Smoked Salmon Casserole

lohilaatikoThis dish has been in heavy rotation at my house this winter. Simple and satisfying, this is my definition of comfort food. The original recipe, called lohilaatikko, was given to me by my aunt Helen. Her recipe calls for canned salmon (also very tasty), but I’ve substituted smoked fish and added dill.

5 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 4.5-oz. package smoked salmon, flaked
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. flour
Whole milk (at least 2 cups — quantity varies)
fresh dill and black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. butter

Butter a 2-quart casserole (a shallow one works best), and arrange half of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Add layers of salmon and onion. Sprinkle evenly with flour, and add the remaining potatoes. Pour enough milk in the dish to nearly cover the potatoes. Sprinkle with dill and black pepper, to taste, and dot with butter. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the top is slightly browned and the potatoes are tender. Serves four.

Hot Eggs on a Cold Day

coziesA boiled egg for breakfast is one of life’s simple pleasures. But in an old house on a cold Minnesota morning, even a boiled egg needs a little help staying warm. These warm, wooly egg cozies are like a stocking cap for your eggs, keeping them hot until the coffee’s made or the kids are at the table.

I found the free instructions for these felted egg cozies on Ravelry. They were a quick project, with each one taking about an hour to knit. I opted to use some colorful Peer Gynt yarn remnants that I had around the house. I’ve had varying success with felting projects in the past, but after a few minutes in some hot, soapy water and a couple of cold rinses — voila! — these felted right up. (more…)

Scandinavian Stoneware

tokeim_jul 2I’ve long been an fan of Tokheim Stoneware, and recently I had the chance to hear a talk by Lucy Tokheim, who runs the business along with her husband, Gene. After hearing some of Lucy’s stories of the couple’s experiences and influences over the years — including a stint studying at Rauland Academy (Raulandsakademi) in Telemark, Norway — I have an even greater appreciation for these artists and their work.

The Tokheims began producing their wheel-thrown pottery in their western-Minnesota studio in 1973. Over the years, their work has become known for its Scandinavian folk art influences: floral designs and color palettes from rosemaling, animal figures from wooden ale bowls and other carved pieces, geometric shapes found in textiles and chip carving, and symbols from the primstav, or ancient calendar stick.

The Tokheims are taking orders on their 2014 God Jul bowl (shown here) until Thanksgiving. Or if you live in the region, you can visit their gallery during their Holiday Open House, Nov. 20–22. The studio is located in rural Lac Qui Parle county, between Dawson and Montevideo, about 2-1/2 hours west of Minneapolis. (Visit their website for hours and directions.) No time for a road trip? You’re in luck: Tokheim Stoneware offers mail order and a small number of products online. You can also find a nice selection of their products at Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis.

Style Meets Warmth

NorSariIt’s officially fall! And if you live in a cold-weather climate, you know this is no time to relax. Our pre-hibernation brains kick in and tell us to start carb-loading and hoarding canned goods. We know it’s time to tune up our snowblowers and take inventory of our winter outerwear.

This winter I say, “Bring it on.” I’m the owner of a NorSari. And I plan to wear it everywhere.

Gwen Daniels, the creative force behind NorSari, said she invented the wooly outer-skirt to help her survive the cold Minnesota winter: “I started wrapping a blanket around my waist before heading out the door to get in my cold car to drive to work. I couldn’t believe how warm it kept me! Soon, I was wearing the blanket even at work. At that point I decided I needed to make myself a wrap that looked a little more stylish.”

Daniels shared her idea with family and friends, refined her product over the course of a couple winters, and NorSari was born. Now she offers the wrap in three sizes and an assortment of wool fabrics. So warm! So easy! Why didn’t I think of that? Check out NorSari on the web, or visit the NorSari shop on Etsy.

Wild Blueberry Pie

blueberriesNo berries taste sweeter than those you’ve foraged yourself — especially if you bake them into a pie. That’s exactly what I did after my family bagged a glorious haul of wild blueberries yesterday.

On the way home from picking, my daughter asked for the fresh blueberry pie that my parents used to make. This has become one of my go-to pie recipes because it’s simple, and the subtle flavor of the fresh fruit comes through — a true berry-lover’s pie. (The original recipe came from a cookbook published by the University of Minnesota’s Beta of Clovia sorority, and I’ve made just a couple of tweaks to the recipe.)

Of course the wild berries taste amazing, but this recipe works great with any fresh blueberries. So go get yourself some and give it a try! (more…)

Northern Lights Necklace

beadYears ago, while sleeping in a tent on the shore of Lake Superior, my husband and I found ourselves awake in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. We stepped outside the tent and saw an incredible display of Northern Lights. It was as if we were both pulled from sleep by the atmosphere’s energy.

I was reminded of that night’s amazing light show when I saw my friend wearing this necklace. It was made by Leanne Kinvig, who was inspired by the Northern Lights that are so often visible from her home in Canada’s Yukon Territory. She calls them Borealis Beads. Handcrafted from polymer clay, with no two beads alike, they are “as unique and ever changing as the Northern Lights,” she says. To learn more, visit Kinvig’s page on Facebook.

North to Nisswa!

signpostIt’s that time of year again: School is almost out, Minnesotans have gone from wearing wool sweaters to shorts in what feels like just a few days, and my family is packing to head north to the 15th annual Nisswa-stämman Scandinavian Folk Music Festival.

Set in the iconic Northern Minnesota town of Nisswa, the festival was conceived by Scandinavian-American folk musician Paul Wilson and his wife/musical partner, Mary Abendroth. After attending gatherings of folk musicians in Norway and Sweden, the couple wanted to create a similar experience for their fellow folk musicians on this side of the pond. (more…)

15 Years of Finnish Design

palikkaEach Mother’s Day my family encourages me to spend the day doing whatever sounds fun and relaxing. Usually that involves getting out into the garden and planting flowers, but this year’s cool, wet spring put a damper on those plans. So instead we made a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to take in “Finland: Designed Environments,” a lovely new exhibition focusing on 21st-century creations—including furniture, fashion, architecture, and even bicycles. The exhibition isn’t a big one, but it provides a great crash-course in the practical, understated elegance that has made Finnish design so distinctive and influential across so many creative fields. The exhibit runs until Aug. 17 and is free, so it’s easy to fit into a quick visit, or as a special bonus if you’re planning to see another of the museum’s exhibitions.

I particularly loved the “Palikka” stool by Tapio Anttila, pictured here. Check out a slideshow of objects from the exhibition here.

Pulla “Peeps”

pulla peepsOne Easter when I was a kid, I remember my mom baking pulla buns in the shape of birds. Genius! What could be better than fat, adorable birds made from Finnish cardamom coffeebread and fresh from the oven?

I decided to give it a try this year, with the help of my son, and I would call our experiment a qualified success. We got some interesting variations—some ended up looking more like turtles, baby seals, or snails—but the majority of them actually looked like birds. And they all tasted equally delicious. (more…)

Best-Ever Baked Pancake

pannukakkuA few years ago we inherited a small flock of chickens from friends who moved abroad. Those hens laid beautiful brown eggs, and at their peak we gathered seven delicious eggs a day. As you might guess, we tried a lot of egg recipes. We also came to really appreciate that amazing little egg factory in our back yard. (Unfortunately, so did Mama Raccoon, but that’s another story.) During those years, this became the hardest-working recipe in our household. It’s nutritious, fast, filling, versatile, and affordable. And everyone likes it!

The inspiration for this recipe comes from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas (a fabulous book). I’ve made a couple of tweaks to the original to fit my family’s tastes. (more…)

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