May 22, 2010

crafty me

few weeks ago certain someone asked me to make a kinda sheet with the band's name on it. it seemed light sort of job so i agreed to do it.

i started by buying a twin size black sheet, but then i had to start thinking. he wanted the text to be white and in magneto font. i figured that if i printed the name letter by letter, as big as an individual letter would be on A4 paper, i could then cut out the letters and have a sort of crude template.

i also figured that my printer would run out of ink sooner rather than later, so i printed the letters in light grey and draw the outlines with a marker

i then taped the letters side by side, had to fix some of the letters as they were too wide for A4 paper

i had bought some of that sticky plastic that is used to protect school books (among other uses), took out my craft knife and scissors...

...and started cutting out the letters. taking out the protective paper from the back of plastic to adhere it onto fabric

once i got all the letters cut out...

...took out some white fabric paint and started painting

the black fabric took in quite a lot of paint

i peeled the plastic off almost immediately to check if the paint had bleeded. it had and it was quite easy to fix while still wet. also, i did fix places where there wasn't paint (here my knifing had obviously missed a place)

once the paint was totally dry, i reinforced the upper corners with grommets in order for the fabric not to tear when hung a wall

certain someone's band had a gig week ago friday. i wasn't there but the sheet looks kinda cool in the background, sort of professional...

ps. tomorrow i'm gonna go and make a little trip... tell you all about late next week. have fun, folks!

May 21, 2010


little niece had her birthday last weekend. i had promised to bake "something" for the party. here is what i started with, i think there were 5 eggs left when i was done...

i did the baking at my parents' apartment as my brother had house guests for the weekend. my mom uses the kitchen at the apartment next to never as they spent most of their time at the cottage. knowing this, i should have prepared better, like bring cup-measures and the likes with me...i'm no math-genius and converting american recipes and cups to deciliters is very exhausting, and you never get it right anyway.

there is a little shop in helsinki that i've been avoiding on purpose, it's called bake and party. they have almost anything you might need when baking. i wasn't going to buy "anything" but then...well, you all know how that happens. i got this, among other things, wilton cake pan that i thought would make a lovely cake for little niece's birthday

i rarely use this pan spray but this time it seemed like a good idea to do it...more on that later

strawberry cake

now, my sister-in-law had a recipe for a strawberry can find it here. i had doubts as to would that recipe be enough for the pan and decided to double it...besides mom had said that the pan would take an 8-egg batter.

i'm not going to bother you with all the messy details my oh-so-brilliant ideas. let's just say they didn't exactly work wonders on the first try at this cake. however, i didn't have to call the fire brigade and that's always a good sign, isn't it?

this baby here is the second try at the recipe, isn't it pretty? also, this time i used oldfashioned butter to grease the pan...

perfect, if i may say so

i thought that the filling in the recipe lacked something (taste and color). i added half a bag of blueberry-raspberry pudding-mix and got pretty pastel pink filling with berry taste, how clever of me! as i had messed up quite enough by this point, i tried to make sure that i got the filling right as it needed to settle overnight in the fridge (how fortunate that mom's fridge was almost empty).

i had to build the cake upside down in the pan as the recipe calls for using a springform pan. the whole pan was clingfilmed and placed in the frigde with a little payer to saint honorius

then on the big day, ta-daa! i made martha's swiss meringue buttercream and i won't tell you how much butter i needed to make enough frosting for this could have used a bit more as you can see on the next picture.

i took one third of the buttercream and crushed a handfull of dried strawberries (i happened to see them at the store and decided to try them in the frosting). they are very dry and crumble almost to powder, very handy, you get some color and taste.

now, you really don't need to take a closer look at the cake, i happen to think it looks rather cute, from a distance. it is quite obvious that i need to practice my piping

see what i meant? the sides could have used a bit more frosting. by the time this cake was all done, i had 30 mins to deliver to my brother's house (and there was still something baking in the oven) was rather hectic as i had been baking all day saturday and sunday until late afternoon...


that there is the biscotti recipe from jamer peterson's baking. i've made biscottia few times and there is always something that make me think they could be better. i wanted to try this recipe to see if the fault had been in the previous recipes or could (gasp!) it be me!

peterson's recipe called for hazelnuts and dried cranberries, i replaced those with a nut-mix

after the frist bake, looking good so far...

