Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Let them eat (Danish) cake (man)!

[This post is also published over at - the official website of Denmark run by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
It's our DD's (dear daughter's) birthday soon.  She's chosen a theme, we're working on party invitations and stocking up - selvfølgelig - on Danish flags. Hmm, what's next?  Oh yes.  The Cake.  In Denmark there are three options...

Temakage - a themed cake.  That we would make ourself (like the one below) or order from the bakers.

Lagkage - a classic Danish layer cake, served at both adults and kids birthday parties.  It's a light sponge cake (similar to Victoria sponge that we eat in the UK) that you can easily assemble yourself.  Just pick up a packet of readymade (and readysliced) cake layers from the supermarket or baker.  Vanilla or chocolate.  Add plenty of cream or icing between the layers, perhaps some sliced banana or strawberry, the appropriate number of candles, a few Danish flags and, hey presto, it's ready.  Or you could go down the more trashy route - as we sometimes do - and stick half a Barbie doll in the layer cake... ;D

And last but not least, my own particular favourite.  En kagemand (a 'cake man')...

...or kagekone ('cake lady'), if it's for a girl.  Which you order from the baker and will set you back around kr. 175,- (approximately £20 or US $32).  Yep, they don't come cheap.  But then again, they're kingsize (do not attempt to transport one on the back of your bike) and should easily feed a large gathering of excited family and friends or an entire class of hungry nursery or school kids.

Why do I love kagemand (or should that be kagemænd?) so much despite the cost?  No work for Mum.  Lots of lovely Danish marcipan.  Yum!   And all that lovely gooey Danish pastry (that you can keep pinching tiny slices of, when no-one is looking).

But, perhaps best of all, you get to wield a huge knife and shout..."Off with his head!"

Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Beef and Apricot (Crockpot) Stew

Time for another recipe from my Little Red File blog...Beef and Apricot (Crockpot) Stew :)

I'm not exactly sure where this recipe came from. I've scribbled it down - in Danish - on a scrap of paper, so it's probably an idea I got from my DMIL (dear - departed - Danish Mother-in-Law) who was a great cook.

You'll need:
  • 500g of beef, cubed (remember to use a cheap cut if you're using the crockpot)
  • a little butter or oil for frying
  • one, two or three onions (recipe said three, but decide yourself)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 dl/200 ml pouring cream
  • tin of apricots and a little of their juice
The stew can be made on the top of the stove and finished off in the oven, but I decided to try it in the crockpot. Because I love that 'superwoman' feeling it gives, knowing that dinner is done and dusted early in the day! :)

Brown the beef in a little butter or oil and do the same with the onions. Or you could take the easy way out and throw the whole lot in the crockpot - thus saving time and making it fat-free... :)

Then all you have to do is tip in the apricots, soy sauce, cream, lots of freshly ground pepper and some (sea) salt. If you want to bump up the flavour, go ahead and add ½ to a whole beef stockcube. Put on the lid and cook in the crock on low for about 6 hours, on high for about 4 hours, or simmer on the top of the stove for 15-30 minutes.

The verdict? I thought the (yummy) sauce was a tad runny so added some cornflour and cooked it on high for the last 15 minutes. We ate it with couscous (though it would be great with mashed potatoes or tagliatelle) and the whole family enjoyed it. A keeper!

Bon appétit!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Seven Minute (Paper) Declutter Challenge - 27 February 2012

Hello, readers!  I'm back from the winter break - refreshed, revived and ready to fling! :D  Here's the first update on my Seven Minute (Paper) Declutter Challenge.  The Flylady habit for the month of February is decluttering and - as my achilles heel is paper - I've decided to focus my energy on battling the paper tiger. 

