Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I Like...And Don't Like

I was just in the car on a drive to yet another second hand store when I thought of a list of what I like about living in Denmark, and what isn't so great.  Some of it is food related, but much of it isn't.

First the good things (in no particular order):
  1. Spring.  After the longest winter of our lives, it's about time.
  2. Fjords.
  3. Swans swimming in the fjords.
  4. There are always people outside - even in the rain and cold.
  5. The farm country surrounding our town.
  6. Tractors - for my son - they are everywhere and he LOVES them.
  7. 37-hour work week - since I am unemployed, this one is for my husband.
  8. Excellent child care (Denmark is a very kid-focused/friendly country).
  9. Bornepenge - a mother gets money from the government every quarter just for having a child!  It's to help with food, diapers, clothes, and day care costs, but you can spend it however you wish.
  10. Genbrug second hand stores.
  11. Rugbrod (Danish rye bread - I like it with seeds).
  12. The locals are laid back and relaxed.
  13. Great bike lanes.
  14. Aarstiderne (the CSA we belong to).
  15. Public swimming pools - the cleanest and most well maintained I've ever seen.
  16. Our rental house.
  17. Soft is - "is," rhymes with niece, is Danish for ice cream.  Soft Is is like soft-serve in the U.S. but so so so much better.  And the hard ice cream is delicious, too.  Danes (and Scandinavians in general) are serious about their ice cream.  I enjoy the flavors, texture, and the fact that it is less sweet than American ice cream.  Americans love ice cream, too, but I find most of it cloying.  And that's from a person who loves sweets.
  18. Google translate. My best friend.
  19. Health care.  The quality is good and there is NO paperwork.  Not ever.  You simply swipe your personal ID card at check-in.  It's that simple.
  20. Beautiful sea shells and unusual rocks on the beaches.
  21. Discount markets - I frequent every one of them for one thing or another and they include Netto, Aldi, Lidl, Fakta, and Rema.  Food is expensive in Denmark and shopping at these markets for sale items such as meat, cheese, or wine, can save a bundle.
  22. Excellent dairy products.
Here is what I'm not so crazy about:
  1. High taxes (over 50 percent of my husband's salary)
  2. Goods are expensive - whether it's food or clothes or furniture, the prices are higher than I'm used to paying.
  3. The language.  It is pronounced NOTHING like it looks.  
  4. Close drivers - when someone thinks you are going too slow, they have no problem getting as close to your bumper as possible without actually touching.  It's maddening.  I don't see this behavior in all drivers, but it happens often enough that it's become a pet peeve.
  5. Drivers must have their lights on at all time.  And believe me, if you accidentally forget to turn yours on, the Danes will flash you or shake a finger at you.  I speak from experience. To me it's strange to drive in the middle of summer with my lights on, but I play by the rules.
  6. The radio stations could use some help in the play list department.  Once in a while, I will hear two or three great songs in a row on any of the 7 or 8 radio stations we get. Unfortunately, most of the time I hear way too many songs from the likes of Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Peter Cetera, Whitney Houston, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, George Michael, and Wilson Philips.  Forget about classic or alternative rock.  It's mostly bad 80s and R&B.  I know the stations are better in the bigger cities, but I am SO thankful for our CDs.  
  7. Finding a job is hell.  This is probably true almost anywhere, but at the moment it's my own personal hell.  All I hear is "learn more Danish!" Grrrrrrrr.
  8. Where I live it is practically impossible to find international ingredients in the supermarket.  And the only tofu I've seen was in a market 30 km from here and it was pickled.  In a jar.  Too scary for me.
  9. No more eating out for two reasons.  The first is that we don't have the disposable income that we did in the U.S.  (it's tight on one salary here), but more important is that we cannot find a good (and by good I mean one that we would go back to again and again) restaurant to save our lives.  We've tried places that we conclude are okay, but most of the time we are terribly disappointed by what we order and that we wasted our money on it.  I remember a girlfriend of mine laughing when I told her that I ordered a veggie burger and it turned out to be a bun with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber in the middle.  It was especially funny because when I ordered it from the menu I asked the waitress if they make the veggie burgers in-house.  She looked at me in a very confused way and said Yes. Of course they make their own - it's three veggies in between a bun!  My husband has ordered beef burgers at different places in the past and he always ends up with a stomach ache later on.  I know, in fact I'm certain, there must be very good Danish restaurants out there - either we can't find them or they are out of our price range.
  10. Litter.  There is more of it here than I ever would have expected.  Even on the beaches, which is just gross.
  11. Smoking.  I can't tell you how many people smoke here.  I'm so not a fan of it.
  12. The thousands of ads that come in the mail each week.  Remember what I said about the discount markets?  Well, they, along with all the other supermarkets, furniture stores, shoe stores, etc., send out masses of ads every week.  On one hand, I look at my favorites and see what's on sale, but then again, it's such a waste of paper.
  13. Pumping my own gas.  I know, it's lazy of me, but even though I've lived in several states in the U.S. where I had to do it, I never had to growing up in Oregon.
  14. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has a GPS in their car.  My husband has a little handheld one that he uses for hiking, but the Danes love their GPS's.  I know it's old fashioned, but we turn to Google maps and a pen and paper.  I'm not dissing the convenience (and paperlessness) of the GPS, I just find it odd that they are so prevalent in such a small country.
  15. When I did my first load of laundry here I was shocked at the 2-hour wash-cycle time. Where we live now we have a machine that can do a load in an hour (if you select the short cycle), a much more reasonable time, but the typical wash cycle is very long compared to what I'm used to.  I suppose it's the fact that we like everything done fast in the U.S. and the Danes are in no hurry at all.  I think their way is better, but it takes some getting used to.  Incidentally, the clothes come out cleaner, so I guess that says something.
  16. The weather and darkness of winter.  October through March is hell.  Cloudy, cold, rainy, gray, and just plain dreary.
It's funny.  I see that the number of things I like outweigh the number I don't like, however, the second list is longer (with way more description!).