one of the logs sliced quite nicely, the other was all nuts and crumbles (that my dad seemed to enjoy nevertheless!)

will i bake biscotti again? hmm, i might, when it's winter, and dark and cold and you need something with your me, these just aren't very summery

ham and bell pepper rolls

saw the recipe for ham and bell pepper rolls in the latest issue of maku -magazine. decided to make a batch eventhough my sister-in-law said that she'd make another kind of savory bites for the party.

i used cream cheese with herbs instead of one with horse-radish in it, some of the gang are a bit gastronimically challenged...

minced ham, red bell peppers and parsley go on top

and then you roll it like you would when making cinnamon rolls

these got an egg-wash before baking in in 225C oven

these will most probably get another try, with a bit more cream cheese in the middle, i'm thinking of adding chili on top as well


for the last year or so everywhere you'd look you would have seen macaroons, in magazines, books, cafées. to me they are party bits and that's why i wanted to make some for little niece's party. and because they are pink, that is, if you make them pink, you could make them any color you choose.

these pictures are from the first batch when i still was a macaroon virgin and didn't know what i was doing. first mistake (or my bad...) was to choose macaroons recipe from peterson's baking, but more on that later...

half the egg whites were combined with almond flour, the other half were whipped to stiff peaks. the latter portion got some pink food coloring. the have warnings all over the place not to use too much coloring, that made a bit too cautious with, could have used quite a bit more to get the kind of pink i ws looking for

filling the pastry bag for piping the batter onto baking sheets

one thing i learned was this nifty trick to keep the parchment paper in place while piping, blob some batter between the paper and the baking sheet in the corners and paper won't move

so far peterson's recipe is working...

...but then, this is how they looked after i did everything the recipe said should be done, not pretty, not pretty at all! not sure if it was the oven (too hot) but all three sheets were off, if not too brown (macaroons shouldn't be brown!) then deflated. i was desperate.

also, by this time it was close to mid-night and i thought best to stop. the neighbours mightn't have enjoyed me using kitchen appliances at such a late hour

who else but martha to the rescue. before going to bed i had done some research and decided that the macaroon recipe in martha's baking handbook looked like it would work better than my previous attempt (martha's recipe here).

aren't these pretty? not as pink as i would have liked them to be 'cause i was still scared of the food coloring...

see, even the not-so-good ones looked better than...

...the miserable ones with peterson's recipe. these tasted kinda ok, at least the jar became empty as if my magic when i left on the counter...

some were filled with strawberry jam (not a good idea, made the macaroons wet and nasty), most were filled with the same swiss meringue buttercream that i used to frost the cake


i also baked some pulla. i used the trusty recipe on every flour package in finland. saveur magazine resently featured pulla on their pages, the recipe looks weird to me, sorry saveur, but i think your version of pulla is americanized. however, the magazine does have good instructions on how to braid the dough into a loaf (looks similar to challah).

anyways, made two different kinds, these with cinnamon & sugar

and these with vanilla pudding. my brother told me they both passed the test...(if his kids knew how pulla my brother eats when the kids are sleeping...)

shrimp asparagus tart

once i was on a roll nothing was stopping me, two hours to the party and i'm still starting something new...i must confess i cheated a bit here and used frozen pie crust that got shrimp, asparagus, minced bell pepper ('cause there was some left...)

and a mixture of 2 dl sour cream, one egg, 2 tbsp cream cheese with herbs and black pepper on top. the mixture was poured on the other fillings and topped off with grated mozzarella

this one wasn't a hit with the (gastronimically challeged) crowd so i got to take it home with me. it was so good, even cold.

i also made another tart with ham, mozzarella, tomatoes with a similar sour cream filling on (frozen) rye pie dough. this version was accepted by the above-mentioned picture of the ham version (no time, or maybe i forgot?)

by the time i got the ham tart out of the oven i had to dash to my brother's house to bring all the goodies there, barely made it in time. between the shower and changing i managed to whip up a card to the birthday girl. have a go at guessing which color we both love?