Forgive me for repeating myself but I don't know why I am always so amazed when I declutter the Flylady way.  I mean, for goodness sake, I've been doing this for six years now.  But at the end of every declutter session - whether it be 2 minutes tidying out the kitchen drawer, 5 minutes hanging up things in my wardrobe or 30 minutes clearing shelves in the basement - I get that renewed feeling of hope.  That there is light at the end of the tunnel!  And that it gets easier and easier (well, for the most part) to throw things away.  Things that, six years ago, I could not let go of...

And that - dear readers - is why the Flylady's system is so dang good.  You declutter in small chunks - or babysteps as the Flylady calls them - working your way round the whole house.  Until you are back at Start.  Happy with the results you can see, and ready for another round with the clutter that is still there, able to look at it with fresh eyes.  And on those moments when that awful overwhelmed feeling rears it's ugly head (yep, there are still rare flashbacks like that) I need to give myself a jolly good slap on the head and remind myself that it will never be as bad as it was when I first started.  Yep, this baby has come a long way! ;D

Anyway, back to those pesky papers...  I set my timer and only allowed myself to do seven minutes at a time.  When the timer rang, I went off to do something else, then came back to the job.  I decided to start with our financial papers.  I've always filed them in separate ring binder files, e,g, one folder for DH, one for me, one for the Mastercard account, kids accounts etc, etc.  Eight ring binders in all.  Plus two cardboard boxes which contain our financial records from the last six years.  I suddenly realised that - duh - it would make much more sense to keep ALL of this year's bank papers in ONE file.  Using dividers. Voilà, I've instantly been able to get rid of seven (count 'em) ring binders.  Woo hoo!

This pleased me very much.  Go on, feel the space left behind on the shelf!  ;D  Not to mention that it has made life so much easier when I'm filing new papers that come in.  One file.  No searching.  And at the end of the year I can take out the whole dang lot of them, bundle them up with an elastic band and drop them in the cardboard storage box.

After my success with the financial papers, I moved on to seven-minute stints of weeding out old receipts and instruction manuals for items we no longer own.  All in all, a great start!

Tune in next Monday to see how - even if I didn't fling paper for a week (when we were away on holiday in Madeira) - the Flylady clutter busting techniques are constantly helping me to win the battle against paper...

Have a marvelous Monday! :)

Friday, 10 February 2012

Feel Good Friday - 10 February 2012

Three things that I love this week:

*  That it's now daylight when we do the school run in the morning. Woo hoo!

*  That it's still light at 5 pm. Double woo!

*  And - as white candles are just too boring after the cheery red Christmas ones (but it's a tad too early for happy, yellow Easter ones) - I'm cheering myself up with a nice mix of freesia coloured candles to keep me going until spring has really sprung...

Danish schools are closing today for a (well deserved...) 'Winter Week' holiday - so I'm dusting my blog desk (after I've set my timer and decluttered papers for seven minutes) and going off to enjoy some fun with my family.

Have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful week! :)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Menu plan - Thursday 9 February 2012

The sea this morning...frozen!
No vinterbadning (winterbathing)
for us until the ice melts :(
We still have arctic temperatures here in Copenhagen, so this week's menu includes lots of comfort food :)
Me swimming at the same spot just 4 weeks ago...
In case you haven't heard it before, I do my shopping 'on-line' once a week and order everything we eat for breakfast and dinner, the kids packed lunches for school, and things like wine/washing up liquid/'bog roll'.   This week's grocery bill came to kr. 895 (around £99 or $ 157) - still lower than my usual spend of around kr. 1.100 - because I'm still finding a few items in my freezer/pantry that I can 'get rid of'.

Pork chops Yum-Yum from the website served with roasted grean beans and steamed pearl barley made in my (beloved) ricecooker

* Crockpot chicken (chicken fillets, can of condensed mushroom soup, add frozen peas at the end), in tortilla wraps, served with spinach salad

* Greek (lamb) meatballs, with Greek salad (feta cheese, olives, red onion, cucumber, red pepper and tomato), steamed rice with raisins made in my (beloved) ricecooker

Greek salad...just need to add some olives :)

*  Crockpot red lentil soup (leek, potato, red lentils, seasoning, water and chicken stock cubes) with hot homemade bread rolls 

Flæskesteg (traditional Danish roast pork with lots of yummy crackling), baby potatoes, carrots and lots of lovely, lovely sovs (creamy gravy) - yum!