Celebrating Our New Table: Madeleines and Beef Bourguignon

I found a recipe for classic Beef Bourguignon that required cooking time on the stove top and in the oven (10 minutes here, 4 minutes there, 4 minutes here, and then finally 3 hours).  I had the best intentions of making it this way, but in the end I opted for an all-stove top version.  It was so much less stressful, and the end result was magnificent.  The only complaint is that the meat could have been a little more tender and would have benefited from an extra half hour of cooking.  The sauce, with it's deep, rich flavors of beef, bacon, wine, tomato, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, was incredibly satisfying - especially when soaked in a slice of fresh, crusty bread.  The dish can be served over rice or pasta, but I chose to leave it in its simple glory.  The temperature hit 80F in Denmark and though it might have been better to grill outside, we enjoyed every last bite of this classic comfort food.  It's easy to prepare but still a very special dish.  By the way, the photo does not do it justice.

It must have been French food day as I decided to make Madeleines for the first time.  I was super happy with the way they looked, but not so happy with the heavy, dense texture.  The ingredients are simple and the little cakes had good flavor, but they did not turn out as light as I had hoped.  They should have been more spongy.  I will have to keep playing with this one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Failed Enchiladas

Yesterday we wanted to be in a town about 40 km away by 4:00 p.m. to look at a dining table and chairs at the Blue Cross second hand store.  My husband was supposed to be home by 3:00 so we would have plenty of time to get there before it closed at 5:00 p.m.  Even though he was running late, we made it in time and ended up buying the table.  So after four weeks without one, tomorrow we will have our meals on a real live table.  I can't wait.  My plan is to make Beef Bourguignon to celebrate.  Not a light, spring dish, but it's a recipe I've wanted to try for some time now.  Yes, I am going somewhere with this story.  I figured that we would get home late from the Blue Cross and wouldn't it be nice to have something easy for dinner?  

Enter the worst chicken enchiladas known to man.  Maybe not that bad, but certainly not one of my better creations.  Basically I did a quick Internet search for chicken enchiladas and borrowed elements from different recipes.  The reason I was inspired to make this dish is because I had roast chicken leftovers, some kidney beans in the fridge, and four leftover tortillas.  I make my own enchilada sauce because it's not available in the stores here.  But I only had one cup of tomato sauce, so I added some canned, chopped tomatoes to it along with a little cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, and salt and pepper.  I heated the sauce and set it aside. Then I de-boned the leftover chicken and mixed it with some salsa, chili powder, black olives, and the beans.  All I did was roll the chicken mixture in the tortillas, pour the sauce over, top with shredded cheddar (I've yet to find Jack cheese in Denmark, let alone pepper Jack, one of my favorites with Mexican food), and bake.  For some reason--my best guess is that I could have baked it at a higher temperature (I used 350F) and longer than 30 minutes--they really sucked.  Also, I am not a fan of dark meat, and much of my chicken filling came from the legs, thighs, and wings.  I thought the dark meat taste overpowered the other flavors.

