A little of this, a little of that

When people tell me that they love to cook but don’t like to bake, the reason they give me is usually that they don’t like how baking involves such exact measurements. In cooking you can easily add a little of this and a little of that. Well I beg to differ….. at least in some cases.

Let’s take the Health Muffins that I sometimes make for my family on the weekends. I have a list of base ingredients but then I always add others, whatever I’m in the mood for. This weekend I made them with pumpkin puree, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Last time I made them with spinach and carrots. Often times I add some applesauce, cinnamon and cardamom.

I love to experiment. Having a sense of what goes well together and what the end result should taste like, it’s fun! Measurements become approximations. I take a little of this and a little of that.

With that in mind, it’s not easy to pass on such recipe but in case you would like to try these muffins, here goes….

Anne’s Health Muffins

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Base Ingredients

1 cup oat bran

1 cup white whole wheat flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp sea salt

¼ cup vegetable oil (I use avocado oil)

¼ cup honey or a little more if you like it sweeter

1 cup yogurt or buttermilk

2 eggs

1 cup raisins (I often use golden raisins)

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Topping

½ cup old fashioned oats

¼ cup brown sugar

1-2 Tbs ghee (clarified butter) or melted butter

Added Ingredients

 Pumpkin version

1 can of pumpkin puree

1 heaping tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

dash of allspice

 

Veggie version

1 handful of spinach

2 carrots or 1 handful of mini carrots

½ cup chia seeds

1 heaping tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cardamom (optional)

 

Instructions:

Turn oven to 3800. Add all dry ingredients, including the spices.

For the pumpkin version, mix vegetable oil, honey, yogurt or buttermilk, pumpkin puree and eggs in a separate bowl.

For the veggie version, add vegetable oil, honey, yogurt or buttermilk, eggs, chia seeds, carrots and spinach in a Vitamix or blender and puree.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix. Stir in raisins and nuts if using.  Pour mixture into a greased muffin pan.

Mix all topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of the muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

 

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Summer Memories

My family and I spent a week at Long Beach Island this summer. The house we rented with some friends was one block from the beach so it was an easy walk back and forth. I love being by the ocean. It makes me feel peaceful and it reminds me of my childhood and of my country.

You see, Denmark has more than 7,500 km (4,660 miles) of coastline and therefore lots of beaches. It is a small country, only 43,000 square kilometers (16,600 square miles), with hundreds of islands and a peninsula where my hometown, Århus, is located (green arrow below). Every summer on sunny days I used to ride my bike to the beach with my friends or my sister, after school or during summer break. It was only a 20-minute ride.

Map of Denmark

We had a summer house in a small town outside the town called Ebeltoft (red arrow above). I lovingly remember falling asleep at night with the windows open and listening to the sounds of the ocean and the smell of salt in the air. It was the best, most soothing way to go to sleep.

You see why I love the beach? But it wasn’t just the beach at Long Beach Island that reminded me of my childhood. Another fond memory came to me when the ice cream man stopped by the beach and rang his bell to announce his arrival. Not that we had ice cream trucks coming to our beaches in Denmark. No, we would walk to the ice cream kiosks to get us a treat. But it was the anticipation, the excitement and the joy that the ice cream man’s bell reminded me of. I clearly remember seeing the blue ice cream truck coming down my street and hearing the little song it would play. It was exciting every time it arrived which was maybe once every two weeks in the summer. Would we get ice cream today???

It was only boxes of ice cream that we could buy at the ice cream truck, not individual treats, and it wasn’t that we couldn’t get similar ice creams at the store, or that they were any less expensive of course. But to a child, it was such a novelty and oh so exciting. The funny thing is, I can’t even remember eating the ice cream!

I often times wonder what small moments like these my son will look back upon with similar fond memories when he grows up. Probably something that now seems insignificant but later in life will be recalled as precious moments.

My hope is that there will be many….

 

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Observations along an old familiar route

Last month I took a trip to Denmark by myself to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It felt like old times when my parents, sister and I all sat around the dinner table, discussing the day’s events. I was there only a short time and the days were filled with party preparations and lots of “hygge”. It was wonderful!

The day before I headed back to the States, I decided to take a walk on the path that goes around the lake near my parent’s house called Brabrandsø (“sø” is lake in Danish). The sky looked ominous but still I went. The path, approximately 10 km or 6.2 miles long, is called Brabrandstien (“sti” is path in Danish).  I have done the walk multiple times and biked around the lake more times than I can count, but somehow that day I observed my surroundings in a different light and found them surprisingly intriguing.

