Online Finds: Gilded Insect Cookies for Halloween

Arts & Crafts, DIY, Food & Drink, Stunt Double

We do Halloween in a very minimal way in our house. I do, however, love seeing what creative decorations and tips other people have shared. This year, Claire’s gilded cookies top it all:

The Simple Sweet Life Claire Gilded Insect Cookies

Claire at The Simple Sweet Life.

How elegant! And such detail – wow. Learn more from the tutorial by Claire at The Simple Sweet Life.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Two Finnish Blueberry Soups

DIY, Food & Drink

By accident, at my local library I ran into a maritime Massachusetts cookbook, In Cod We Trust by Heather Atwood. I was very surprised to find several references to Finns in it. I know immigrants from Finland settled in various places around New England and the Midwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I had assumed that their numbers in Massachusetts were nowhere large enough to make a lasting impression. Lo and behold, I was quite wrong!

“The West Barnstable Finns brought their affection for fruits and berries to Cape Cod, where local blueberries and cranberries made them very happy. Jewel-like fruit soups find their way to Finnish tables in West Barnstable all year round. They are served as a light lunch, a first course, or as dessert. They are served warm and cold. They are served alone for a light, refreshing, and healthful dish, and they are served by the tablespoon luxuriantly over a bowl of rice pudding.”

Heather Atwood, In Cod We Trust, 2015, p. 105.

Here’s a Finnish blueberry soup recipe from West Barnstable, Massachusetts, according to Atwood:

West Barnstable Finnish Blueberry Soup

West Barnstable Finnish Blueberry Soup from Heather Atwood: In Cod We Trust (2015).

(Serves 4 as soup / 6 over rice pudding)

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon mace
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • ¼ cup port
  • yougurt or whipped cream

“Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add blueberries, sugar, mace, cinnamon, and salt. Add arrowroot (or cornstarch) to cold water, and mix into a smooth paste. When the berries have cooked about 10 minutes, slowly stir the arrowroot mixture into the boiling soup. Cook 2 minutes more, or until thick. Add port. Remove the cinnamon stick. Serve warm as is, or chilled, with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream on top. Again, this is also delicious served over warm rice pudding.”

Sounds both familiar and unfamiliar, for the everyday recipes I grew up with don’t have port or spices, just sugar and the berries. Around Christmastime you might make a soup out of dried fruit and/or berries, or a fruit medley, and include a Christmasy mix of spices in that. Berry soups of various kinds taste very good on cold rice pudding, too, and make a nice snack even on their own. Also, traditionally we use wild berries, not the cultivated ones, but I find that which kind to choose is merely a question of preference.

To compare, here’s a berry soup recipe I learned in home ec class:

(Serves 2)

  • 2 cups / 4-5 dl water
  • scant ¼ to ½ cup / ½-1 dl berry mash or juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 4 tablespoons / ½ dl cold water
  • scant ½ cup / 1 dl berries, fresh or frozen

Bring the water to a boil. Add the berry mash or juice and sugar and cook for about five minutes. Do not overcook. Blend the starch and cold water into a smooth paste. Lift the pot from heat and slowly stir the starch mixture into the berry water, mixing thoroughly while pouring. Return the pot to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a few bubbles rise to the surface (soup shoud be clear and thick).

Pour fresh or frozen berries into the serving dish. Pour soup on top of the berries and sprinkle with sugar to discourage a skim from forming. Chill and serve. (If a skim does form on the surface, just stir it back into the liquid.)

Dinner2 Dessert

You can substitute corn starch for potato starch, or whatever is commonly used in your cooking culture to thicken liquids that doesn’t have a strong taste of its own. Also, by adding or subtracting starch, it’s easy to adjust the thickness of the soup to desired consistency. Thick, rich soups take 4-5 tablespoons and lighter soups 2-3 tablespoons per quart / liter of liquid.

Now I want berry soup! 🙂

P.S. We used a variant of this very same berry soup in our Lord of the Rings dinner project.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Raspberry Sour Cream Pie Recipe

DIY, Food & Drink

A sour cream pie made with our first raspberries! Berry pies with sour cream are quite popular back home in Finland, and very summery.

Raspberry Sour Cream Pie

Here’s my favorite recipe converted into American measurements from metric.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup water

For the filling:

  • ca. 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the baking powder and then flour a little at a time, mixing well in between. Add the water last. Mix gently. The crust should be a little flakey, not elastic like bread dough.

Pat evenly on the sides and bottom of a 9” pie plate with well-floured hands. Spread berries evenly on the crust. The berries should fill the crust but not overcrowd it; a few gaps are fine.

In a bowl, mix together the sour cream and sugar. Add egg and mix. Pour on top of berries.

Place pie plate on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper in case of spills. Bake for approx. 45 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges.

