Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Cookies

It is getting scarily close to Christmas and this is when my gifts in jar series really comes into its own. They are the perfect last minute gift fix. Most of the ingredients you should already have, jars are easy to come by and they are so quick to assemble while still looking as though you have put hours of thought and effort into the gift.

Last week over at Rosendahl's Karen Blixens Jul blog I featured a very festive Christmas Cookies in a Jar recipe. 

Behind the scenes - Photographer Hanne arranging the Christmas table

The finished product

Christmas Cookies - Cranberry, oatmeal and white chocolate

Jar ingredients (0.75L jar)
3/4 cup (110g) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (75g) firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (75g) white sugar
3/4 cup (65g) rolled oats
100 g (or one small pack) dried cranberries
100g (or one small pack) white chocolate chips

Extra ingredients for making cookies - to go on tag (download the Noel Cookie Tag here)
125g butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method
Sift flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. Spoon the flour mixture into jar.

Top with brown sugar, then white sugar, oats, cranberries, white chocolate chips. Seel jar

To Make Cookies
Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Empty jar contents into a large bowl. Add butter, egg and vanilla and stir until combined.

Shape tablespoons of mixture into balls and place on baking trays approximately 5cm apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, swapping trays halfway during cooking, or until edges are lightly browned. Turn biscuits onto a wire rack to cool.

All things lemon

I eat lemons like fruit, rind and all and I love cooking with them, making sweet and savoury dishes. Although J often tells me I add too much lemon to the things I make, this lemon and coconut slice made with homemade lemon butter is one of his all time favorite treats.

So here are two recipes I featured over at Rosendahl's Karen Blixen's Jul Blog for all those citrus loving people out there. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.


Lemon Butter or Lemon Curd

Download the Lemon Butter Tag here

Makes
1 1/2 cups

Ingredients
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (80g) chilled unsalted butter
Zest and juice of 2 lemons

Method
Whisk whole eggs, yolks and sugar in a saucepan until smooth, then place pan over a low heat. Add the butter, juice and zest and whisk continuously until thickened. Strain through a sieve into a sterilised jar.

NOTE: Because it is made with fresh eggs, Lemon butter keeps, covered, in the fridge for 2 weeks.

If you don't want to make the slice (although I think you are crazy not to give it a try) you can use lemon butter in the way you would use jam. Here are some ideas:
  • Spread it on - on toast, scones, pancakes and waffles
  • Fill up little pre-made pastry shells for a quick desert - top with icing sugar and fresh fruit
  • Make a lemon pie
  • Dribble it over meringues 



Lemon Coconut Slice

Ingredients
125g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup lemon butter/curd (see related recipe)

Coconut topping
1 eggwhite, lightly beaten
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut


Method

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 3cm-deep, 18cm x 28cm (base) slice pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang.

Place butter, sugar, flour and egg in a bowl. Stir to combine. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until light golden.

Meanwhile, make coconut topping Place eggwhite, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Stir to combine.

Spread lemon butter evenly over slice base. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until coconut is golden brown. Cool in pan. Cut into squares. Serve.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Emergency Brownies

Over at Karen Blixens Jul blog this week I did a post on the perfect Secret Santa present.

Often with Secret Santa, your knowledge of the person is as limited as the amount of money you have to spend. That is why these 'Emergency Brownies" are a fantastic gift idea. Most of the ingredients you will already have in your cupboard and you can buy a cheap jar from a discount shop. Plus, it looks great and has that personal homemade touch.

Behind the scenes - shooting the Emergency Brownies

Ingredients in the Jar (designed to fit into 1L capacity jar)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 cup (plus 2 tbsp extra) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Nuts of choice (I used macadamias, peacans and wallnuts also great)
If you want double choc brownies also add chocolate chips (if not add extra nuts)

Layer the above ingredients in the jar in the following order: sugar, coco powder, flour (with baking powder and salt added), then add chocolate chips and nuts in desired quantities to fill up jar.

Attach the following instructions to the jar

Ingredients:
3 lightly beaten eggs
150g softened butter

Directions:
Pour contents of jar into bowl and mix thoroughly
Add butter and eggs
Stir until completely blended
Spread batter into lightly greased slice pan
Bake in 180 degree C oven for 30 mins
Cool and cut into 2 inch squares.

The finished product!

Download the Emergency Brownies Instruction Card here.

Download plain recipe card (without Emergency Brownie heading) here

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mini Christmas Puddings

Over at Karen Blixens Jul Blog, I did a post about making mini Christmas puddings.

