is spelt and the sugar I replaced with brown sugar as spelt has more nutty, wholesome flavor.

Spelt scones with blueberries

150 g/5 and 1/3 oz spelt flour
75 g/2 and 2/3 oz flour
2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
110 g/4 oz butter, cold and cubed
2.4 dl/ 1 c milk
2.4 dl/ 1 c blueberries

Mix the spelt flour, flour, baking soda and powder along with the sugar and salt. Cut in the cold, cubed butter until it is about pea-sized in texture. Mix in the milk and stir until combined. Do not over mix. Last, add in the blueberries. Using a spoon, divide the dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 220 C/425 F for about 16 minutes or until golden brown.

autumn blend spelt scones

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series that she host every month at Fig Jam Lime Cordial.

 

Modesty is sometimes overrated

by tableofcolors

Until recent days, paper mills have been at the heart of everyday life in Kouvola for thousands. According to Wikipedia, paper has been produced in Finland since the 1600s although it was not until the 1860s that the industry started to grow. We live in Valkeala which used to be an independent county, large in area but small in population right next to the cities of Kouvola and Kuusankoski. A few years back politicians decided to join the counties and along with a few other to make one large county now called Kouvola. The making of large counties in the name of saving expenses has been strongly trending in recent years. Whether this will be a good long-term decision can be determined perhaps in a few years as we will all be so much wiser in hindsight, as the case usually is. Finland has long been and still is a welfare state, but things are changing. And with change there is always some good, some bad.

kymintehdasalueI actually think that it is probably a good thing that more room is made for the private sector, giving space for healthy competition. Maybe the best thing would be to have the best of both worlds. A safety net for those that need it as we might all be in that situation someday but an environment that encourages entrepreneurs and hard work. One of my largest criticisms of the current Finnish systems is that unemployment benefits are so good and seemingly endless that some decide it is better to just stay at home doing nothing instead of working. My second criticism is that modesty is over-rated. Finns are really quite good at many things. They need to believe that others might think so as well. One good example of this collective way of thinking is Angry Birds. For the longest time after Rovio succeeded with their angry chicks the following collective comment could be heard, “Just wait and see, it won’t last long.” Slowly this attitude has changed towards Rovio and it has attained an iconic status. Why do you think the Swedes succeeded with their IKEA and H&M? Finland is full of wonderful little companies full of new designs and ideas.

old paper millsThey just need to own it.

brick wallThese old Kymintehtaan paper mills would not have ever achieved what they did without some risks. Operation first began in 1874 and it has continued until recent years. Industries, societies and economic situations change. Today some of the buildings are empty but quite a few are being used by small business. One building is full of creative entrepreneurs. In another building there is one of my favorite organic bakeries called Tuomon Luomu. They make the best handmade rye bread and I really think that they would really have potential to grow.parkway kymintehdasThe entryway into the area is a bit forbidding as there is an old guard house with mirrored windows. For the longest time I did not even know that the area was open for the general public. The area is much more friendly after passing the entrance as it has a lovely parkway with old trees forming a canopy over the lawn. Partially hidden behind the trees is an old house that reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.

vanha talo kymintehdasI tried to do some research and find out the history behind the house and it’s name but it has remained a mystery. Perhaps it has been used for company social occasions and receptions. On one side of the wall was a hydrangea overflowing with blooms.

hortensia hydrangeaMy new favorite food is perfect for fall when the mushrooms are in season. I bought a package of portobello mushrooms from the grocery and thought to make burgers from them for lunch. I searched online and found some inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie grilled his burgers but I broiled them in the oven as our cook-out season has pretty much come to a close. The version below is slightly different to Jamie’s, as I used what was on hand.

portobello mushroomPortobello burgers for two

2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 small onions or one large onion sliced into fine rings
three glugs of olive oil
juice of one lemon
sprig of fresh rosemary
salt
black pepper

2 good quality rolls of bread
olive oil
two cloves of garlic, halved

four sundried tomatoes in oil
black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh oregano and chives and a few leaves of fresh spinach
a few slices of your favorite cheese (optional)

Place all of the ingredients into a plastic bag and shake until the mushrooms and onions are coated. Allow to marinate for about fifteen minutes. While marinating heat the oven to 200 C/390 F at the broil setting. Place the marinated portobello and onions on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Take two good quality rolls of bread and slice them into halves. I used the Fazer grain ciabatta. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with a clove of garlic cut into half. Place the halved garlic into an air pocket of the bread and place on the baking sheet alongside the portobello and onions. Bake for about ten to twelve minutes, removing once the onions and bread have attained some color and the mushrooms have released some liquid. Make sure to keep watch that your rolls do not burn. If using a very light bread, remove the rolls after five minutes.