*  Leftover night = any leftover meat/veggies I can find in the fridge, jazzed up and served as a wholemeal pasta or fried rice dish

Fastelavnsris = Danish carnival decoration

And, remember, there'll be no menu plan next week as I'm taking the week off with the kids, who are on school winter break for Fastelavn (Danish carnival)...  :D

Have a thoroughly thrilling Thursday! :)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Udderly fantastic?

[This post is also published over at - the official website of Denmark run by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

My sweetie friend H held a girly birthday dinner bash at her flat on Saturday night.  After the main course, she got down to the serious business of unwrapping her gifts.  One by one.  Slowly.  Giving everyone at the table the opportunity to observe and admire - as is the way in Denmark.  Note to non-Danes: don't thrust your gift into the arms of the host when you arrive.  Instead ask, "Hvor er gavebordet hen?" (Where's the gift table?)  No matter where you are, be it a private home, church hall or posh hotel, there will always be an assigned tablewhere you can place your parcel.

Well, we oo-ed and aah-ed our way through the packages but this gift turned out to be the highlight of the evening...

A giant tube of kopattesalve.  Or "cow tit ointment" ;)  Not the most attractive name, I grant you.  But it's a Wonder Product.  The only cream which will protect your skin against the current arctic temperatures (which finally reached Denmark last week, along with a few snow flurries, after an amazingly mild winter).

Yes, this cream is used by Danish farmers to treat sore and infected udders.  But also by breastfeeding mums, eczema sufferers and anyone who needs an extra rich moisturizing cream.

I'm choosing to believe the hype and am off to the chemist.  Because I'll be skinny dipping (vinterbadning) in the (partially frozen) Danish sea tomorrow morning and - with a windchill on the beach of minus 20c (minus 4f) - I'm looking for all the help I can get...

Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Chocolate marmelade/jam cake

I had to google my blog several times because I was sure I had posted this recipe before.  I mean, really, it's a staple in our household.  Fantastic warm from the oven.  Cold with cream or ice-cream.  Or reheated a week later - if there are leftovers - and eaten with custard.  Yum!  But apparently I never got round to sharing the recipe, so voilà!

A tiny last slice for little old moi! :)

It's another (fantastic) recipe from (fantastic) Nigella Lawson.  From her Domestic Goddess book.  Which is fantastic.  (As are all of her cookery books...)  You can use any type of marmelade or jam.  I made the cake a couple of weeks ago when I was decluttering my cupboards as part of the Super Fling Boogie - because I discovered a glut of three jars of orange marmelade, just waiting to be used :)
Two's company, three means it's time to bake a cake! ;)
You'll need:
  • 125g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 300g orange marmelade, apricot, plum or cherry jam
  • 150g sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g plain flour or self-raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder (if you aren't using self-raising flour)

Melt the butter and chocolate in a large pan over a very low heat.  Remove the pan from the heat when the butter is melted - then keep stirring until the chocolate has melted.

Add the sugar and marmelade and mix well.

This will bring down the temperature of the mix and then you can add the eggs.  Then the flour, baking powder and salt.  Giving it a good mix til it's nice and smooth.

Pour into a tin lined with paper (for easy removal and clean-up).  The original recipe calls for a 20cm tin (8") but I always use my Ikea one which is 22cm (9").

Pop into a preheated oven at 180c or 350f.  You'll be baking it for about 45 minutes, but start checking the middle of the cake after about 35 mins with a knitting needle or skewer.  You want it just set, not overcooked.

