Friday, December 31, 2010

Farvel 2010

That is to say, Goodbye 2010.

A highlight of experiences and accomplishments, both personal and professional, but mostly personal:

1.  Served as editor for Danish author Charlotte Peyk's soon to be released Scandinavian Baking without Eggs (an updated English version of her book Allergibagebog).

2.  Worked as a freelance editor for GridManager, a Danish environmental engineering company.

3.  Firsts in the kitchen:  graham crackers, creme brulee, olive oil cake, crystallized ginger, orange tian, lefse, coconut custard pie, lemon tart, pandkager kage, hindbær snitter, kiksekage, gooseberry clafoutis, strawberry basque cake, æblekage, graham nuts, pistachio fudge, buckwheat fig scones, and knækbrød, among others.

4.  Experienced record snow fall in Denmark and skied the hills next to the fjord in our town.

5.  Read books by Mark Bittman, Molly Wizenberg, Kim Boyce, Jim Harrison, Uwem Akpan, Jeannete Walls, and Anne Lamott, among others.

6.  Enjoyed our second annual Easter ski trip in Norway.

7.  Weaned our 3 year-old son from his pacifier (April) and diapers (August); and transitioned him from day care to pre-school (also August).

8.  Spent many wonderful afternoons over lunch with friends.  As they say in Denmark, tak for sidst!

9.  Trips to Legoland, Berlin, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Italy.

10.  Hiked the French Alps and spent time with friends and family in France.

11.  Spoke at the Hobro Efterskole about life in the U.S.

12.  Toured the Danish islands of Livø and Samsø, and biked to Skagen, the northern most tip of Denmark.

13.  Experienced a truly delightful and memorable visit with family and friends in Oregon.

14.  Shared my love of cooking and baking with my son, who always is an enthusiastic helper.

15.  Spent precious time with my 88 year-old grandmother, with whom I lived every summer during college.

16.  Enjoyed a gorgeous, colorful fall and terrific Halloween party, Danish style.

17.  Attended a Juletamtam (Danish Christmas party) at our son's pre-school where we ate æbleskiver, drank gløgg, and crafted different homemade decorations.  This inspired me to make a tree skirt and several Danish decorations, such as the jul hjerte (Christmas heart) and nissemand (gnome-looking figures).

18.  Hosted girls' night out in the spring and attended an auspicious girls' night in November, which leads me to number 19...

19.  Secured a part-time job as a teacher of English Literature in the International Baccalaureate for Struer Statsgymnasium, scheduled to start February 1.

20.  Took guilty pleasure in Mad Men (seasons 1-4) and Project Runway (season 8) as well as the occasional issue of People sent by my lovely mother.

I hope that 2010 has been a year full of adventure, joy, good health, and peace and wish you all the best in 2011!  One of my goals for 2011 is to laugh more...but more on my goals next time, when we check in with each other in the New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cinnamon Buns

I ran across this recipe on 101 Cookbooks mid last week and said Wow, these look amazing.  I made a batch for us, which we enjoyed the day after Christmas during a late breakfast/brunch, and another to give away as gifts.  They freeze beautifully.

My only concern in making the recipe is that I did not feel that I achieved a very good rise on either rising step.  Fortunately, the cooked buns didn't suffer from this disappointment, and the buns were spectacular.  I owe it to the cardamom in the bun dough.  That and copious amounts of butter and brown sugar.

What I love about this recipe is that you can make the dough--including cutting it into slices--freeze, and set it out to thaw the night before you want to eat them.  Slip in the oven the next morning, and 15 minutes later you have warm delicious cinnamon buns.

I'm going to take a cheat pass and simply send you to 101 Cookbooks for the recipe.  I have a feeling it's one you will go back to time and again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

For my first Wordless Wednesday, I will break the rule and use some to tell you why I am starting this series.  I always seem to have photos that I would like to share but don't necessarily relate to food or require commenting upon.  I borrowed the idea from Aimée at Under the High Chair.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Danish Christmas Decorations

One thing that has surprised me about Christmas in Denmark is the Jul Hjerte, or Christmas heart.  It is an ubiquitous symbol this time of year, and something you don't see much of in the U.S.  Perhaps it's because Americans strongly associate the heart with Valentine's Day, a holiday that is barely acknowledged (although increasingly so) in Denmark. But I have to say that I like seeing the hearts all over.

Another uniquely Danish holiday decoration is the paper star.  Strips of paper are used to weave these intricate stars of all sizes and colors. Alas, I did not make these beauties.

