tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: winter

The best days of winter

by tableofcolors

The best days of winter have arrived. The day is noticeably longer and in the morning when I come downstairs into my kitchen it is not quite as dark as it was just a month ago. The children are able to leave for school in the soft morning light and after they arrive home there is still some light to be outside. And in my kitchen there is a bouquet of yellow tulips reminding me that spring is on it’s way.

tulips 2

We have been skating quite often on the lake; just across the road and through the little patch of woods that line the shore. With the abundance of fresh air and exercise comes healthy appetites to match it. This month in my kitchen I have food that will hopefully satisfy the appetites. Not too long ago I made a discovery at the grocery store. I bought a package of crisp bread made by a local bakery, Leipomo J. Martin. I have a personal connection to the bakery as I worked there for a summer a few years back. After making the initial discovery of the crisp bread I have bought several packages. The flavor is wonderful as it is full of toasted seeds and whole grain bran. In fact, every year the Finnish food union hosts a contest for the most innovative and best tasting new product on the market. Five finalists are chosen from which the winner is selected. This crisp bread was one of the finalists for the Tähtituote award last year. In addition it was selected as the best crisp bread of the year by the Gloria Ruoka ja Viini magazine. Congratulations to the bakers!

skarppi näkkäriWe have been exploring the Suomen lasten leivontakirja cook book with my kids. They suggested the following Mimmi’s meat pie for supper and had intended to help, but something more interesting came up and so I found myself left alone in the kitchen. Jumping hurdles over the sofa pillows actually does sound like fun.

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I actually did not mind that I was left alone. The benefit of the kids disappearing from the kitchen at the critical moment was that I was free to adapt the recipe and add a generous amount of vegetables and seasonings. When baking or cooking with the kids, we usually follow the recipe quite closely so that it is easy for the kids to follow. Maybe it is a mother’s instinct but I do secretly try to add nutrients that the picky eaters might not so easily notice. Grated carrots is one that works in many recipes.

venison meat pie

Mimmi’s Meat Pie with Minced Venison

One of the benefits of having a hunter in the family is that we are able to enjoy truly organic meat. I used minced venison for the meat pie but you may subsitute with a ground meat of your choice. For a lighter version, make only half of the dough for the crust for a single crust pie. Place the filling in a lasagne pan lined with parchment paper and covering with the pastry. The recipe below is the traditional version.

Pie crust

250 g/8.8 oz butter, softened
1 dl/slightly under 1/2 c milk
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 dl/1/4 c oat bran
5 dl/generous 2 c wheat flour

Filling
300 g/10.5 oz minced venison or meat of your choice
1 onion, chopped fine
two cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
2 carrots, grated
1 tsp roasted pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt
1-2 tsp NoMU smokey peri-peri, contains a mixture of chili, paprika, garlic, coriander, black pepper, mustard, parsely, cumin, oregano, ginger and natural smoke flavor
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
8 dl/3 and 1/3 c cooked rice of your choice, I used a mixture of rice, barley, whole grain wheat, rye and oat kernels (or 3 and 1/2 dl/1.5 c uncooked rice)
meat pie fillingThis meat pie would be the perfect thing to make if you happened to have some left over rice from the day before. Feel free to add to the recipe those ingredients that you might have on hand. The filling can be seasoned quitely strongly since it loses some of its strength when put in between the pie crust.

If you do not have cooked rice on hand, start by cooking the rice and boiling the eggs. While they are cooking on the stove, start the pie crust. Beat the softened butter until it is fluffy. Next add the egg and milk. I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients in with the butter mixture. Do not over mix. Place into the refrigerator while the filling is completed.

For the filling, chop the vegetables. Place the onions, garlic and celery and minced meat of choice on a large frying pan. Cook at medium heat until the meat is browned. Add the seasonings and other vegetables and continue cooking for a few minutes.

In my kitchen I have a collection of seasonings that work great with this recipe. The NoMU seasonings are among my favorites as they don’t contain any additives. Their flavor could be described as East meets West in the culinary world.

nomu seasoningCombine the cooked rice, chopped eggs, and meat and vegetable mixture. Remove the pie crust dough from the refrigerator and roll out 2/3 of it on a floured surface. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add the filling and roll out the rest for the top crust. I cut mine into strips. Lay the top crust on the filling and seal the edges. Prick holes to let the steam out if the top crust is made from one piece. Brush with an egg wash. Bake in the oven for thirty minutes at 200 C/390 F.

hockey playersSoon the little hockey players will be arriving in the kitchen. And they will have a large appetite.