While the the mushrooms are baking, finely slice the sundried tomatoes and sprinkle with black pepper. Once the mushrooms and onions are done, remove from the oven and assemble the sandwich. Place two slices of cheese on the bottom half if preferred. Next place the mushroom and then finish with the onion and sundried tomatoes. Garnish with a few sprigs of herbs and spinach.

Enjoy!
portobello mushroom burger

Tapas for Brunch

by tableofcolors

Midnight sun

Midnight sun

Brunch has become a habit in our kitchen. It happens every year. And every year I tell myself that maybe this summer we will try hold a schedule. I have been trying to get up on some mornings early to go for a run, a bikeride, a little trip to the flea market or maybe some pilates. I don’t leave the house too early as it is usually already eight o’clock. When I return an hour or two later, as I often have met a friend along the way and ended up chatting for quite some time, the house is still quiet and only a few are at breakfast. June was chilly but July has really warmed up. Maybe it is all the swimming the children do that really tires them out or perhaps it is the light evenings that stretches bedtimes hours later than in the winter.

baking tin

On Saturday morning I slipped out to the outdoor flea market. Sometimes I take some of the children with but as they were all in deep sleep I left by myself. I found this baking tin with very shallow rounded forms and it says, made in England. It was looking quite worn but I think it will still work and it only cost an euro. It is sitting on my counter in my kitchen waiting for me to do a little research. Perhaps there is a traditional pastry that the tin was used for and perhaps someone brought it from England as a souvenir. The gentleman selling it had a whole collection of antiques and old things. I’m quite sure he had not baked with it as he didn’t seem to have answers to my questions. Perhaps one of my dear readers might know the original purpose of the tin?

tapasLast April when I visited my sister in Detroit we visited a tapas restaurant called La Feria. We had grilled portobella with a sauce of parsely, lemon and garlic, mussels in a white wine sauce and a fried eggplant with honey. They were all just perfect in their simplicity with clean and fresh flavors and we both agreed that fried eggplant drizzled with honey tasted similar to French toast. And so in my kitchen this July is fried eggplant.

fried eggplantI would suggest using the graffiti eggplant or Japanese eggplant which are lighter purple in color and have a thinner skin. I used the most common variety, globe eggplant, and the skin was a bit tough chewing. I first cut them into thick sticks, spread them on paper towels and sprinkled them with salt. I let them sit for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The salt help pulls out the excess moisture and will make frying easier.

breading eggplantThe eggplant at La Feria was deep fried but since I don’t have a deep fryer and I didn’t want to have the excess of oil leftover after frying in a sauce pan, I just heavily coated the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil.

Berenjenas Fritas – Fried eggplant

1 eggplant, cut into thick sticks
salt for sprinkling on the egglplants and a dash to mix with the almond meal
1.5 dl/ generous half cup almond meal
olive oil
honey

After the eggplant has been sprinkled with salt and has rested for about fifteen to twenty minutes, gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place the almond meal in a bowl and mix in a dash of salt. Generously pour olive oil into the pan so that coats the whole bottom. Coat each piece of eggplant with the almond meal before placing in the frying pan. Allow to fry to so that it gains a bit color and then turn. You may fry several pieces of eggplant at the same time. In between batches I removed some of the almond meal that was swimming in the oil as it was starting to darken and added a bit of fresh oil. Enjoy for brunch or in the evening after a day of swimming. Serve hot with a drizzle of honey.
swimming in july collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for July. Check out her blog for a great list of blogs from around the world that all invite you into their kitchens.