I stayed to the right of the path as walkers are supposed to. Accommodations are made for walkers and bikers with separated paths. At one part of the path, the bikers’ lane has even been marked for two lane traffic. There are always many bikers in their gear zipping around the lake, but there are also a lot of people, dressed in regular clothes, who take this route to town, work, or school. Case in point, as I approached the path from my parents’ house, I saw a group of school kids and their teachers on a little field trip, all on bikes.

If you are there to exercise, fitness equipment has been set up on each side of the lake. There is usually someone working out and certainly my son loves to do a few reps on the equipment when he’s with me.

Walk around the lake

Brabrandsøen to us today is precious because it provides a special place to be active and enjoy nature. But the lake area has been crucial to people for many, many years, dating all the way back to the Middle Ages when it was a vital food source. Artifacts dating back 6000 years have been found in the area and are at times still found by people working in their gardens. That’s pretty amazing!

The lake is only about 7 km (4.3 miles) from Aarhus which is Denmark’s second largest city, but still you will see cows, goats and horses grazing freely close to homes (not farms).  Simple electric fences are only there to keep the animals off the path and they seem to know that as they contently eat, nap and lazily watch people pass by. I think it’s quite charming how the rural mixes so nonchalantly with the suburban.

Walk around the lake 2

When I returned from my walk, I told my parents that I felt inspired to write about all my “new” observations along this old familiar route.  It’s very rewarding when you get a fresh look at things that are so familiar to you. And so here I am, writing and re-experiencing…

 

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I do

My husband and I just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. We always reminisce about that wonderful day in Denmark when all the planning (much of it done with the help of my parents and sister) came together perfectly.

The Christmas before our wedding, we went to Denmark to do some research. The plan was to check out three venues for our wedding reception. We started on the day we arrived from the U.S. at a place in Aarhus which the country’s second largest city. Feeling a little tired and jet lagged my then finance and I stepped into the restaurant and took a look around. It didn’t take us long to agree that this was the place we wanted. We didn’t need to go anywhere else. Even though the restaurant was closed for the season and undergoing some work, it felt absolutely perfect.

The 18-year-old Restaurant Prins Ferdinand, as it was called, was located in a 75-year-old building in Den Gamle By (The Old Town) which is an amazing open-air museum of Danish urban history and culture from the 1500s through the 1970s. 75 historic houses, relocated from all over the country, make up the museum and they made a beautiful backdrop to our wedding photos.

The wedding ceremony took place in the suburbs of Aarhus, in Viby where I grew up. It was at the church where I was christened and confirmed, a small church, built in the 12th century and all white as is typical of non-urban Danish churches.

In Denmark the weather in May is often very unpredictable, so we felt very lucky when we had a just few rain drops in the morning to wish us good luck, and then brilliant sunshine the rest of the day.

Restaurant Prins Ferdinand offered an intimate and very “hyggelig” setting for our 50 guests who represented 5 different countries. Family and friends had written songs for us all to sing and made speeches that made us both laugh and cry (especially me).

What a glorious day it was. It ended around 4 am, after we had enjoyed our “nattemad” – light fare before the guests leave – and almost in time for the sun to rise. ☀️

 

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How to say Happy Mother’s Day in Danish

As I’m sitting here writing, it occurred to me that we really don’t say happy Mother’s Day (or happy Father’s Day) in Denmark.  If anything, we say “nyd dagen” which means “enjoy the day”. There isn’t as much fanfare around Mother’s Day in Denmark as there is here in the US. Growing up my family would start the day with a nice breakfast. My dad usually got fresh baked rolls and pastries from the bakery, and we would all give my mom a little gift.  But that was really it. At least that’s what I remember.

Today, being so far away from my mom, I always go searching for a special card and a gift to send to her in Denmark and of course I call her on the day. Often times she will just have returned from doing yard work or other house work.  When I tell her she shouldn’t do that on Mother’s Day, she always laughs. It really is just another day, she says, but even so it is a good day to remind her of how much I love her and how much she means to me. ❤️

I do think it’s nice to have a day to celebrate mothers. My husband and son always make Mother’s Day a special day for me and I get to do things I want to do. That often includes doing a little planting in the yard. After all, I am my mother’s daughter.

