Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Better than nothing

I know, here I am giving you a link to a recipe. Lame, right?  But in light of the million or so things I have to do before leaving for vacation Friday morning, I can't manage more at the moment.  I had planned to write at least a handful of posts this week...until a cookbook manuscript landed in my lap.  I've spent the better part of a week editing this exciting book, which I promise to tell you more about when I return in August.

For now, please enjoy the broccoli salad recipe from Everybody Likes Sandwiches.  I have literally eaten bowls upon bowls of the stuff and just can't get enough of it.  I've also added handfuls of chopped purple and white cabbage with equally great results.

We'll be visiting Croatia, Italy, and France this summer, and I can't wait for all the new food adventures coming my way.

I'll report back in August...until then Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So much to say...

So little time.  I've been on a figurative treadmill the last two weeks.  I'm taking a food handling course called, in Danish, Almen Fodevarehygiejne, and tomorrow is the last class and final exam.  I'm also juggling my part-time job, responsibilities at home, and preparing for two exciting events:  a girls' night out at my house this Saturday and a 5-week vacation the following Friday.  Can I tell you how spoiled I feel to have five weeks of vacation?  It's a first for me, and I am so excited I can barely stand it.

But I wanted to check in, report on what's been occupying my time, and tell you that I have of list of at least four blog post topics sitting at the ready.  Next week, in between packing, cleaning out the fridge, and transitioning my brain to vacation mode, you will be hearing from me!

Topics on my list include a killer broccoli salad that I've made three times in the last two weeks; chocolate puddle cookies, and homemade Jello (and jello shots).  I'd also like to share more about the food handling course.  I've learned so much and have bonded with my classmates who come from all over the world.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  I hope that your summer is off to a great start.

p.s.  Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Restaurant Success in Hobro

I'm sure you've heard me whine about the lack of good eating establishments in Denmark.  Good isn't even the right word, because most of the restaurants we've tried during our nearly two years here have been good, decent, okay, just passing the mark.  You get the picture.  But no where near great.  Also, let me say that I am referring to restaurants in the places I've lived in West and North Jutland, not Copenhagen or even Aalborg or Aarhus.  I haven't spent enough time (or money, as the case may be) in those places to judge.

So, it was with trepidation that Alan and I visited Bie's Bryghus, a newly restored brewery and restaurant, right here in our little town of Hobro.  The good news is that we were delighted with the food.  There wasn't really any bad news, per se, but we did experience a service glitch that caught us by surprise.  I'll get to that in a minute.

It was a big night out for us.  If you can believe it, it was our first date night in Denmark in almost two years.  We just don't know that many people to ask for babysitting help and frankly, it's expensive (and not always rewarding) to eat out.  But, of course, it's not like we have to spend money to have a great date night.  We realize this.

But the point is that we got out.  As the Danish say, Bedre sent end aldrig...or better late than never.

We started with drinks.  The colorful drink is called a Madam Blå (blue), a mix of vodka, sprite, and blue coloring.  I'm not really sure what I was thinking when I ordered it except we were at a brewery, I don't drink beer, and the other drink selections were minimal at best.  It felt sort of fun to have a blue drink (I can only imagine all the chemicals I ingested), but it would have been much better served on the rocks.  Ice is just not a hot commodity in Europe.

Soon we moved on to a starter of fresh salmon, blanched asparagus spears atop a bed of greens, edible flowers, and the most delicious creamy dill sauce.  It was served with a basket of bread and a pretty pat of butter.  Okay, the bread.  Nothing was wrong with it, it was quite tasty in fact, but getting a second helping was a different story.

Our sweet but clearly inexperienced waitress (I truly believe it was her first night waitressing let alone the restaurant's opening night) was clueless about virtually everything on the menu.  I suppose it didn't help that we asked her to translate different parts of it.  But she's originally from Australia, and English is her mother tongue.  At any rate, when we casually asked for more bread, we were met with a sweet smile and a surprisingly odd reply of "I will go ask the chef if it's okay."  We were dumbfounded.