So there it is.  It's not my first failure in the kitchen...and it won't be my last.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not My Average Sunday

I typically try to take it easy on Sundays, but today was uncharacteristically busy.  We spent three hours applying the second coat of paint to our bedroom--with our toddler underfoot and covered in paint!  After lunch I made a strawberry tart that I'd seen on the blog, Simple Mom. After naps for all of us, we enjoyed a slice of tart, served with honey-drizzled Greek yogurt.  All three of us ate multiple slices--it was that good.  We decided it was time to head outside and enjoy the lovely spring day, so we jumped on our bikes and went for a long ride. No, our 20-month old is not a bicycling phenom - we pull him in a bike trailer.  

When we returned it was time to prepare dinner:  baked cod seasoned with fresh thyme and salt and pepper, rice, green beans from our CSA box, and a salad of purple cabbage, diced apple, sliced orange, chopped walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.  The salad recipe came in our CSA box along with the cabbage.  And it was in Danish!

After dinner, while my husband gave our son a bath, I made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread.  I'm sort of past my yearly craving for this bread, but my husband loves it.  Plus, we are out of bread, so it will be good for breakfast in the morning.

So, all things considered, not a lazy Sunday.

I'm not positive that it will happen this week, but my goal is to make madeleines using the silicone madeleine baking mold that my mother in law gave me for Christmas.  I also want to try my hand at Beef Bourguignon,  a recipe from Julie and Julia, the book I'm currently reading.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Fixation with Oatmeal

I've always loved oatmeal.  I can't remember a time when I didn't have it for breakfast at least once a week.  I go through phases where I'll eat steel cut oats or old fashioned oats for weeks. But for the past several months, I have the same breakfast nearly every morning:  instant oats with a a spoon of jam and chopped walnuts served with a glass of milk.  I'm sure some would find it incredibly boring, but there is something about the taste and gluey texture that I can't get enough of.  I purposely make it on the gummy side because it's what I like.  Oatmeal is personal.  Some like it thick, some without toppings, and some pour milk on top.  Typically it is served with milk, brown sugar, and raisins. It's good this way, but I've long moved on to other flavor combinations.  They say that instant oats are not as healthy as the old fashioned kind, but oh well.  And one more thing.  I imagine that other people have weird food rituals, and here is one of mine:  after I cook the oatmeal on the stove, I put 3/4 of it in a serving bowl and leave the rest in the pan.  When I finish what's in the bowl, I use a spatula to eat the coldish, sticky leftovers in the pan.  I do it every time.  

I thought I'd also comment on the milk in Denmark.  Well, it's really more of a rant.  Milk is sold in quarts and half quarts.  I'm sorry, but do you know how fast you go through a quart of milk when you have kids?  And never mind the kid issue, I drink enough myself to warrant buying a larger container.  But no, not an option.  The other issue is that refrigerators are smaller here.  I'm not an advocate for huge fridges, but if they were bigger I could buy more quarts of milk!  I personally think it's a ploy to get people into the stores more frequently to spend money, but who knows.  I'm not saying that I would necessarily buy a gallon of milk, but I would definitely choose a half gallon.  The only advantage that I see is that I buy varying levels of milk fat to suit each family member's taste.  I go for the 0.5% "minimilk" which contains just a tad more fat than skim milk.  My husband and son like the 3.5% whole milk. And then I usually buy a quart of 1.5 % "light milk" to add to my black tea. You can also buy 0.1% and 0.9%.   And almost every dairy product is available organic, or okologisk in Danish.  
Finally, here is a photo of a blackcurrant drink that I brought home from an expat event I attended this week.  I mixed it with sparking water - blackcurrant is not something I've ever had in the U.S., but it's a common fruit flavor here.  It tastes like a cross between a raspberry and blueberry...the juice, that is.  I haven't tried the actual berry.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Night Pizza Pie

When we arrived in Denmark, we tried at least three different pizza places and all were disappointing.  We asked around and finally found Daddy's Pizza, a place that consistently makes a delicious pie.  Unfortunately, we've moved 46 kilometers away and are faced with the same problem as before:  where is the good pizza in this town?  So for now, we are making our own. Pizza cooked in a home oven (and without a baking stone) just doesn't produce the same quality crust as commercial ovens, but the advantages are that I can control the ingredients and it's economical.  Tonight I prepared some pizza dough, shaped it in a round pan, and topped it with sauce, equal parts Parmesan, cheddar and fresh mozzarella, sliced ham, pineapple tidbits, fresh basil, and a handful of green and black olives.  Daddy's puts green olives on their pizza, and it's such a good addition (one I wouldn't have thought of).  