To acknowledge the day, I made a special Mother’s Day menu. Check it out here.

 

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One Year Anniversary 

It’s hard to believe that it’s now been a year since I started my business. The Danish Baking Girl just turned 1!

The year flew by. I forged ahead, learned a lot and sometimes surprised myself. There are days that I have to pinch myself. Is this really happening? For many years, I was urged to open a business by people with whom I shared my baking and by my husband, who encouraged me to start my business.

Honestly, I never thought I would take that leap! I feel very blessed for the many, many wonderful people who have supported me, encouraged me and shared their wisdom with me. It has meant the world to me. I have always enjoyed baking but baking means so much more than just baked goods to me.

I fondly remember the days my sister and I came home from school and were greeted by the warm smell of rolls that our mom had just baked for us all to enjoy together while talking about our day. I can still smell them!

It is these kinds of memories, experiences and emotions I hope to create for my customers, and I am excited for what’s to come for The Danish Baking Girl.  🇩🇰

 

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Have you ever heard of knækbrød?

Knækbrød, called crispbread in English, is a staple in many Danish households, and even more so in other Scandinavian countries. When I visit my family in Sweden, it’s guaranteed that I can find knäckebröd (Swedish for knækbrød) in their pantries. Many U.S. stores sells it too. It’s delicious with hummus or cheese and it’s always part of the bread basket when we enjoy a delicious cheese plate for dinner at my house.

So what is it? It’s a dry, crisp cracker, usually baked with some type of rye flour although a number of new varieties have come on the market in the past years. If stored cool and in an airtight container, knækbrød will keep for a long time. This made it extremely useful back in the days when food storage was a lot more challenging than it is today. The tradition of baking knækbrød is actually very old. In Sweden and Finland, it is thought to go all the way back to the Middle Ages! Talk about sticking with tradition!

I love to experiment with bread so this summer, when my sister offered me some knækbrød she had made herself, it piqued my curiosity, but it wasn’t until she made a gluten free version at Christmas that I decided to start making it myself.

Once back in my own kitchen, the test baking began and I must say I was quite happy
with the result. I decided to jump into the gluten free arena and made my knækbrød with seeds, gluten free oats and buckwheat flour. Buckwheat flour, you may wonder – is that gluten free? And the answer is, yes it is! Despite the name, it is in fact related to….. want to take a guess? The buckwheat plant is related to rhubarb! It is the grinded small seeds of the plant that make up the buckwheat flour.

So now this gluten free knækbrød is on my menu. Check it out here under Bread and Breakfast.

 

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Danish Christmas is all about ‘hygge’

Hygge is a word that you can now read books about! It isn’t easily translated into English but the closest word I can think of is coziness. When we ‘hygger’ (it is a verb too), we light candles, create a cozy atmosphere and enjoy each other’s company. There is nothing like it!

Most Danish families have long-held Christmas traditions and of course my family is no different. My mom usually bakes five or six different kinds of cookies, some of which I now offer on my menu. When we were kids, my sister and I loved to help her bake. The smell that filled the kitchen was so delicious and put us all in the holiday spirit.

Growing up, Little Christmas Eve, December 23rd, was the day my parents brought the Danish Christmas TreeChristmas tree inside and we decorated it. We still do this the years we celebrate the holiday with my family in Denmark. Dinner that evening consists of the traditional Danish rice porridge called risengrød. This is a porridge that Danish farmers superstitiously used to bring up to their attics to feed the Christmas elves in hopes that the elves would be good to them throughout the year. The porridge is served with cinnamon sugar and a little pad of butter in the middle. It’s delicious and very filling but later on, there is still room for æbleskiver and gløgg, a spiced drink with almond slivers and raisins that is served hot.

Christmas Eve day is filled with excitement and preparations. If Santa Claus (Julemanden) comes to a home in Denmark, he will often appear in person on Christmas Eve. Strangely my father was never around to see when Santa came to our house… 😉

All the Christmas gifts are put underneath the Christmas tree in the late afternoon, making it a little hard for children to sit through dinner with all those presents on display. Danes – at least the adults – like to sit and savor the food, so a celebratory meal is never quick. When my son was younger, my mom would feel bad that he had to wait, so she would give him one present to open before dinner to which I of course had to protest because my sister and I were never given that advantage! I guess things change when you become a grandparent.