Now it's one thing to apply a nominal or small surcharge for extra bread, but to question a customer's request in such a blatant and awkward way?  Not the best customer service, to say the least.  A few minutes later she returned and told us that it was too busy in the kitchen and that she didn't think she could bring us any more bread. Ordinarily, it might not matter if there was no bread left, but apart from being annoyed by the principle of being told No to more bread (when we knew there was more), we were actually hoping for another piece to eat with what was left of the salmon starter.

We let her know that we were unhappy but told her that we understood that things were hectic for them on opening night.  Not five minutes later, she returned with an apology and...more bread.

The funny thing about my entree is that I didn't quite know what I was ordering.  Turns out, I ordered ribs.  If you know me, you know that I would never, ever order ribs.  I've never liked them.  But in an effort to be a good sport, I dug in and was surprised by how delicious they were. There was a lot of meat on each one, it was flavorful, and the sauce with which they were cooked in was fantastic.

Alan enjoyed a steak and roasted baby potatoes.

We plan to return to Bie's Bryghus.  Only next time, I will bring some bread in my purse.

And just in case you don't believe all you've heard about the Danes leaving their babies outside to sleep, here it is, photographic evidence.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Budget-Friendly Meal That Tastes Good

Heck, it tastes way better than just good.  It's a winner all around. What is it, you ask?  Lentil and Rice Salad.  You might be thinking, blah!, but there are so many terrific flavors in this dish that the lentils and rice get an instant upgrade in the taste department.   Moreover, it's cheap, healthy and a good pick for Meatless Mondays, if you're into that.  I picked it up from Giadi Di Laurentiis (hmmm, second time in a month).

It's not the most photographable food, but I think my topping of sauteed red onions helps the pretty factor a bit.

By the way, if you are serving this to picky eaters (such as my toddler), try setting aside a bit of each ingredient (prior to mixing) and serving it that way.  For example, on a dinner plate I put a little pile of lentils, another one of rice, and then some carrots.  I do this with most of the one-pot meals I make because the whole "mixed" concept isn't very popular with my toddler.

Lentil and Rice Salad

1T + 3T EVOO
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4c dried green or brown lentils
2 1/2c chicken broth plus 2c
1 bay leaf
1c long-grain white rice
1/2c pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/2c fresh chopped Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1T chopped fresh thyme leaves
2t finely grated lemon peel
salt and pepper

My notes:  I skipped the parsley because I didn't have any, used 1t of dried thyme instead of fresh, and grated the garlic instead of mincing. Grating is my new favorite way to use garlic.  Also, in terms of the cooking time for the lentils, I went on the longer side because I enjoy a more soft lentil, not anything the slightest bit chewy or crunchy.  I cooked for at least 25 minutes before removing from the heat.

1.  Heat 1T of oil in a large saucepan.  Add carrot, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in lentils and 2 1/2c broth.  Cook over high heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer lentils 20 minutes until just tender.  Drain well, and transfer to a large serving bowl.

2.  Bring the remaining 2c broth and bayleaf to a boil over medium heat.  Add the rice, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Do not stir the rice while it cooks, but check after 15 minutes.

3.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit 3-5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork, and add to the bowl with the lentils.

4.  Add the olives, parsley, thyme, and lemon peal.  Toss with the remaining 3T of EVOO.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A New Twist on Irish Soda Bread

I had the nerve to adapt a recipe from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame.  I mean, who adapts her recipes?  They're so good they're practically un-adaptable.  But I did, and I have to say, I'm glad I did.

The recipe is for Six-seed Soda Bread, only I swiped out the fennel seeds, replaced them with the more traditional caraway that you find in many Irish Soda Bread recipes, added a tablespoon of raw cane sugar, and tossed in a couple handfuls of raisins (currants not being available where I live).  Furthermore, I played with the flours by using spelt, rye, and whole-wheat (finally available in my local market.  Thank you, mighty flour Gods.)

And voila. It was absolutely fantastic.  What's more, I just love the fact that it appears both rustic and fancy.