I love Christmas pudding, I would even insist on having it if it was 30 degrees outside. But these mini-puddings are a great alternative, they are cute, cold, have chocolate and extra alcohol in them - perfect.

They are really quick and simple to make if you buy a pre-made pudding. But since Lion's doesn't deliver to Denmark I made my very first pudding - it was worth it, it was so delicious.

My next post on Karen Blixens Jul Blog will be on Wednesday - so stay in touch!



Mini Christmas Puddings

350g cooked and cooled pudding
125 g good quality dark chocolate
100g white chocolate
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
60 ml sherry, brandy or spirit of choice
red and green glace cherries or red and green snakes

Method

Break up the pudding in a bowl. Melt the dark chocolate in a double-boiler and add melted chocolate to pudding, combine well. Roll heaped teaspoons of pudding mixture into little balls and place on tra to cool. Hint: keep a small bowl of water beside you and keep you hands moist when rolling the puddings, the mixture won't stick to your hands. Once the mixture is cool and the mini puddings have set, melt the white chocolate. Dribble a little bit of the white chocolate on top of each pudding to resemble icing. Let cool slightly. Cut cherries or snakes into little pieces to resemble a red berry and green leaves. Place one red cherry and two leaves on top of each pudding. Cool and eat.


If you want to try your hand at making a Christmas Pudding, below is a really tasty recipe.

Steamed Christmas Pudding

450g (3 cups) mixed fruit (currents, sultanas, candied orange peel, glace cherries)
120g (3/4 cup) chopped seedless dates
125g (3/4 cup) chopped raisins
3/4 cup water
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
100g butter
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice (ground cloves, nutmeg)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons dark rum (whiskey or brandy can also be used or orange juice for an non-alcoholic alternative)

Method

Combine fruit, water, sugar and butter in saucepan. Stir constantly over heat until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered 6 minutes, stir in soda. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, cool to room temperature, then stir in eggs, sifted dry ingredients and rum.

Place mixture into a well-greased 10 cup steamer or basin, steam for 5 hours.

How to steam pudding
Fill the pudding mixture into well-greased aluminium or ceramic steamer (2 litre, 8 cup capacity). Cover with pleated baking paper and foil, securing with kitchen string or lid.

Place pudding in large boiler with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of steamer. Cover with tight-fitting lid, boil for 4 hours, replenish boiling water as necessary during cooking time. When cold, store pudding in steamer in refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. If storage time is to be any longer, remove the pudding from the steamer after 10 minutes, cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap or bag then foil, store in refrigerator.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guest blogging debut

Hi Everyone,

I have some very exciting news - this week I had my guest blogging debut over at Rosendahl's (Danish homewares) new Christmas blog - Karen Blixens Jul.

For those who are new to Wife and Baggage to Follow here is a little introduction to who I am and why I am doing this.

I am Miss H, a 27 year old career orientated woman who has given it all up to follow my partner J from Australia to Copenhagen. I began this blog as a way to keep in touch with friends and family back home as well as a place for me to talk about the trials and tribulations, and yes also the joys about being an expat.

For me, the biggest trial has been trying to find a job. It took moving overseas for me to get a reality check about how people and places have been affected by the recession. I have a post graduate degree and five years experience in Public Relations and Communications and a year down the track I am still job hunting.

That is why this guest blogging gig couldn't have come at a better time. Combining my passions of food, being creative and communications has culminated in seven great blog posts aimed at inspiring others in the lead up to Christmas.

As the blog posts are in Danish, I will also be posting the recipes here in english and providing some great behind the scenes photos.

So stay in touch.

Miss H



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out



If there's one question/statement that I don’t like being asked much since moving to Copenhagen it's: 'you must be having such a great time'. I don't like it because it makes me feel like a fraud. Why am I not feeling what people expect me to? 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing positives about packing up and moving abroad. And yes, some of the experiences I've had so far I could never have dreamed of. But for some reason, there is something inside me that isn't allowing me to relax, succumb and fully embrace the situation I find myself in.

It wasn’t until I read an article in a magazine that explained exactly what I was feeling and why. The article was called 'FOMO – Fear of Missing Out'. We all have it, we always have and we always will, but sometimes we feel it more strongly. FOMO refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up when we hear or read about what others are doing.

With the rise of social media we are slowly becoming known as the FOMO generation. Unlike our parents' generation, we don't just have to "keep up with the Jones" but also the Smith’s, Hansen’s, Webber’s and Carter’s, and the 400+ other friends we have on Facebook and Twitter. We are a generation who now constantly feel like underachievers and it is leading to unhappiness.