On my family’s Christmas Eve dinner menu is duck, two kinds of potatoes, gravy, red fullsizeoutput_2404cabbage and a green vegetable (something my sister and I have insisted on as we became adults).  Dessert is ris a l’amande which is made from some of the rice porridge we have on little Christmas Eve. This is mixed with vanilla bean, sugar, chopped almonds, whipped cream and a little port wine in the version that the grown-ups eat. The ris a l’amande is served with a warm cherry sauce, not dissimilar from cherry pie filling, but a little less sweet. There will be one whole almond in the porridge and the person who gets the whole almond receives a gift, so whether or not you have room for dessert, you cannot miss the chance to receive the first present of the evening!

After dinner, we walk around the candle-lit Christmas tree, singing hymns and carols. It’s very festive! And then, finally we get to the presents and while they are opened one at the time, coffee, cookies and special candies are served.

It always gets to be a late night, so we take it easy the next morning, Christmas Day. But by late morning, the preparations begin for our big Danish Christmas lunch which is one of my favorites.  We will have many different kinds of herring – some my mom prepares herself and those are among the absolute highlights. There may also be a Swedish dish called Janson’s Fristelse (Janson’s Temptation) with potatoes and anchovies. Afterwards a number of warm dishes will be served and we end the meal with a beautiful platter of cheeses. Obviously, this lunch is enjoyed over many hours, too many for a child who is eager to check out his new Christmas presents, so he gets to take breaks in-between courses.

The second day of Christmas, December 26th, is also a holiday. It’s a day to digest, relax and spend time with family and friends.  I love Christmas because of its traditions and hygge. I love Christmas because of the time we spend with people we love and the time we have spent finding ways to show them. I love Christmas!

 

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Really? There is an expression for that?

When I first came to the United States many years ago, I stayed with a wonderful family in Morristown, NJ, who to this day are dear friends of mine.

Back then I experienced a bit of a culture shock. Coming from Denmark, there were so many things that were different here. A trip to the supermarket alone would provide plenty of examples. Never had I seen so many different kinds of cereal or such big milk containers! And why did most people go food shopping once a week? At home we would go almost every day.

After a few months, I tried my way in the kitchen. My Danish baked potatoes were not a hit (I can’t blame them since they came out almost raw) but when I started baking, I got requests to do it again. This of course made me very happy, until one day I overheard someone comment “she makes it all from scratch.” Yikes! That surely couldn’t be a good thing.

Well I did ask what the expression making something from scratch means and got a surprising answer, at least it was surprising to me. The fact that I did not bake from a box but instead baked by combining all the ingredients myself was natural to me. In fact, I don’t think I had ever seen anyone bake anything from a box.

Back then my baking repertoire was more limited, but I loved it, and so my passion for Danish baking in America was born!  It took a very long time for this passion to evolve into something bigger, something I could share more widely. Something that would earn me the title of “entrepreneur”. But here I am – The Danish Baking Girl!

 

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It smells so good in here!

Whether you’re cooking or baking, hearing those words from someone entering your kitchen is so gratifying!

The smell of deliciously prepared food and freshly baked bread is an invitation in itself. The aroma that fills the kitchen is an irresistibly call for people to taste what you’re making.

When I was a kid, returning home from school and smelling the freshly baked rolls before reaching the kitchen, was an unmistakable invitation to my sister and I to come to the kitchen. We would enjoy some bonding time with our mom while eating rolls with butter that quickly melted because the rolls had just come out of the oven. This lasting memory invokes so much more than a smell and a taste of warm rolls. It recalls treasured family time and what we Danes call “hygge”.

When I make cinnamon rolls at my house, or snegle as they are called in Danish, I don’t need to call anyone to the table. Quite the opposite, I’m asked several times when they will be ready to eat because the smell of cinnamon is simply mouth watering!

Of course there are times when I don’t have the time to bake something fresh. Like when my son comes home from school really, really hungry, or on a weekend morning when we’re off to an early soccer game, or if friends happen to pop by. This is when having a good stockpile in the freezer comes in handy. Baking or warming some fresh frozen bread in the oven, directly from the freezer, still gives us that wonderful smell, and it does so in record time.

Do you want to stock your freezer with a few things that your family will appreciate for a quick breakfast/lunch or for an easy treat? If you’re in Essex County, NJ, or the surrounding area, send me an email and I’ll let you know how I can help. Just click here.

 

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