Six-Seed Soda Bread
adapted (with aplomb) from 101 Cookbooks

2.5T each sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and flax seeds
1T caraway seeds
1 3/4c spelt flour
1c rye flour
1c whole-wheat flour
2t baking soda
1t sea salt
1 3/4c buttermilk

Set oven to 400F/205C

1.  Combine seeds and set aside
2.  Sift flours, soda, and salt in a large bowl.
3.  Stir in all but 2T of the seeds (the remaining 2T will be used for the top).
4.  Make a well in the center and add buttermilk.  Stir until combined.
5.  Turn out on a lightly floured surface, knead ever so slightly, and form into a loose ball.
6.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
7.  Using a sharp knife, mark a deep X on the top, brush with butter milk, and sprinkle with reserved seeds.
8.  Bake 35-40 minutes, until a deep golden brown crust forms on top. The other way to know that it's ready is to remove it, carefully turn it over, and tap on bottom.  You're looking for a hollow sound.

Cool bread on a wire rack.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Better than Pop Tarts: Hindbær Snitters

I don't know about you, but I like saying "snitter."  Hindbær is "raspberry" in Danish and, for the life of me, I can't figure out why but snitter translates to "chopper."  In other words, this is a recipe for raspberry choppers.  But you know what?  That's kind of fun to say, too.

I have no idea if the hindbær snitter was the precursor to the Pop Tart, but there is a close similarity.  Only who would choose the packaged, processed, chemical-amped version over the natural, homemade one? Not me.

Last week I mentioned that I bought a few slices of hindbær snitter for the kids at our BBQ.  I was so taken with them that I had to try and make my own.  The recipe is a cinch, and I love the different steps involved.  The dough mixes up quickly, then gets chilled in the refrigerator for an hour.  After that the two discs of dough are each rolled into a large rectangle and baked.  After they cool for a few minutes, one rectangle gets spread with raspberry jam, the other goes on top, sandwich-style, and then the whole thing gets a nice, smooth layer of white icing.  The sprinkles on top are for pure fun.

Kids adore this dessert, and it might even be a fun one to tackle with their help.  They probably would love spreading the sprinkles around.

Hindbær Snitters
Recipe adapted from

2.5c flour
1 1/4c. powdered sugar (I used 1c.) + 1c for glaze
1t vanilla sugar (optional)
1t baking powder
3/4c butter, diced into small cubes
1 egg, beaten
1c. raspberry jam
2-3T water

1.  Whisk together flour through baking powder.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mix until it resembles small crumbs.  Mix in beaten egg to form a soft dough.  My note:  I added 2T or so of water to help bind the dough.

2.  Divide dough in two halves, cover each with plastic and refrigerate 1 hour.

3.  Preheat oven to 375F/190C.  Using a rolling pin, roll out each half of chilled dough into an 8 x 12" rectangle, give or take a bit.  My rectangles weren't perfectly uniform, but you are going for two slabs of dough that are nearly identical so that you can make a "sandwich" with them later.

4.  Trim edges to make them square.  My note:  I trimmed after baking, which maybe wasn't such a good idea, but it worked fine.  Carefully roll the dough around your rolling pin and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and cool.  My note:  I rolled and baked one rectangle at a time.

5.  Spread jam on bottom layer and cover with the top layer.  Combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 2-3 tablespoons water to form a thick glaze. Spread over top layer and add sprinkles.  After 10 or so minutes, cut into bars.

Yield:  15-20

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Meatless Mondays & Easy Pasta Primavera

Have you heard about the Meatless Monday movement?

In partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, this non-profit initiative aims "to reduce meat consumption 15 percent in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet."

I'm not going to say that going forward we will never eat meat on a Monday, but I will say that in general we are reducing the amount of meat we eat in favor of more legumes, whole-grains, and vegetables.

My mom's good friend Susan passed on this recipe who in turn picked it up from the Italian food wonder, Giada De Laurentiis.  It's really what spring is all about:  light, healthy food that comes together in a snap. Plus, it's perfect for Meatless Mondays.

