Category Archives: Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general

#31 Filled Zucchini Flowers – Fiori di Zucca Ripieni

Zucchini flowers are my favourites and I order them when they are on the menu. Unfortunately the Finnish grocery stores and markets seldom offer them. Hence I was delighted to find an abundance of them when on holiday in Tuscany in early July. They were I season and ‘our local’ Hipercoop had the in a splendid display (see the pic).

I filled my zucchini flowers (8 pieces) with a mixture of Parmesan (1.5 dl) and Ricotta cheese (1 dl, a 75 g packet) with a bit of rosemary. I started with making the filling. Next I checked that the flowers were ok. Then I took out two plates and poured a beaten egg on one of them and some bread crumbs on the other. As we were on holiday and there was no pantry to dig into in the house, the crumbs  were grated of yesterday’s bread.


This is the place in Tuscany where we have stayed many times. A lovely and peaceful place in the countryside.








Then I filled the flowers with a teaspoon or two of the filling. You can close the flowers by twisting the, to keep the filling inside. Once all the flowers were filled, I soaked them in the egg and turned in the bread crumbs. Lastly, I fried them in a pan with olive oil until golden brown.

I removed the fried flowers from the pan and placed them into a large one that is on low heat. When preparing these, you can add some salt and pepper if you like. The Parmesan is quite salty and this is why I skip the salt.

The ones in the picture below are of the very first ones I’ve ever made.


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Filed under Cooking, Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general, Primi, Recipes

Bright St Lucy’s

 Let’s celebrate St Lucy, the one that brings light to the darkness in mid-winter and marked the true beginning of Christmas time.

The day started with a traditional bake – see my blog post  dated 13 December 2012 for the recipe.

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Filed under Baking, Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general, Recipes

Energy boost: Pumpkin spice latte and Nutella

A quick pit-stop between an afternoon class in town and course admin on campus. This latte of autumn flavours and a slice of crunchy toast with Nutella made my afternoon.

The energy will carry me through the rest of the afternoon and the Italian class to the evening dinner meeting.

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Filed under Drinks, Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general

Pitting Cherries

My endeavours to cook and bake with cherries continue. I was browsing for ideas at Martha Stuart and found this wonderful, lifesaving tip for today. Just-on-time not just-in-case solution for me who do not own a cherry pitter!

“In case you do not have a cherry pitter, use a paper clip. Unbend the clip in the center. Insert the tip of one end into the stem end. Twist to loosen pit and pull to remove.”

I found this in the recipe for brown-sugar cherry cakes that I am just about to bake.

How simple and wonderful! Yet something I could never think of. Did you know this trick? 


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Filed under Cooking, Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general

La Bella Toscana: the holiday has begun

Greetings from Tuscany! 

The holiday has begun and I’m visiting both familiar and new places in Tuscany. I’m sharing a few snapshots below and there will be stories and recipes to follow…


It is always good to take a picture so that you remember where you’ve parked the car.


One of the many (9?) towers of San Gimignano.


And a view from the tower – towards the southern gate. A lot of stairs but a much nicer climb than in the cupola of il Duomo in Florens.

Boboli gardens, a refreshing walk in hot and sunny Florens.


And the food then … So delicious and so much to choose between. I would like to try everything.

A presto!

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Filed under Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general, Travel diary

Head over Heels in Tuscany – Lo Spicchio

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This is my favourite place in Italy, casa Vittoria and Lo Spicchio near Arezzo.

Serendipity brought us here eight years ago. We were living out our Italian dream holiday for the first time. We had rented a car and pre-booked some hotel nights and stays at farmhouses via Agriturismo. Our plan was to drive around in Toscana, and to stay were we pleased enjoying the sceneries, sights and good food and wine.

We found Vittoria’s through Agriturismo and have been returning ever since.