On another note, I visited AMU NorthJutland today to see about cooking courses.  While someone at the school had given me promising information over the phone, my hopes were dashed when the student counselor tested my Danish language skills (by asking me tons of questions and trying to have a conversation with me - as if!) and I failed miserably. She informed me that unless I have a fundamental knowledge of the language (and can comprehend the Danish course instructions), it would not be a good fit for me.  Back to the drawing board. My next plan is to show up in person at restaurants, bakeries, and work place cafeterias and see if they might consider taking me on for free to start with, just so I can get my foot in the door, learn more Danish, and get some work experience.  After a break from my Danish classes at the sprogcenter (due to our move), it's back to business.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Cut a Roasted Chicken

This is what I made today: a loaf of white bread (I prefer whole wheat and grain breads, but I made this for my husband, who says all the grains, well, they get things moving a little too much internally) and roast chicken. I wanted to make this week's roast chicken recipe from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, but I do not own a covered baking dish big enough for a whole chicken...and I did not have any cinnamon sticks in the house. So I adapted two different recipes from America's Test Kitchen by stuffing the bird with chopped lemon pieces and whole, crushed garlic cloves and setting it atop a bed of chopped onions, carrots, and potatoes (the potatoes were my addition). Also, I added a little butter and dried tarragon (I didn't have fresh anything in the way of herbs, so I had to settle for dried) under the skin of the breast. I put the vegetables in the bottom of a 9 x 13 rectangle Pyrex dish, set a cooling rack on top of the veggies (the rack I use to cool cookies), and the chicken sat on top of the rack. The chicken cooked for 40 minutes at 375F to get the cooking going and 30 minutes at 450F to finish it up and crisp the skin. I decided to make the gravy recipe, too. I used to detest gravy of any kind, but I've warmed to it in the past year or so. I simmered the pan drippings with some chicken broth until it was reduced, added a little butter, flour (it was not called for, but I tossed in a teaspoon to thicken it a bit), and then some lemon juice. The recipe said to add salt and pepper, but the broth gave it enough salt and I just left out the pepper, not thinking about it. The results: the chicken was moist, tender, and flavorful. I did not think that the lemon and garlic imparted that much flavor, but the chicken was very juicy. The vegetables that had been cooking under the chicken were a bit of a mixed bag. Some were cooked perfectly tender and others were more crunchy and undercooked. Pieces chopped so small should have had no problem cooking fully in 70 minutes, so I wonder if it's my oven cooking unevenly? The gravy was on the thin side, but made an excellent sauce. I almost forgot to mention that tonight was my first time really attempting to carve the chicken in a proper way. Usually, I slice a couple of pieces off and then just tear at the thing, but I wanted to try and do it right, and despite the drumsticks falling apart a bit, it wasn't too bad.
The bread I made is "The Essential White Loaf" from Nigella Lawson. I mixed it up last night and, for the first time, used fresh--instead of active dry--yeast. The ingredients were super simple: flour, yeast, water, butter, and salt. Nigella recommended using potato water, but I did not have the time or patience to boil potatoes at 9:00 at night. After I prepared and kneaded the dough, I put it in an oiled bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight. This morning, I let it come to room temperature, kneaded it a little more, and then formed it into a football shape on a baking sheet. It baked for about 40 minutes and, while it looks a little funny, it tastes great. It's worth mentioning that from the moment I started kneading I thought I should have added more water before I got to the kneading stage. I found myself kneading a dough that required no additional flour to alleviate stickiness, which is uncharacteristic in my (albeit) limited bread making experience. The dough felt slightly dry and a little stiff. I was worried that it would be reflected in the quality of the finished bread, but the texture was surprisingly moist. So either I screwed it up and rebounded nicely or that is the way it's supposed to feel at the kneading stage.
When we were in Norway we were introduced to two products that have since gained great popularity in our house: Nugatti and Sjokade. The first is sort of like Nutella but it's thicker and not quite as sweet. Sjokade is another chocolate spread, but there is no nut flavor. It sort of tastes like a thicker version of Hershey's chocolate syrup, but way better. So today I served my son an afternoon snack of Nugatti on my homemade bread. He was smitten.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Box Has Arrived