Corktown

by tableofcolors

Perhaps if my life had taken different turns, I might have become an urbanist. I definitely could imagine it, as I’ve spent my childhood in a city and have always loved the atmosphere of a large city. Everything does not need to be too polished as often the oldest of structures has a story to tell and it can be seen on their door frames and floor boards. Even the wall might be rough to the touch with many layers of wallpaper and paint as remodelers of various levels of skill have attempted to make a space their home. And there is something fascinating about the people in cities. Everyone with their own stories to tell just as the buildings do, all living in a relatively small area of land close together sharing life yet living individually. One thing that I noticed in Detroit was the urban gardens. It is an idea that actually originated in Detroit and has been brought to other cities around the globe.
corktown
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying life in the middle of the fields where the wild spring and summer flowers bloom in an unorganized pattern each spring and summer, as a part of me has really come to enjoy the life in the countryside. But, I think I could really get used to stopping at Astro with its menu of interesting salads and sandwiches and coffee that has acquired a true art form.

astro coffee collage

Salad: quinoa, fennel, radicchio, chickpea, mint and almonds. Heavenly.

astro coffee

One day we ventured on foot for about six or seven hours. We explored Corktown as well as the downtown area. According to Wikipedia, the name Corktown is the oldest historic neighborhood in Detroit and the name evolved when Irish immigrants moved into the area. Most of them were from County Cork and thus the neighborhood was called Corktown. Right at the gateway of Corktown, coming from the downtown area is the Detroit Institue of Bagels. It was started by Ben who was baking bagels from home and needed a larger space for the business. My sister Kaija, has her own architectural design studio called Laavu and the Bagel Shop is one of the significant projects she has been involved in. What I really liked was that whenever possible old things had been salvaged from the buildings and put into new use. The lights hanging above the bagel mural had a previous life in a different building and have now found a new home here. I could imagine that if I lived in the neighborhood with my kids we might ocassionally stop in for bagels when a quick lunch is needed.

detroit institute of bagesbagel shop collagebagel muralvisiting the DIBThe little pocket park outside with the stools is for days when the sun is shining. The magnolia was not in bloom yet as the winter had been cold and spring had arrived a little late but I can imagine  what it would be like to sit in the park on one of the Beech seats.

pocketpark

After a day of walking and a ride on the monorail, Kaija made a salad that was similar in style to some of the things in Astro. And now I think I will be on the lookout for French lentils. They are the ones that keep their shape after being cooked, although you do need to be careful to not overcook. Most lentils that can be easily found here are better in soups and stews as they fall apart after being cooked. If I can’t find them from Säästä & Punnitse, I might just have to ask them to order some for me.

french lentil saladKaija’s Lentil salad

4.7 dl/2 cups French lentils
1 l/4 cups water
sea salt
1 small red onion, finely chopped
70 g/2.5 oz capers, finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
large handfuls of fresh herbs roughly chopped, for example curly parsley
other options: cilantro, rosemary, dill (whatever is in season)
100 g/3.5 oz dates, roughly chopped

Dressing
1/2 c white vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sea salt
2-4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander seed
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp black pepper

Served with arugula.

Cook the French lentils in lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer in a covered pot for about 12-15 minutes or until soft, but do not over cook. Rinse and set aside to cool. Finely chop red onion(add more onion depending on mood or taste), celery,capers, herbs and dates. Toss in a large mixing bowl. Add lentils when cooled.

Prepare dressing. Mix vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning according to taste. Kaija loves the combination of cumin and lentil, so she often adds more cumin and doubles the amount of crushed red pepper. It gives the salad a wonderful dimension.

This salad can be served with greens. Kaija prefers peppery arugula, but is could be served with sea salt massaged kale as well.
To use leftovers, mix about 2 cups of lentil salad with an egg and fry into small “pancakes”. Serve with roughly chopped tomatoes. Delicious.

herbs and grainsdining room

And so, even though the last post had many pictures of abandoned homes and buildings, so many more are occupied and full of innovation.