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series that she host every month. Visit her blog to see links to other  kitchens from around the world.

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Chocolate Crescents

by tableofcolors

2014-01-19 15.24.43chocolate crescents

At first there was not a soul in sight. Just as I was leaving our bay, I saw one elderly gentleman skiing, traditional style. As I skiied into the bigger, open lake area there were three skaters in the horizon and a little later I spotted someone on a kicksled. I felt like I was almost all alone in the peaceful calm of the outdoors. The sun was starting to dip and soon the “blue moment” would arrive. We took turns skating and skiing on the lake since some of the kids had been a little sick. That way everyone well enough made it outside. There was only about 2-3 centimeters of snow on the lake. It was enough snow to allow the skiiers to ski and little enough that the skaters could skate.

instructions

What would pair excellently with the crisp cold air and bright sunshine? The decision was unanimous when I asked the children: hot chocolate and chocolate crescents. Silvia had been waiting to try out her new cook book that she got for Christmas. It is a children’s baking book by Ulla Svensk and I mentioned it in a post a couple of weeks back. So this time she was to be our master baker and I was to be the sous chef. A pleasant situation indeed. In a couple of years she may take on the role of master chef more often.

chocolate crescents collage

Chocolate Crescents (recipe by Ulla Svensk)

150 g/5.3 oz butter, softened
4 dl/1.7 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 dl/1/4 c sugar
100 g/3.5 oz quark or drained, thick yoghurt

1 egg, 2 tbsp water and a pinch of salt for the egg wash

dark chocolate, roughly chopped for the crescents and some melted for garnish

Combine the butter and dry ingredients so that it forms a crumbly mixture. We used the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the quark or yoghurt and mix only until combined.  Divide into two and form in a ball. We allowed our dough to rest in the fridge for a bit while chopping the chocolate. Roll each ball of dough in to a circle and using a pastry or pizza cutter, cut into eighths. Place some chopped chocolate at the wider end of the triangle and roll from the wider end to the narrower tip. Place onto a lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 10-15 minutes. We used the convection oven and our bake time was reduced to about 8-9 minutes with the temperature being at 180 C/360 F.

Allow to cool and garnish with melted chocolate.

Winter Collage

Steam Pudding and make-believe snow

by tableofcolors

Today it was snowing the kind of snow you see in store displays. They were large, fluffy clumps of flakes that slowly floated down. Occassionally the sun would peak through the clouds and everything glistened. I was shoveling snow as the kids played. And so when the sun came out I ran inside to get the camera. I really tried to run fast but each time when I came outside the light had shifted just a bit.

little hunter2make believe snow

Even the trees had a frosting of powdered sugar.

powdered sugar trees

Since the day was a stay-at-home sort of day and with Christmas just around the corner, I thought it would be the perfect time to try out a family recipe received from my Grampa Jim. Ever since I was small we would gather at my grandparents’ on Christmas day and after dinner we would make music and then we would have dessert which included Gramma’s Steam Pudding. To me it seems as if the Steamed Pudding might be of English tradition. Fitting it would be since in my Gramma’s family tree there is English heritage that traces back to the Revolutionary War and even earlier.

Gramma and GrampaSteam Pudding

2.4 dl/1 c molasses

2.4 dl/1 c hot water
85 g/ 6 tbsp melted butter
2 egg yolks
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp soda

2 cups flour

2 egg whites beaten to firm peak

Pour the hot water into the molasses, add salt and soda, butter and egg yolks and then mix.
Add flour and fold into the molasses mixture.
Fold beaten egg whites into the batter.
steam pudding batterPour batter into greased molds in a steamer and cover. Cook over hot water at medium heat for 90 minutes. Do NOT lift cover before time is up.

After the 90 minutes are up, stick a test skewer and if if comes clean your pudding is done.
I used my double boiler for the cake since I did not have molds for the steamer. My cook time was somewhat longer since the cake did not have the hole in the middle that many molds have.

Serve in slices with generous servings of sauce.

steam pudding1Sauce

2 pasteurized eggs

140 g/10 tbsp melted butter
8 dl/3 and 1/2 c powdered sugar
0,5 l/1 pint whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Whip the cream with the vanilla and a generous 2 dl/1 cup of the powdered sugar and set aside. Beat the eggs and half of the remaining powdered sugar, add the melted butter and mix. Fold the egg mixture into the whipped cream, add the remainder of the powdered sugar and refrigerate.

steam pudding2As the children trickled in from the outdoors and school the cake continued to grow smaller and smaller.

little hunter

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.
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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.
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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.
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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