Tastes best when cooled and keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Tea and Cakes

Food & Drink

Here in the northern hemisphere, July may perhaps not be the perfect time for afternoon tea. That doesn’t stop me from browsing for ideas, though – nor mixing up my genres with abandon. 🙂

A round of afternoon sweets could include, for example, clever mini Moomin cheesecakes by Eimear…

Eimear Mini Moomin Cheesecakes

Eimear at Sparkle Side Up.

…to go with a robust cup of Miss Lucy Steele from the Jane Austen Tea Series by Bingley’s Teas Limited…

Bingleys Teas Miss Lucy Steele

Miss Lucy Steele. Bingley’s Teas Limited.

…and, for an after-treat treat, perhaps also The Catwoman drink:

BuzzFeed Lauren Zazer Catwoman Drink

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed Life.

Yum! I really love creme de cassis, but I’d skip the bitters. (The Catwoman comes from a list of Batman-themed drinks for a Gotham-inspired bro-dal shower thrown by BuzzFeed staff. The rest of them sound pretty good, too!)

Any fun, geeky foods or drinks like to share? Go ahead!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

WoW Style Easter Eggs

Arts & Crafts, Games

A thing I’ve just become aware of is painting your Easter eggs with WoW-themes. Twitter user TheFussypants painted these fabulous eggs:

Twitter TheFussypants WoW Eggs

TheFussypants on Twitter.

…and DeviantArt user Devilflower-chan made a set of five:

geeky_easter_eggs_by_devilflower_chan-d3esqzs

Devilflower-chan on DeviantArt.

Nice! I really like both sets. I don’t know about you, but I’d have a hard time cracking them for eating.

Recreating Childhood Tastes: Liverwurst Sandwich

Food & Drink, My Spaces

Recently I’ve been musing on the peculiarities of memory, and especially taste memory. Moving into another country is a full day job. Apart from the paperwork, which can be considerable, arranging for the physical move itself can take a toll. Then there’s the emotional cost and the inevitable culture shock. For me, one of the changes that struck me more than anticipated was food.

Thankfully, New England cooking resembles Nordic cooking quite a lot, just like the landscape. In most cases, I’ve been able to make do with the ingredients found here, or find substitutes. My most recent search for substitutes involves liver. I gather that many people don’t like the taste of liver. I can’t say it’s a great favorite of mine either, except for one particular brand of casserole and one particular brand of sausage I grew up with; those I quite like.

The other day I was thinking of the Finnish liverwurst I loved as a child. I especially like it on a slice of a particular type of whole grain sourdough ryebread with a thin slice or two of cheese. Although I haven’t had them in years, the thought stuck so insistently that I had to try and recreate the sandwich.

Childhood Tastes Liverwurst Sandwich

Exhibit A: My dorky breakfast from this morning – a Herodotus quote mug and geeky napkins by fellow Etsy seller Nicole Porter. The kind of ryebread I’m thinking of isn’t available in this area. Instead, I chose a slice of Wasa sourdough crispbread (Fin. näkkileipä; Swe knäckebröd), because Wasa does the sour rye taste very well without any modern humbug like caraway. The cheese is extra sharp cheddar, sliced thin with my trusty Swedish cheeseplain that I brought over with me, and the liverwurst is a brand of Braunschweiger from the supermarket.

It was close, but the taste was off enough to leave a nagging feeling; perhaps it was the bacon(!) in the sausage. The texture of this Braunschweiger is also much too coarse compared to the one I’m craving. I will need to continue the search for a liverwurst that’s closer to the Finnish brand I remember. I’m looking forward to sampling. 🙂

Any comfort foods you’d like to share?

Geeky Cakes & Such

Arts & Crafts, Food & Drink

With July heat, my craving for cool treats has soared. Lately I’ve been looking for ice cream cake inspiration. Somehow that turned into browsing geeky cakes and confectionery. Wow, there’s an abundance of talent and inventiveness out there!

The cake below is described as an Independence Day cake at Instructables, but if you ask me, it’s unmistakeably a Captain America cake!

Instructables Cake stevequag

Independence Day Surprise Cake by stevequag at Instructables.

Independence Day Surprise Cake by stevequag.

A beautiful Jane Austen cake by Little Miss Krafty:

Little Miss Kratfy Jane Austen

Jane Austen cake by Little Miss Krafty.

Deceptively simple yet elegant, just like Austen’s fiction.

This is more ambitious, and not for the faint of heart:

Dinosaur Cake Donna Marsden

Dinosaur cake by Donna Marsden.

Dinosaur cake by Donna Marsden.

And lastly, just because they’re so breathtaking, Game of Thrones dragon egg cookies by Mike at Semi Sweet Designs:

Semi Sweet Designs game-of-thrones-eggs-cookie-platter

Game of Thrones dragon egg cookies by Mike at Semi Sweet Designs.

Holy moly, Mike airbrushed the color on. Airbrushed! Kudos, Mike!

I’m very impressed – and relieved that baking isn’t one of my things. I really don’t need a reason to turn the oven on right now! 🙂