I can remember vividly when I first felt the full effect of FOMO since moving to Copenhagen – it was my birthday. I received a very unexpected and beautiful gift from two friends, who were also former colleagues. As I read the card I was hit with strong feelings of envy, anxiety and sadness. Why? The principle reason was because one of my friends got a promotion. I should have been really happy for her but I couldn’t help thinking 'that should be me'. To make matters worse, I was just sitting at home alone (while J was at work), on the other side of the world, jobless without even a glimmer of employment on the horizon. And it was because of this, that I had a ridiculous reaction to my friend's news that was absolutely worth celebrating.

FOMO makes us afraid that we have made the wrong decision about how to spend our time. And for me, my FOMO is firmly anchored to my job. Without a job I feel rudderless. Every time I hear about someone else's work, whether it be back home or here in Denmark, my FOMO anxiety grows. 

I retaliate and deal with my FOMO in a very typical but also very juvenile manner – I publish photos, messages and blog posts about the 'amazing' exploits I'm having. It makes me feel better. Subconsciously, in dealing with my FOMO I am creating FOMO in others - so the cycle continues.

It does make me wonder: when will we realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side? I don’t think the answer is to simply settle for what we have (there's always room for improvement), but I do think it is about taking the time to appreciate what we have and not worry so much about what others have or what they are doing.

So now I am trying to 'live in the moment' - learning to enjoy my free time, experiencing new things and not worrying about what I cannot control. I think it is working!

Miss H

xox

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pilgrimage to the homeland

When you move to a new country the question, "what nationality are you?" becomes part of the standard small talk repartee. "I'm Australian," is my obvious reply. Rarely have I added that I'm actually half-Greek and half-Australian. Why is it that most people concentrate on the place they grew up, not their actual heritage? For me, I have never really 'felt' half-Greek. Perhaps that's because I didn't grow up in a conventional Greek family - I am an only child, I don't speak the language (even though my mum does and my grandparents speak minimal English), I never went to Greek school and rarely to Greek church, we never mixed within the Greek community, and I never had Greek friends. Maybe this is also part of the reason why it has taken me 27 years to visit Greece.

I always knew that the first time I would go to Greece would be with my mum. But the older I got, the harder it became to coordinate. In hindsight, I am actually really glad I went there with mum as an adult and not as a child. As an adult I was able to talk to her about our family history with maturity and perspective. Certainly visiting now reinforced to me how lucky I was to have grown up in Australia with all the opportunities it affords.

Of the five children of my great-grandparents, only my grandmother (Yia Yia) left Greece. At the time, my grandfather had family in Australia who emigrated during the Greek Civil War in the late 1940s. My grandparents sought opportunities in a new country and were sponsored to come out. I still don't really know why no-one else followed.

Because they stayed, I have a large extended family in Greece, but I use the tearm family very loosely. To the Greeks, you're "family" even if you are seventh cousins through marriage! I wasn't complaining - we were given the "family discount" (ie, drinks on the house and food you didn't order). But on the down side, it did mean I went back to Denmark a few kilos heavier, seeping olive oil out of my pores.

It was nice to go somewhere where I wasn't considered short, dark or ethnic, and where wild curly hair was normal. I felt comfortable there. I also discovered that in Greece, telling the truth means you care. Everywhere else it means you are a rude biatch! They have no problem telling you that you're fat, living in sin, or bringing shame on the family. What a relief! I can blame my heritage when I forget to think before I speak.

I had the most amazing time with my mum.  Thanks mum for taking me - it was well worth the wait. But I am not waiting another 27 years to go back.

Olympieion - what was the temple of Olympian Zeus

Left, Hadrian's Gate and right, the Parthenon on the Acropolis

Left, standing at the entrance to the Acropolis and right, mum and me on top of the Acropolis

Sitting in the Royal box at Panathenaic Stadium (Olympic Stadium)

Number 1!!!

The gate way to Spetses Island

Leaving Spetses for Kranidi (town where mum was born)

My extended Family - three generations of women

Left, the house where my Yia Yia grew up and where mum was borne and right, celebrating St Mama's Day by making small boats and sending them out to sea

Mum and I quad biking it around Spetses

The 11th century church of Panaghia Kapnikarea built in honour of the goddess Athena

Monday, September 19, 2011

London Calling

I feel as though I should have an excuse for my blogging laziness, but all I can think to say in my defence is that, "I've been busy". Of course, busy is a relative concept - for me, it used to mean a full day of work, appointments and all the many other things I had going on in my life. Now, "busy" means that I either have visitors or that I have two things on my To Do list for that day :)

I have been very lucky to have my mum and step-dad visiting here and while they went on a cruise of the Baltic states, J and I took a spontaneous trip to London. Almost everyone I know has already been to England and I always wondered why it attracted so many Aussies. Whatever the reason, I was keen to experience some of it for myself such as the changing of the guard, Westminster Abbey and London Tower.