Detroit Series: A Bankrupt City

The joy of Christmas

by tableofcolors

Not long before Christmas we had two storms and rain. The landscape was not white like it often is during this time of year. When we went on a little walk down to the beach, many of the large trees that sway in the wind during our summer excursions had fallen. This was the landscape on Christmas.

winter storm CollageInside there was a contagious excitement only children know how to spread. The sparkling eyes and smiling faces shined, as soon joulupukki or Santa Claus would be arriving.

christmas elfchristmas treeBut before he arrives, there is Christmas dinner and for some reason the appetites are not always the best on Christmas. The night before the salted ham was put in the wood fired oven after the fire had died down and the coals pushed aside. The 7 kilo/15.5 pound ham was in the oven for about eight hours. It is allowed to cool and it is served cold with the Christmas casseroles.

wood ovenchristmas hamLast year I shared recipes for the rutabaga and carrot casserole. The casserole or laatikko tradition is a little different in each family but one thing that is similar is that most are made from root vegetables. Carrots, potato and rutabaga are probably the most common but many families also serve a beetroot casserole and some even make their liver casserole. While these casseroles are traditionally Christmas food in Finland they can be frozen unbaked and served later during the cold winter months as a side.

beetroot laatikko

Beetroot casserole

three beetroots, boil peeled beetroots until tender so a fork can be inserted.

3 onion minced very fine
2 dl/1 cup cream
100 g/3.5 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1 dl/ 1/2 c Greek or Turkish yoghurt
salt
black pepper
beetroot with onion and blue cheeseGrate the cooked beetroot and mix in a bowl with minced onion and crumbled blue cheese. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon into one large casserole dish or several small ones and bake at 200 C/390 F for a half hour or bake at 160 C/320 F for one hour. I made three small casseroles with this amount.

Christmas Collage

Glistening Crystals

by tableofcolors

We don’t have snow here in southern Finland yet but the weather has turned and since the ground was still quite wet after our misty season of gray days and rains, the crisp freezing temperatures changed the landscape. Everything acquired a coating of crystals that glisten and dance in the sunlight. The night had been a colder one with clear skies and when I was driving home last night I could see the stars in the night sky. And when morning greeted us with sunshine it could be called an energizing experience. What was somewhat of a dull, brown and gray landscape just two days ago turned into winter wonderland without the snow. Even the kids got up eagerly this morning even though it was still almost as dark as the night and Erik asked me, “How deep is it outside?” thinking the frost was snow.

ice crystals
The snow is yet to come but now the puddles have a covering of ice that crackle and crunch when walking on them. I still like to walk over the frozen puddles and they remind me of grade school days and walking to the bus stop in the early morning. There was something so satisfying about those frozen puddles and the noise they made.
2013-11-26 13.18.42-2
Something else that I remember doing as a kid was poring over ads that came with the Sunday paper. I remember seeing ads for fondue sets and there was something so intriguing about fondue. Maybe it was because I loved cheese and especially melted and stringy cheese. A couple of years ago we received from my sister and her husband a little fondue set for Christmas and it has been great. I can get my kids to eat just about anything if they are allowed to used the fondue spears and dip it in a cheese sauce. I often will make a herb and onion encrusted focaccia and nobody complains about the “green stuff”. If you happen to have any picky eaters at your house, a fondue set might do the trick.

Fondue just seemed like the perfect thing to have on a day that is crisp and cold. We did get our share of fresh air and exercise as we brought our four-year old to his day circle. He went on his bike and I walked and ran along side him with the double jogger and the two little ones inside. All of the cold, crisp air whets the appetite.
fondue2
This time I made mini garlic focaccia with a whole grain bread flour that has a mixture of cracked wheat, wheat flour and rye flour. You could make your own mix of flours or buy different kind of whole grain mix available at your local store. We cut the rolls into cubes making them easy to dip.