What I love about it is that you can play with the ingredients in a number of ways.  After seeing asparagus all over the local grocery stores the past few weeks, I couldn't find any the day I wanted to prepare the dish.  Instead, I used a lovely zucchini and cut it into spears.  Also, even though it was sitting right on the counter starting me in the face, I forgot the basil.

Please make this dish.  You won't be sorry.  It's light, easy, and really delicious.

Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes


8oz. penne pasta
3T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 lbs. thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
salt and pepper
2c (9oz.) cherry tomatoes
1c shelled fresh peas (I used frozen and they tasted just fine)
1/2c low-sodium chicken stock
1c grated Parmesan cheese
2T chopped, fresh basil leaves


1.  Cook pasta 8-10 minutes, drain, reserving 1/2 pasta water.

2.  In a large saute pan, heat the oil.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper, and cook about three minutes until slightly soft.  Add the tomatoes and peas.Cook for two minutes.  Add the chicken stock to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer.

3.  Cook 2-3 minutes until the cherry tomatoes begin to burst and the stock is reduced by half.

4.  Transfer the veggie mix to a large serving bowl.  Add the pasta and half of the Parmesan.  Toss well, adding reserved pasta water if needed, to loosen the pasta.  Garnish with remaining Parmesan and chopped basil.

Serves 4-6

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

A few months back I mentioned how excited I was to have rhubarb plants growing in our yard.  At least that's what I thought they were. They sure look like rhubarb, but the sad truth is they're not.

However, sometimes just when things are looking down, something unexpected happens.  The day I realized that I had a faux-rhubarb plant in my yard, I also received my weekly CSA box with a big bunch of shiny, reddish-green rhubarb stalks inside.

I knew we'd be having friends over for a BBQ over the weekend, so I set the rhubarb aside and found just the right recipe for it.  For weeks it seemed like every food blog imaginable featured a rhubarb recipe, but I selected the Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from 101 Cookbooks.  I guess what drew me to it most (other than the photos) was two intriguing ingredients in the crumble topping:  black pepper and pine nuts.  Okay, why not.  Plus, it called for spelt flour, something that (surprise, surprise) is easily accessible here.

The crumble comes together really easily, and I ended up doubling the recipe to feed six adults.  We ate it all with the exception of a spare serving or two.  It goes incredibly well with vanilla ice cream.  As for the pepper and pine nuts?  Didn't even notice the pepper but can't say that the pine nuts were my favorite.  When it comes to crumbles, I'm a toasted walnut kind of gal.  The pine nuts--though lightly toasted--were strangely overpowering to my palette.  Next time, I'd simply substitute in walnuts or even hazelnuts perhaps.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
3/4c or 85g spelt flour
2/3c or 85g pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2c or 45g rolled oats
1/2c or 60g natural cane sugar
1/2 t finely ground sea salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
1/3c or 75g unsalted butter, melted

1T cornstarch
1/2c or 60g natural cane sugar

1/2lb or 225g hulled medium strawberries, quartered
12oz. trimmed rhubarb, cut into 3/4" pieces
1/4c or 60ml port wine, optional

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Butter a 10" round gratin dish or 9x9" square dish.

1.  Combine the flour through the pepper in a bowl.  Stir in the butter with a fork, squeeze into a few patties, then place in the freezer to chill for at least 10 minutes.

2.  Make the filling by whisking the cornstarch and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the strawberries and rhubarb, and toss until evenly coated.  Wait three minutes, add the port, and toss again.  Transfer to prepared baking dish, remove the topping from the freezer, and crumble evening over the top of the filling.

3.  Bake 35-40 minutes until a deep golden brown on top and the filling is bubbling.  Let cool 20-30 minutes before serving.

The kids had their own table, although one kid is missing from my photos.  I'll just call Anton a little jackrabbit.  But really, none of the kids stayed seated for long.  The crumble isn't the most kid-friendly dessert, so I organized a plate of cookies for the kids instead.  I picked up some chocolate sandwich cookies at the grocery store and added slices of hindbær snitter, a special Danish shortbread cookie filled with raspberry jam, about which I'll go into more in a future post.