In addition to checking out all the sites, I really enjoyed immersing myself in the buzz of a big city. I loved seeing the stylish set in Chelsea and the grunge-y fashion in Whitechapel (near Brick Lane). London has this funky ease about it - I loved it, I wanted to stay!

We got around mostly by bicycle. But warning, it's not for the faint of heart! I'm so glad that J and I are now used to riding in traffic after nearly a year of cycling in Copenhagen. The obvious benefit of riding over catching the Tube is that we were able to see many more sights than we could have otherwise (and often by accident, such as when we stumbled on the Tate British Museum which then led us to stumble on the ferry to the Tate Modern - very convenient I must say).

We caught up with friends from home and also spent the day with J's brother who recently moved there. But I have to say the highlight was going to see The Phantom of the Opera on West End. I love musicals and to see an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in London was a dream come true.

Four days was definitely not long enough, but I know we'll be back.

 
Loving the traditional red telephone boxes, and standing outside Buckingham Palace


Outside of Harrods and at the Tower of London

London Tower Bridge

P.S. I have included more photos of our trip to London on the 'Photos Page'.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tip 4 for visiting/living in Denmark - prepare to get wet!

After a month of non-stop rain and therefore, a lot of time to research on the internet, I was not surprised to learn that Copenhagen is Europe's most rainy city! It rains in Copenhagen an average of 251 days a year. Coupled to that, the average maximum temperature in summer is only 20 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, you definitely do not come here for the weather.

The Danes do deserve some credit, though: they remain ever optimistic that tomorrow's weather will be better than today's. After nine months living in Copenhagen, I'm far less optimistic. It's wet here. It's windy. And it's cold.

But, there are a few warm, sunny days. They're rare, but they're so good when you get them and I can tell you 20 degrees Celsius actually feels hot. On these days, Copenhagen becomes an even more beautiful and vibrant place. It's an amazing place to be - and the Danes make the most of it.

So my advice to all those coming to Copenhagen is to pack your wet weather gear and pray for sunshine.

So hot right now...
This is what I have to wear when I ride in the rain - I never thought a poncho would be a staple in my wardrobe but never say never! This is when I really miss my car.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Berlin

I never had a 'Gap Year', that one year in your life when you are young with no major commitments where you can travel the world. J did it and many of my friends took time off after University, but I never did. I wasn't ready to take off on my own after school. But by the time I was, I had been sucked into full-time work and everything that came with it. Yet I always knew that at some point before I turned the big three zero I would get the chance to travel. I am so glad that it is finally happening now.

Our latest adventure was to Berlin! My Dad and step-mum had visited me for my birthday with plans to road-trip from Copenhagen through Germany to Italy. J and I thought this would be a good opportunity to tag along as far as Berlin. Only Dad had ever been to Berlin, and that was many years ago when he was working and living overseas. It was fascinating to hear his stories of his time in East and West Berlin and just how much the city had changed.

I think Berlin is a city that gives you mixed emotions, obviously it is not like any other european city - it has a weird and wonderfully eclectic mix of beautiful old buildings and stunning contemporary structures. But it also has some of the downright ugliest buildings I've ever seen - the legacy of awful 60s and 70s architectural design.

Berlin's rich history is obvious. The sections of the Wall that are still standing - as well as the long row of cobble stones that mark its path - left us all speechless. So did the various memorials and museums that mark some of the more terrible moments in the city's history. Below are images taken at Checkpoint Charlie - that was one of the few checkpoints between Allied-controlled West Berlin and the Soviet-controlled East.


Checkpoint Charlie

More than any other city I've been to, Berlin demonstrates so clearly the awful effects of WWII and the Cold War. Barely any building survived the Allied bombing in 1943 and the difference between East and West Berlin is still so obvious. But it was the Berlin Wall which brought this home to me. I still find it hard to believe there are people my age who were divided by the wall - separated from their family and friends just because of where they lived.

The plaques and two rows of cobble stones that mark the Wall's former path.