Whole grain garlic focaccia

5 dl/little over 2 cups of warm water
1 block (50 g) of fresh yeast or 1 sachet of dry yeast (almost 4 tsps)
1 heaping tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp sea salt
10-11 dl/4 and 1/2 c whole grain flour mix
1/4 dl/1/8 c olive oil

On top:
about 6 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
black pepper
sea salt flakes

Place the water, yeast, salt and sugar into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until combined and add half of the flour. Knead until combined and continue adding flour. Knead well. This dough can be a little sticky. Add the oil last and allow to rise until double in size. To save with the clean up, I do not pour the dough on the table, rather I did the whole process in the bowl. After the dough has risen, punch is down and take small handful and place them evenly spaced onto a lined baking sheet.
2013-11-25 15.49.39-2
Make an indentation with two fingers on each roll and place a half teaspoon of minced garlic in each indentation. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and sea salt flakes. Allow to rise and then bake in the oven for about 12 minutes at 225 C/430 F or until golden brown.
2013-11-25 15.54.27
garlic focaccia

Cheese fondue

50 g/1.8 oz butter
3 heaping tbsp flour
5 dl/generous 2 cups milk
100 g/ 3.5 oz shredded cheese (I use a mix of a strong cheese (ie. gruyére) and a milder cheese (ie. Oltermanni, Havarti or Muenster)
salt
black pepper
dash of white pepper
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

melted butter with flour
Melt the butter with the flour in a sauce pan and allow it to bubble for a minute. Do not let it brown. Whisk in the milk and cook until it has become thick. Add the salt, pepper and white pepper to it. Take of the heat and add the grated cheese to it and mix. Add the balsamic vinegar and heat if needed. Serve with chunks of garlic focaccia.

fondue

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
rosemary
thyme
black pepper
salt

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
salt
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

All Saints’ Day

by tableofcolors

Traditionally Halloween is not celebrated in Finland but in the past years it has been making an entrance. Costumes can be found in various stores and instead of Trick or Treating, some choose to host Halloween parties with their friends. Yesterday was All Saints’ day. We stopped at the cemetary before visiting friends. The photos were taken a bit before six o’clock in the evening and it was already completely dark. The cloud coverage added to the darkness. Last year we spent the evening at home with our own family and enjoyed tea bread after the visit to the cemetary.

While Halloween is all about ghosts and ghouls and all things scary, the atmosphere of the cemetary on All Saints’ Day is peaceful, calm and safe. The cemetary was full of people and as I was there the bells rang calling people to service. In Finland the cemetaries are usually cared for by loved ones as well as the church gardener. It often is in the center of town next to the church. The Valkeala Church in the photo below has been built in the early 1900’s and taken into use in 1927. It is not a very old church and in its current place there have been three previous churches with the first one being in the late 1600s. The first church became too small and was torn down to allow for a larger church. The next two churches were burned down with only the altar painting being saved.
cemetary
The cemetary was a sea of candles in memory of the loved ones that have gone before us. There is usually a place to place your candle if your loved ones are buried somewhere far away.

jerusalmen artichoke soup

I don’t think that the day is intended to be downcast, but it is full of emotion. I thought this soup was perfect for the day, not something too elaborate but something a bit special with a gentle flavor.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

350 g/12.3 oz Jerusalem artichoke, peeled and cut into cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 parsnip (about 100 g /3.5 oz) peeled and chopped
500-600 g/17-21 oz floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
olive oil
5 dl/ 2 c broth ( I used broth that had Spanish NOMU flavoring in it, which includes: paprika, chilli, oregano, cumin, basil and saffron)
fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
fine sea salt
250 g/ 8.8 oz marscapone cheese
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
water

jerusalem artichokes2

Place the peeled and cut vegetables in a pot and sautée with the oil for a few minutes until the onions have become a bit transparent. Add the sprig of fresh rosemary, seasoning, broth and water and so that all of the vegetables are covered evenly. I usually have broth in the freezer ready to go. Whenever I make a roast in the Crock Pot I set aside some of the broth and freeze it for later use. Be careful to not over season so that the mild flavor of the Jerusalem artichoke is not completely covered up.

parsnip

Allow to simmer until the potatoes have become tender adding more water as needed. Take off heat, remove rosemary and purée with an immersion mixer until smooth. Return to the stove and add the white balsamic vinegar, more water or broth (if it is too thick for you) and marscapone cheese. Stir and allow to simmer until the cheese has been incorporated into the soup. Check the flavor and adjust with seasoning to your taste. Enjoy with fresh crusty bread.

valkeala church and cemetary

This post is a part of Tablescaper’s Seasonal Sundays. For an abundance of links to seasonal inpiration, check out her website.