There is an ancient farmhouse and an apartment one can rent. It is an old estate with the main building dating back to the 17th century and the farmhouse from the 18th century. At one point there was a monastery here. The place has modern comforts adjusted to the historical settings. For us it is just perfect – the restorations have been made with original materials and furnished with authentic antique furniture. I enjoy the peace and quite, we both do – you can get on the net and check the news if you like, we always get the signals and the phones work despite the thick stone walls.  The buildings are surrounded by beautiful scenery- olive and wine groves, Arno valley with a richness of flora and fauna. You can see fire flies circling in the garden in the evening – a sign of pure nature!

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Here one has the luxury of being in the middle of the nature, in the Arno valley, yet not too far from the city of Arezzo and many, many interesting places just a day trip away. Florence is just an hour or so away not to mention Siena, Assissi, Pienza, Cortone and many more. A rental car is a must though there are local busses to town.

Some days we have stayed put and had walks in the morning sun or in the evening dusk; driven to one of the nearby villages to do groceries, to have a meal or to enjoy an evening stroll with ice cream after the dinner – per fare la passeggiata. Sometimes we have headed for some local shops, outlets and other places of interest.

The farmhouse is splendid for a ‘dolce fare niente’ holiday– the sweetness of doing nothing. Strolling around, wondering at the roses, lavender, fruit trees, wines … sitting on the terrace or the loggia; having discussions with Vittoria, the owner, and getting tips on places to visit. We have learnt so much about the local history and art through her – perhaps it is the kindred spirits that have befriended us – the shared love for languages, art and cooking. I getting cooking tips all the time and always have samples of her delicious cooking.  She gives cooking lessons – to visitors and locals. Now you see where my inspiration for Italian food comes from!

We love the open atmosphere the heartwarming welcome with which Vittoria meet us over and over again. There are always sweet treats – fresh cherries, figs, lemons , pasta, cheese etc. We have also met some friends over dinner, heard many stories and received many recipes shares, made excursions to local shops and markets.

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I’m heading to Lo Spicchio again this summer – another stay, cooking lessons and a course in Italian awaiting.



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Filed under Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general, Travel diary

 Dreaming of Summer in Italy

It’s Mother’s Day today, congratulations to all Moms! 

It’s not summer yet, the sun is trying to peak out. Everything green is trying to push out as quickly as ever from the soil. Today I’m longing for hot lazy days of summer holiday, and wanted to share these pictures with you. 

This is my favourite retreat, Casa Vittoria in Tuscany. Today I’m thinking back to the tastes, smells and light. I promise to tell you more and share some recipes.

  Sage and Rosemary to take home…. Guess how wonderful scent in the carry on baggage?  

Could figs be fresher than these? 

           Breakfast in Italian style – caffè, caffè  latte, cornetti e frutte (melone e pere). 


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Filed under Breakfast, Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general

Spring Cupcakes with White Chocolate, Rasberry and Hazelnut

The baking spree continues. Another trial with cupcakes with an adjusted recipe and first ever efforts with decorations. 


For 12 cupcakes

4 tblsp butter, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 egg

2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1 cup of water

1 cup of raspberries, 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts and 100 g chopped white chocolate

Mix the warm butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix in the water, use a food processor. Mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the mixture little by little. 

Spoon into cup cake forms. Bake in 200 C for 15 minutes. Let cool and decorate with marzipan and icing. 

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Filed under Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general

Hip and Urban in Stockholm

Stockholm, what a lovely city. A multi faceted and bustling city, always a ahead of Helsinki in the foot front. The winter holiday took me there to continue my explorations. Conveniently enough our national paper, Helsingin Sanomat, had an article on trendy restaurants the previous Saturday.

The cafes and restaurants, the food blogs, chefs and glossy food magazines seem to spot the trends before they land on this side of the Baltic – to the Eastern country, Finland. We were the eastern part of Sweden for several decades until 1809, hence the reference (Östland = Eastern country).

Urban Deli

Urban Deli (Nytorget, Södermalm) is said to be full from opening to closing. We were happy to enter the bustling restaurant on a late Saturday afternoon. There was a queue and we could wait at the bar or explore the deli. That we did, indeed, admired the eye-pleasing cold cuts and cheese counters. The platters being prepared were mouth-watering. It only took 20 minutes to get a table, the end of a large and high table that seated 8 -10.  The staff then, oh-so, cheerful and friendly from the first minute. This is what I love in Swedes, the lovely smiles and sunny faces, service at its best.