Other common Danish Christmas motifs include mushrooms, animals, gnomes, and yes, Santa, or Julemand in Danish.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Salade de Carottes au Thon

Don't let the title fool you.  This is not a French recipe per se.  It's one I thought up.  But to my mind, salade de carottes au thon sounds a thousand times more sophisticated than Carrot Tuna Salad.  But I don't know why it matters.  There is nothing fancy about this recipe, and there needn't be.  It's my favorite go-to lunch of the moment.  Light, healthy, packed full of protein and vitamin A, and wonderfully delicious to boot.

It's one of those meals that is thrown together in a flash.  Grate a few carrots, toss in a bowl with a can of drained tuna, minced shallot or a couple cloves of grated garlic (both if you are feeling daring), and mix with a dressing of plain yogurt and mayonnaise.  Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt and you are good to go.

Salade de Carottes au Thon
3 large carrots, peeled
1 can of drained tuna
1 medium shallot, finely chopped and/or 2 cloves of garlic, grated
1T mayonnaise
1T plain yogurt

1.  Grate carrots in a food processor (hand grater works, too) and place in a medium bowl
2.  Mix in tuna and shallot and/or garlic
3.  Stir mayonnaise and yogurt together and pour over the salad.  Stir until dressing coats the entire salad.
4.  Add salt to taste.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Danish Knækbrød

I'm sugared out.  To change things up, I made my first ever batch of Danish Knækbrød, a cross between a cracker and bread.  I lifted the recipe from the bulletin board at the school where I work, and there is no source attributed.  Perhaps it is because cracker bread is so common in Denmark (and throughout Scandinavia) that people need help with the quantities but the ingredients are a given.  To me it is a new and exciting find, one that I imagined would be difficult but is really very easy to produce.

Seeds and whole grains are our friends, and I love the fact that cracker bread has both.  It's healthy, hearty, and goes equally well with a sweet (Nutella or jam) or savory (salty butter and a slice of meat) topping.  A piece on its own is just as satisfying.  If you want to ramp up the healthy factor, a half cup of shredded carrots would be an excellent addition.

Danish Knækbrød

1dl...1/2c old fashioned oats
1dl...1/2c sesame seeds
1dl...1/2c flax seeds
1dl...1/2c sunflower seeds
1dl...1/2c pumpkin seeds
3.5dl...11/2c flour (I used half spelt and half whole-wheat)
2dl...1c water
1.5dl...2/3c oil (I used a scant 2/3c of canola but olive oil would be good, too)
1tsk...1t salt
1tsk...1t baking powder

1.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  If dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.

2.  Divide in three equal parts.

3.  Roll each part as flat and as thin as possible (approx. 1/8") between two layers of parchment paper.

4.  Score with a knife in cracker sized slices and bake at 200C...400F for 15-20 minutes.

Note:  I forgot to score the crackers before baking and simply cut in slices when they were cool.

Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Grandma Bert's Whirlygigs

I know, another cookie recipe.  But can we ever really have too many this time of year?  Just when I thought I had my baking line-up finalized, in enters this terrific recipe for Whirlygigs...and a Benne Wafer recipe...and one for pebernødder, the ubiquitous Danish Christmas cookies.  I'm starting to ask myself where does it end?  Well, it better end soon because I am going through butter like there's no tomorrow and trying my hardest not to shovel them all in my mouth.

The Whirlygig recipe was clipped out of the local paper in Bend, OR, a few years ago.  It was the winning entry for the month of October for a fundraising calendar to benefit the California Firefighters Memorial and families of fallen firefighters.  Clinton Marsalek, a California Department of Forestry firefighter, provided it.

What I love about these cookies is their pin wheel shape, the ever so subtle peanut flavor, and the ribbon of chocolate throughout.  They're fun to make and go splendidly with a glass of cold milk.  Furthermore, who doesn't love a cookie called "Whirlygig?"

I'm dying to hear what kind of cookies you're making for the holidays this year.  If you had to choose one (hard question, I know), which would be your favorite?

Grandma Bert's Whirlygigs
Courtesy of Clinton Marsalek

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1/2c butter
1/2c sugar
1/2c brown sugar
1/2c peanut butter (I used creamy)
1 egg
1 1/4c flour
1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt
6 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Cream together butter, sugars, and peanut butter in medium bowl.  Add egg and beat until fluffy.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.

2.  Roll dough into an oval shape and 1/4-inch thick on a sheet of wax paper; set aside.

3.  Melt chocolate chips slowly in top of double boiler; cool slightly and spread thinly over dough with spatula.

4.  Starting with the long end, roll up dough and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill for several hours or freeze until ready to bake.

5.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Slice dough 1/4-inch thick and place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Let cool on wire racks.