summer food…a feast for the eyes

Lately, I haven’t had much time to invest in blogging. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating, obviously. Here are a few of my food memories from summer. And because pictures say more than my words can, here goes. … Continue reading

finland and all its beauty

I took hundreds of photos while in Finland, most of which were not of food. The architecture and color schemes are so different than what we find in most neighborhoods in the states that I couldn’t stop snapping pics. I particularly loved the colorful houses trimmed with woodwork. And even the smallest homes had meticulously maintained yards and beautiful gardens. Maybe it’s the short season that inspires people there to diligently work the land. Whatever the reason, the landscape and even the towns were a feast for the eyes.

 

The interior of a local church. There are small radiators under each pew for warmth in the winter.

 

A graveyard tucked away off a country road.

 

An example of the colorful buildings and tidy lawns

 

Beautiful fences blended in with the landscape.

 

Small sheds in each field stored the hay harvest.

The cafe at a community garden

 

Our little friend at the community garden

Charming shingled cupola

 

An old neighborhood that used to house a community of workers

 

Love this color and the window detail.

 

Lovely and playful blue door

 

Again, fantastic woodwork and vibrant colors

 

Sunset around 11p.m.

about the garden

With our whirlwind summer, which is definitely over despite what the calendar says, I have not posted any photos of our pride and joy: the garden.

You’d think that because G is a horticulturist we would be showing off some beautiful potted annuals, perennial beds and lush landscaping. Maybe someday.

As for now, we’re putting our energy into our vegetable garden. The dividends are a little tastier. So here it is, from start to almost finish, in all of its glorious color.

The early days included spinach, cilantro, lettuce, radishes and strawberries, some of which were camera shy, so this is all I got!

Then came the sugar snaps, while we waited for the peppers and tomatoes.

But they were worth the wait.

The kids all fight over who gets to dig for potatoes first. They ended up taking turns. And being totally fine with it because they were actually being told to dig in the dirt. Sorry, soil. As my husband reminds me, it’s supposed to be called soil. Dirt is what’s hiding (or obvious) in the corners of my house.

And just to show you what we’re up against as far as flowering plants go, check out our once beautiful hostas. Which is literally one foot from our door. Those deer have no shame.

a fleeting glimpse of spring

I know this doesn’t relate to food. But because it’s supposed to be 18 degrees here tonight, I felt these beautiful little faces needed to be captured and enjoyed.

Crocuses? Croci? Which is it?

Crocus flowers. That works.

Lenten rose

nordic jammin’

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My best friend Cyndi lives way too far away and has for the past 15 (is that right, Cyn?) years.  This South Carolinian married her Finnish love and followed him to chilly Finland.  And while you may be thinking, “Oh, Finland.  I’ve always wanted to go to Helsinki,” that’s not quite where Cyndi lives.  If you travel approximately 6 hours NORTH of Helsinki, you’d be close to their home.  And although I’ve never been there (I know, I need to go), I have seen many photos and have concluded that it is absolutely beautiful.  When there’s sunlight.  Which is only part of the year.

Cyndi grows beautiful strawberries, so when I asked her to write something for the blog, she took some lovely photos of her fruits and jams.  And while we are battling flu AND strep this week, it’s a perfect time for a guest post.  Thanks, Cyndi!

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One of the benefits of living at 64 degrees north is that I can walk outside and pick a variety of fresh berries and mushrooms straight from my garden and the surrounding woods: red and black currants, black chokeberries, wild blueberries, and raspberries. Because my husband cannot live without strawberries, we have a very large patch, approximately 40 plants! While this year I left the mushrooms alone in the hope that next year I will be more motivated, I was somewhat industrious and managed to pick and make strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and lingonberry-raspberry jams.

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For those of you who don’t know, lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) is a shrub in the flowering plant family Ericaceae, and the berries are served in a variety of forms here: as jam, mixed raw with sugar and served as a condiment with elk or game, and cooked into a delicious juice concentrate which is mixed with water and eagerly drunk with (almost) every meal. If you don’t have any lingonberry bushes right outside your backdoor, head to an Ikea and look around their food section.

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The jam recipe I use is taken from my grandmother’s church cookbook from the 1960s.  It’s simple and universal and any type of “juicy” berry will work. Excellent instructions (and video) regarding canning your jam can be found here.  Also, I like to play around with the recipe somewhat, reducing the amount of sugar or adding grated ginger or orange peel for variety.

Basic Jam

from foodie friend Cyndi

[click for printable recipe]

  • 4 cups of berries
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine berries and sugar. Let stand until berries start to render their juices.
  2. Bring the saucepan of berries to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will bubble up, rising high up the sides of the saucepan. Skim off any foam.
  3. When the jam has boiled down (you will see smaller, thicker bubbles), test the consistency by dipping a spoon into the mixture and letting it cool. When jam has cooked to consistency you want, stir in lemon juice.
  4. Turn off the heat, and ladle or spoon jam into prepared canning jars, leaving a bit of space before putting the lid on.

putting the garden to bed…for real

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When I wrote this post, I thought all was said and done in the garden.  But I never really went out and looked at the garden.  Thus, when hubby said we were going to spend a recent afternoon cleaning up our fertile plot, I was perplexed.  To me, the last harvest indicated that our seasonal toil had ended.  Not so much.

Apparently, putting the garden to bed is not just picking the last of the veggies and closing the gate.  It also means ripping out the vines and weeds, turning the soil, adding compost and fertilizer, raking it all smooth, and topping the soil with a sprinkle of winter rye seed; i.e., hard work.

In concept, I love the idea of working the land (I know this is a stretch, we are after all in the thick of surburbia).  But when actually called upon to do so, I have some reservations.  It’s mainly the bugs and the dirt that bother me.  And maybe the sweat.

However, on this perfect Fall day (before it snowed), the little foodies and I followed our fearless leader into the jungle of the garden and worked hard—and actually enjoyed it.  G says that preparing the soil now will pay off next season.  I’ll be looking for payment in the form of tomatoes.

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Although the photo above may appear to show two sisters handing off a rake, it’s actually two sisters fighting over a rake.  Not because they were eager to help but because raking was much easier than shoveling compost.  To see who won, look at the photo below.

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putting the garden to bed

Other than some stubborn herbs, the garden has breathed its final breath of the season. It was a lousy year for tomatoes, which to our household of tomato lovers means why did we bother with a garden at all. But then I see these photos of how other plants and veggies grew and how much the kids enjoyed our small harvest, and it seems the good has outweighed the lack of homegrown Insalata Caprese.

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Our last harvest...some carrots, red peppers, and multi-colored potatoes.

Our last harvest...some carrots, red peppers, and multi-colored potatoes.

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I must remind myself that as ordinary as a garden may seem to me after so many years, the awe of seeing something beautiful and tasty produced from a tiny seed is not lost on my children and their friends. Their shrieks of delight when they discover that a seed has sprouted or a vegetable has ripened gives me a momentary glimpse of a time when I, too, was full of wonder and discovery. I don’t know at what age we lose that bubbly, uninhibited joy found in the simple things, but I’m content for now just to be surrounded by those who still celebrate life’s small miracles.

Best friends.

Best friends.