I thought my box of produce from Aarstiderne was supposed to get here on Thursday, but it was dropped at my doorstep this evening.  Here's what's inside:  

1 head purple cabbage
4 leeks
1 red pepper
13 carrots
20 large green beans
18 small tomatoes
7 pears
7 apples
2 grapefruit
1 pineapple

When I saw the pineapple I questioned the whole local part of the deal.  Then I read the brochure and discovered that local is not only Denmark, but Spain (cabbage, red pepper, green beans, and tomatoes), Argentina (pears), Mexico (grapefruit), and South Africa (apples).  Only the leeks and carrots are Danish, but hey, at least the stuff's fresh and organic.  I ate a pear and it tasted great.  Now, what to do with all of it...

On a different note, until the box arrived, I was planning to write an entire post on my experience as a home cook of Mexican food in Denmark.  Suffice it to say, it's no easy task to prepare an authentic Mexican dish here.  Perhaps in a place like Copenhagen, it's no problem to find ingredients such as refried beans, mole sauce, enchilada sauce, good tortillas, and so on, but I don't know.  I love enchiladas so much that I learned to make my own sauce (something I never ever would have considered doing in the U.S.).  It's not difficult, by the way.  But here in rural Denmark, this is the extent of Mexican food staples:  flour tortillas, taco spice powder, salsa, guacamole powder, taco sauce, hard corn tortilla shells, tortilla chips, and cilantro (if you're lucky).  So I was thrilled when I found organic, whole-grain tortillas in my local supermarket. I celebrated by opening up one of three cans of black beans I've been saving (shipped from the U.S. with our clothes, skis, and kitchen equipment) by making my version of mini burritos and tostadas.  Incidentally, you can get black beans here in specialty markets - only they're the dried kind that you have to soak and cook like the dickens...and mine typically still wind up chewy.
I browned some lean ground beef and added the taco spice.  Then I set out all the fillings/toppings:  black beans, shredded cheddar cheese, avocado, mixed greens, chopped tomato, creme fraiche (which tastes just like sour cream), black olives (I'm used to California olives, but the Spanish olives are equally good), and salsa.  Because I think they're fun to eat, I like to prepare one little burrito with all the fixings.  Then I take the other tortilla, top it with meat, and make a salad on top.  I forgot to mention that before I even cook the meat, I heat the tortillas in a little vegetable oil and throw them in the oven to keep warm.

While I have not been to one yet, there is a Mexican restaurant chain in Denmark called Tortilla Flats.  Some Danes I know say it's good, but I'm sort of afraid to try it.  After growing up in Oregon where you can find very delicious and authentic Mexican food (as well as any ingredient you could possibly imagine), my standards are high.

With dinner I tried an apple and peach soda with cherry and mango flavors.  It was light and refreshing and paired perfectly with the Mexican flavors.  I thought it might contain alcohol since it sort of tasted like a fruit beer, but there was no sign of any alcohol on the label.  
Photo note:  yes, I took a bite out of the burrito before I remembered to take a photo.  I couldn't wait!

Ah, Chocolate

I just had to share my new favorite chocolate.  If you haven't tried it, and you enjoy sweet and salty, you must get your hands on a bar of Lindt - A touch of sea salt.  While I don't recall seeing it on the shelves in the U.S., perhaps I never looked closely enough (or it's possible it's a newly released flavor).  It's dark but for someone who typically enjoys 70% cocoa solids, at 47% this bar is more milk-chocolatey tasting.  As it melts in your mouth, you can taste little granules of sea salt... it's just subtle enough and, I might add, heavenly.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bread Con't., Wine, and Aarstiderne

So the Norwegian Mountain Loaf was a success.  It's an incredibly dense bread that, when held in your palm, feels only slightly lighter than a brick.  That being said, the flavor is nutty and bold and the texture moist and nubby.  It is delightful as is with butter and/or jam or toasted and spread with the same toppings.  From Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess, here is the recipe:

Norwegian Mountain Loaf
1c plus 2T low-fat milk
1c plus 2T water
2 1/4c whole wheat bread flour
1/3c rye flour
1pkg (1/4 oz) rapid-rise yeast (or 1T fresh yeast)  
1T salt
3T linseeds
3T sunflower seeds
2T wheat germ
1/4c rolled oats (not instant)

Mix the milk and water together in a measuring cup, and combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring all the while, to make a sticky, porridgelike mixture.  Scrape into an incredibly well-buttered loaf pan--or better still, a sturdy non-stick silicon loaf pan, which you need not prepare in any way--and put into a cold oven. Turn it on to 225F and after 30 minutes turn it up to 350F.  Bake for 1 hour, though in some ovens it may need 10-15 minutes more.  You should be able to slip it out of its pan and check by the knocking method, but with a loaf of this heaviness that's not always a reliable gauge, so do poke a cake tester or fine skewer to make sure; if it comes out clean, the loaf's cooked.  If not, you can just put it back in the oven without its pan and give it another few minutes.  

This is the wine du is a bottle left over from my husband's brother's wedding in August 2007.  It's a 2005 Saint-Joseph "Le Grand Pompee," and it is divine.

Because I've always wanted to join a community supported agriculture (CSA) service, I signed up for delivery of organic fruits and vegetables from a Danish organization called Aarstiderne, meaning Seasons.  They deliver all over Denmark.  The cost of the package I selected is 198DKK a week (about $40), and you can choose to have it delivered weekly, twice a month, or even once a month depending on how fast or slow you eat it all.  It is supposed to contain enough fruits and veggies for two people, and we'll get our first delivery this Thursday. I can't wait to see what's in it.  The Danes eat A LOT of potatoes and while I enjoy them from time to time, I'm hoping for some decent variety.

Finally, I wanted to share a couple of photos of a classic Danish Rugbrød that I bought in the bakery of the Kvickly supermarket today.  Rugbrød is rye bread and it comes in hundreds of varieties (dark, light, seeded, without seeds, small slices, different shaped slices, and so on). Typically I stay away from the in-store bakeries because of the cost. But there was a special today on the Rugbrød - one loaf for 18DKK ($3.60), so I thought it was worth it.  After only ever trying the pre-packaged bread-aisle Rugbrød, I was very impressed with the fresh, warm bakery loaf.  I don't ever recall having Rugbrød in the U.S., although I have a feeling it's available somewhere, and it's truly a Danish specialty.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Bread

It won't be surprising to know that I made more bread today. I have no idea how long my bread fixation will last, but I had to make this particular loaf because it was so easy to throw kneading and no rising involved! It's Norwegian Mountain Bread, and the recipe is from Nigella Lawson's book on baking (and she in turn got it from a half Norwegian friend). Basically you stir all the dry ingredients together in one bowl and in another you mix water and milk. At that point you add the wet to the dry, stir, and pour into a buttered loaf pan. Since it's still in the oven, I will share a photo next time.

I was inspired to make this recipe not only because I am on a bread kick, but I was in Norway over the Easter holidays (unlike the U.S. where you get no days off for Easter, most people here get at least three days paid). We spent four glorious days in the most beautiful little ski resort where we did as much cross country skiing as our bodies (and toddler) could stand. The meals at the resort are served buffet style, and as much as I enjoyed most of the food, some of it I found exotic. The Norwegians love their fish, let me tell you. They eat it cooked, pickled, smoked, cured, in pate, and in interesting looking salads that look mayonnaise or sour cream based. I played it safe with the cooked fish, delicious potato dishes, cooked vegetables, desserts (typically molded puddings, chocolate mouse, and fruit tarts) for dinner, and soft boiled eggs, fresh bread, butter, and jam for breakfast. I should be more daring, but hey, I know what I like. All in all, I would say I was most impressed by the quality of the bread, which is why I wanted to try to make my own.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'm Into Bread Lately

I started the day with a bowl of muesli with chopped banana (trying to use up those bananas) and milk. If my 20-month old son is home with me for lunch, I typically make some sort of sandwich; but today I went for a hot, kid-friendly lunch: mac and cheese. I added a couple of chopped up chicken hot dogs and some steamed green beans (it's kind of like a donut and diet coke, but not quite as bad). While I enjoyed mine all mixed together, my son picked out the hot dog pieces and had his green beans on the side. He used to be such a veggie eater, but now that he has been thoroughly introduced to treats like animal crackers, chocolate, and mildly sugary cereals, we fight more and more to get him to eat veggies. But that's another story for another time and another place.