The main attraction then, the food. Brunch and lunch. Italian style antipasti, fish, seafood and salads. I envy the Swedes for their splendid west coast abundant with seafood. The side salads were served in small bowls and huge plates of antipasti. Country bread and olive oil while waiting for the meal. Sounds of champagne bottles being opened. Music, chatter and laughter. Take a peek at the menu, do some guessing with the Swedish.


Urban Deli reminds me of Eataly, a global Italian high-end food market chain.


Jamie’s Italian

Initially I had decided not to dine at Jamie’s because I feel his face is rather worn. All the TV programs, cook books and products. However, as Jamie’s Italian was the first restaurant around the corner from our hotel, we could do nothing else but step into the bar full to the rims on that early Friday evening. We took a peak into the restaurant and managed to book a table for Saturday night.

The atmosphere was easy-going, not too posh. The decor with turquoise and brown with accents of copper and orange. I would love to see it in daylight. The staff was friendly and helpful. Our waiter was rather slow but she knew the dishes well. Her colleagues were helping out.


My salmon topped with a salad of orange and fennel was delightful. Tasty fennel with not too much orange and a bit of chives. The sides, grilled aubergine with caponata, was a disappointment. This caponata was with no tomatoes and a cold dish. My friend enjoyed a meaty burger and chips, later she told that the burger was lukewarm and the chips too salty. A pity!


I went for Pavlova, the classic dessert with frut and berries, meringue and whipped cream. Delicious! The chocolate sauce on top of all this! All the desserts were quite heavy and it was difficult to choose between then. Despite of this I would have loved to see fruit  or a fruit salad Macedonia on the dessert menu, like in Italy.


It was a good night and most delicious. This Jamie’s is located in the heart of the city, a step away from Stureplan and the entertainment and party scene of the city.

I hope you enjoyed and that this might be of help for some of you. Any other places to try in Stockholm? Or perhaps Göteborg or Toronto?


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Filed under Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general, Restaurants, Travel diary

The Gem of Old Town, Café Helmi

My town is full of cosy cafés offering most delicious cakes, coffees and teas. Café Helmi (Tee- ja kahvihuone Helmi) in Välikatu 7 is one of my favourites. Anything you choose in their bakery vitrine, anything and everything you taste is delicious. We have not once been disappointed.

The service is friendly and good. Often times I see a familiar face greet me for many of my students have had a part-time job there. Any time you step in you hear a mixture of languages, the two local ones Finnish and Swedish, and Russian, Spanish etc. There is a mix of tourists and locals, young and old, families, couples and friends.

You can choose between sweet and savory, and on weekdays they serve lunch. Each room has its own ambiance with slightly difference decor. Everything apart from the kitchen ware is from the past centuries. It is bohemian with small tables and corners to have private conversations and tete-a-tete, and larger sofa groups for larger parties.

As you sip your coffee you can study pictures telling about the history of the town – the Romanoff family and Tsar Alexander I, Diet of Porvoo in 1809, the Cathedral… Some of the town guides take their groups to Café Helmi and continue their guiding with help of the pictures on the walls.

Today we admired a fine set of old coffee cups and a coffee post on display in the window, art deco perhaps? They also had ad largish set of china on display and on sale on one of the cabinets or dressing tables in the main hall. Italian decorations and made in England.
The rose tea was delicious as was the coffee and the Danish. They were out of Shrove buns at around 12 – this bread bun filled with whipped cream and almond paste is a speciality served on Shrove Sunday.

Today we missed the buns and enjoyed sleigh riding at a distance as a bunch of families were active in the hill slope. The weather was just about perfect – sunny, blue skies and -4 C. I would have been fun to ride along, don’t you think?






Filed under Cafes, Miscellaneous on travelling, cooking and life in general