May 18, 2010

oops... (lemony pike patties & mushroom risotto)

the oops? well, i was at the cottage for last week and eventhough there's great internet service, i just wasn't in the mood to blog, sorry for that. i did cook, and bake, last week, some of which will be posted in a day, or two. first i want to post the latest kitchen accomplishments...(so not!)

ice covering the lake disappeared a couple of weeks ago, so mom and dad are fishing again. on sunday they got a nice-size pike (true fish-story). my parents consider pike to be trash-fish and not edible, which i kinda understand considering the amount of fish they eat. i happen to think that pike fried in butter or in fish cakes is very tasty (naturally, the butter helps...) anyways, i got the filees (aren't i lucky! i'm scared to think what happens to my fish, berry and mushrooms supplies when they aren't around anymore) and decided to make pike patties, which are kinda very simple fish cakes

these went in the food processor as well: 2 eggs, 2 dl whipping cream (i happened to have some left after my baking spree), 10 cm piece of light green and white parts of a leek, dill, peel of one lemon, salt (yes! a little salt with fish is a must) and white pepper

first a whirlwind chopping to leek, dill and grated lemon peel (you must by now know how much i love my microplace grater. well, my brother scored some points from my sister-in-law by bringing one to her from manchester. we were in a kitchen supply store and i was looking at these graters, my brother came by and i told him how good they were, he decided to buy one. no coersion on my part, honestly!) you need to let the processor do its thing for a while to get everything into super-tiny pieces

had approx 700 gr of pike (any white flesh fish would do) that went in next. you need to let the processor run some more 'cause you'd want to get all the tiny bones in the fish mishmushed really well. if you think you got it done, run it for a minute longer, it pays.

once the fish was fine enough, i added the salt and white pepper, gave them a whirl or two and the added the yolks first (one cookbook suggested that egg yolks and whites should be added to a fish cake batter separately starting with yolks. why did i pay attention to what a recipe says, i don't know!), then the whites, last the cream

the batter was quite impossible to form by hand, so i took my trusty spoon and blobbed ½ dl of batter onto a pan with butter on it on medium high heat

i would have preferred to cook these in the oven but it was so hot in the shack (+28.7C) that stove option won

after browning all, i added some water to the pan, turned the heat to low and let cook further under a lid for 10 mins

this has never happened before...when i first started the processor it felt like there was something off, i checked it and everything seemed ok. obviously, i should have checked further. hopefully i got rid off all this goo and hope the machine won't blow up when i use it next time...

had some for dinner with boiled potatoes, green salad and lemon vinaigrette (wanted to make use of the lemon that lost its peel to the fish batter). had some more for luch today and the patties were even better, lemon and dill had done their thing overnight

on to todays dinner, morel, or should i say false morel risotto. i always thought that these mushrooms were called morels, i guess i've been wrong (that's a first! hih). these mushrooms are deadly unless prepared correctly, but so far i have no reason to think that my mom wants to poison me...i had mine prepared, so we'll skip that process

i used risella risotto rice. there is a recipe for forest mushroom risotto on the package, i didn't have white wine nor parmesan. i sort of followed the recipe and used a bit more cream and grated gouda. i do like the taste of these mushroom but they a pain to clean. it seems that no matter how well you rinse and rinse, there's always sand somewhere

the garden came to life in just a week. these peonies were barely visible in the soil when i left and look how tall they are already! i can't wait for them to bloom (and by the time they are done blooming you all will be sick and tired of me posting a zillion pictures of them...)

this lonely tulip was just showing some leaves a week ago, now it's all grown up. love the delicate pale yellow and white combination

the daffodils are late this spring as well, must have been the very cold weather earlier in the month

hmm...this is something my mom does on a regular basis. she buys some herbs or salad (with roots and soil in a tiny pot) and then plants the stubb somewhere (well, at the cottage almost anywhere where there is enough soil). as my gardening so far this spring has been non-existent, i thought i'd give this method a try. it's not like this sorry excuse for dill will bother some other decent herb

this was taken yesterday evening when walking the dog. fortunately, the thunder went elsewhere

how do you know summer has finally arrived? the dog is shedding white hair all over the place (and i mean everywhere) and he gets to go swimming to cool off. he doesn't seem to mind water despite a near drowning experience when he had just arrived to us.

that's all, folks! a fair advance warning is in order, there is another little trip in the books for next week (if the ash cloud from iceland won't spoil it...)