The outer wall and the remains of the Gestapo's former headquarters

The other place that really affected me was the Stasi Prison - a prison set up on the outskirts of the former East Germany by the Soviet Secret Police at the end of World War II. It was still used as the major remand prison up until 1990. We unfortunately missed the guided tour which is taken by former inmates, but we were able to see the exhibition and explore the cells. When arrested and taken to this prison it is described as "the way into hell" as said by one former prisoner "those who descend here leave all your hopes behind you." When you look at the cells and read about what these people went through you understand why it is described that way. They weren't arrested because they stole anything or hurt anyone, but because they wanted freedom.

The Stasi Prison hallway.

But enough about Berlin's dark past! I loved Berlin - sipping champagne at the Hotel Adlon while watching the sun set over the Brandenburg Gate, seeing the beautiful people of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and sitting by the water looking at Nikolaik, the oldest cathedral in Germany.

The Brandenburg Gate then and now.

Nikolaik Cathedral

The National Museum and the Holocaust Memorial made up of 2700 structures. 

There is some beautiful architecture, the people are wonderful, the place is buzzing and it is a city which I can't wait to go back to one day. Berlin will surely be one of those ever-changing cities, always with something new and different to do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Noma



Two days after the announcement that NOMA was awarded the title of 'World's Best Restaurant' for a second consecutive year, J and I were lucky enough to go there for dinner. Ever since we found out we were coming to Copenhagen J and I have been trying to get at table at NOMA. Reservations are only released three months at a time and are filled within minutes. But there are some perks to J's job and being invited to dinner at NOMA is most certainly one of them.

You don't see a menu at NOMA, you have two choices - seven courses or 12. I went on an 8km run that day because I knew we were having the latter. As it turned out, I really should have gone on a 28km run because the 12 main courses was just the middle part of our food extravaganza.

When we sat down we were informed that our meal would begin with some 'snacks'. These were small, bite-sized morsels designed to whet our appetite. After about the sixth snack I asked if we had started the main courses yet and was told, "no, you still have a few more snacks to go". We ate 11 snacks in total of which the first was the most surprising: On each table there was a small bouquet of greenery in a vase. Little did we know that the first snack was actually hidden in the bouquet - the 'twigs' were actually edible flat breads. The wonderment and excitement about what can be done with food continued throughout the night. 

    

    

     
From top to bottom, L to R:shallow fried reindeer moss with creme fraiche; toasted rye bread sandwich with chicken skins; herbs, flower and duck fat crisps; pickled, smoked quail egg; savoury cookies with speck and blackcurrants and sea-buckthorn leather with pickled rose hip petals.

I had two favorite snacks - both were visually very interesting, defying what one would normally consider edible food and 'yummy' combinations. The first was the radish potplant - it was amazing, the 'soil' looked and felt so real but it was made out of hazelnuts and crushed malt and then if you dug down further you came across a layer of yoghurt and tarragon which complemented the radishes beautifully. 


My other favorite snack, (in fact, possibly my favorite meal of the entire night) was fried white bait in √¶bleskiver (Danish donut ball) filled with pickled cucumber and dusted with powdered vinegar. This was my favorite for two reasons: first, I have an addiction to donuts; and second, fried white bait is something my greek grandma (Yai Yai) use to make me - it is comforting to me. So, it's hardly surprising that I'd enjoy both in combination! 


Let the main courses begin - here are a few of the courses we had with matching wines:

    
        

From top to bottom, L to R: dried scallop slivers with watercress puree, baby onions with a burnt butter sauce and roe, grains and squid ink; shaved chestnuts with buttered roe; reindeer tongue with apple and langoustine rock with oyster seaweed emulsion.

I have to admit I have really forgotten the three desserts we had. I think I was too full and overwhelmed. Yet, I somehow managed to fit in the three petite fours and coffee. That's a grand total of 26 courses!!!

I came away from eating at NOMA with mixed emotions. If I am being totally honest, not all dishes could be considered really truly delicious but I don't think that was the point of the experience. How many people can say that they have eaten live shrimp, fish in donuts and reindeer tongue (that one I did actually find delicious)? The gastronomic experience at NOMA is amazing for two reasons: each course was presented and introduced by the chef who cooked it; and each course had food combinations and technique that can only be found at  the best restaurant in the world. If you ever get the chance to go to NOMA do it, do it, do it - it will be an experience you will never forget. 

P.S. I would like to acknowledge the Food Fight blog at www.buzzarfood.wordpress.com  for the majority of the images seen here in this blog post. As we were at NOMA for a 'work' dinner I was forbidden by J to take my camera inside.