I ended up making a loaf of banana bread (only three bananas left now!) that couldn't have been better. My son stood atop a kitchen stool and "helped" me. We mashed the bananas with our hands, stirred the dry ingredients together, cracked eggs into the sugar and butter, and had loads of fun assembling the batter. I was planning to use different elements of recipes from America's Test Kitchen and Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess, but in the end I went with Nigella's version. The main difference was that her recipe called for rum-soaked golden raisins and less sugar and nuts; I liked the less sugar aspect and the golden raisins intrigued me. Lacking any rum, I simply soaked the raisins in boiling water. I'm sure the rum would have been a delightful addition, but the way I did it was fine. The bread was moist and just the right sweetness. The toasted walnuts (I did actually take the toasted part from America's Test Kitchen) added a lovely flavor that was a great complement to the sweetness.

The burgers were less than a success. My husband was planning to cook them on the grill but because he did not get home in time (and because I need to learn how to use the grill...once and for all), I cooked them on the stove top. I simply added grill seasoning to lean ground beef (the lowest fat Danish beef is 3-7 percent fat) rubbed some oil on the patties, and cooked in a saute pan. A grilled burger is so much more flavorful. Here's to a long grilling season ahead.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Carrots and Crocs

Yesterday I posted photos of a loaf of bread I made.  It was the first yeast bread I've baked in Denmark, and I was rather happy with the results.  I adapted a recipe for white bread from an America's Test Kitchen cookbook.  Instead of all white bread flour, I added 1.5 cups of Grovhvede, which translates to course wheat, and has flecks of oats, flax, and other seeds.  The bread has a good flavor but is just a little too dense.  Next time, I would add even more wheat and try to figure out how to make the texture slightly lighter.

Tonight for dinner I made carrot soup and croc monsieur sandwiches.  For the carrot soup I adapted a recipe from 101 Cookbooks.  I used all the same ingredients but I only had bagged carrots, so I used those, and then I ran the soup through a food mill.  Instead of olive or an infused oil, I topped mine with a tiny bit of heavy cream.  It tasted good, but I thought the juice of a half-lemon gave it a slightly tart flavor.  Maybe my lemon was extra juicy, who knows.  For the croc monsieur I used my homemade bread, spread each slice with some heavy cream (you can also use creme fraiche or soy cream), a slice of black forest ham, and a slice of cheese (I used a sliced, white Danish cheese called Samso, but you can use practically anything you like that melts well under the broiler).  For dessert I put a digestive biscuit in the bottom of a ramekin, topped it with sliced strawberries, and poured a little bit of warm chocolate ganache on top.  

Tonight I will look at burger recipes and recipes for banana bread.  I have at least eight very ripe bananas that need attending to.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Food From Home

I'm sitting here eating a three musketeers and drinking a nestle instant latte.  It doesn't get much better than this.  Uh, yes it does, but when you are thousands of miles from home, a three musketeers tastes pretty darn good.  Tonight I marinated some chicken breasts in chopped garlic and a vinaigrette of olive oil, dijon mustard, red vinegar, and sea salt.  The chicken was skewered with chopped green and red pepper, red onion, and zucchini and grilled.  I served it with a plate of different cheeses, breads, crackers, olives, and some strawberries.  The berries come from Spain and they are ripe, sweet, and juicy.  You would be hard pressed to find good tasting berries at this time of year in Oregon.  We drank a Terrapura Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.  Two of my favorite combinations in the world:  wine and cheese, followed closely after my first favorite combination: sweet and salty. 

My First Post

I've thought about blogging for ages.  I even started a blog about living simply and on a budget in Denmark, and while I thought it would inspire me, it didn't.  My real passion is food.  There are probably thousands of food blogs out there, some of which I love and read faithfully.  I have to admit that the good ones intimidate me.  I have the sense that I cannot be as creative, clever, or prolific as those bloggers, but I've decided that's okay.  This is my journal.  It is simple, humble, and merely a record of what I am cooking and eating in Denmark, my home since July 30, 2008.