Leave it to cool then enjoy in small slices.  It doesn't really need any embellishment or icing - but I sometimes dust it with a bit of icing sugar, edible silver or glitter, or drizzle on some ganache.  Got visitors coming?  Add a bowl of whipped cream/crème fraîche and some fresh fruit or fruit salad.  Sorted!  :)

Bon appétit!

Have a terrific Tuesday! :)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Seven Minute (Paper) Declutter Challenge

The Flylady's latest Super Fling Boogie finished last week (see The Super Fling Boogie continues - again! Again, again!) and for the month of February we're working on decluttering on a daily basis.  I have - hooray! - made great strides since I discovered the Flylady's system back in 2006.  But my battle with paper - my achilles heel - continues.  So although I'm usually on the winning team these days, I'm planning to use February to kick ass (if you pardon my French).

I'm pretty good at filing.  And, when the post comes into the house, I've got into the (fantastic) habit of filing things straight away.  Instead of leaving it to fester and multiply when my back is turned ;D  So filing isn't the problem.
Just a small selection of files...I have around 40 of them - eeeeek! 
No, my problem is simply hanging on to too many pieces of paper.  Because (and fellow flybabies know what's coming next) I think I might 'need' them.  Call me sentimental.  Or call me a paper hoarder! ;D
So I'm turning the Flylady's February habit into my new Seven Minute Declutter Challenge.  Decluttering paper for 7 minutes, Monday to Friday for the rest of the month.  Weekends are free.  I shall post my progress along the way - because otherwise I might be tempted to bail out halfway! 

Come fling with me?

Hope you have a marvelous Monday! :)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Feel Good Friday - 3 February 2012

Three things that I love this week:

The latest in my arsenal of nail varnish...

Animal print cardis...

Tickets to see Denmark's finest rockband, Magtens Korridorer.  And - yippay-ay-aye - the concert is tonight!

Have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend! :)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Menu plan - Thursday 2 February 2012

The Flylady's Super Fling Boogie for January is now over and I've almost finished using the 'stuff' that was cluttering my freezer and storecupboards.  Ready to start with a clean slate! :)  I do my shopping 'on-line' once a week and buy everything we eat for breakfast and dinner, the kids packed lunches for school, and things like wine/washing up liquid/'bog roll'.  This week's grocery bill came to kr. 925 (around £105 or $ 165).  Which is still lower than my usual spend of around kr. 1.100.  And this week's order even included a couple of expensive cuts of meat for special occasion dinners, so it's all good...

It's around -3c (27f) during the day and -12 (10f) here at the moment, so here's what we're warming up with at Casa Copenhagen this week:

*  Chili in Breadbowls. Got the idea last year from the 5$ Dinners website and they were a huge hit with the whole family.  I'll use the breadmachine Breadbowls recipe as they turned out so well last time (see the photo below).   But I'll make my own shortcut Chili which is basically minced beef, a jar of spicy tomato sauce and kidney beans. A little tip: if your kids are like mine - and aren't mad about the beans - then mash or blend the beans before you add them to the minced beef. That way, you'll still get the authentic chili taste and nutrients... ;D
Yummy breadbowls!

The finished article - who's hungry? ;D

* Takeaway pizza and icecream on a night that the kids have a babysitter :)

* Chicken and vegetable stir fry (I have a readymade bag of it in the freezer) served on top of bulgur wheat/quinoa made in my beloved ricecooker :)

*  Spaghetti carbonara and a fresh green salad on a night that DH is fending for himself and the kids and I'm out to a birthday party - yay! :D

* Oven egg and chips made by DS12 - cut potatoes into chips, boil them for about 10 minutes, leave to dry, toss in olive oil, rosemary and salt, roast in the oven. Five minutes before the end of cooking time, crack eggs into the same baking dish. And, hey presto, you have a one dish dinner! We'll be serving it with beetroot and veggie sticks.

*  Pork sausages with baked potato wedges and warm red cabbage

* Beef pasta satay (we use wholemeal pasta and add red pepper or green beans) - now a firm family favourite - the recipe is from Leanne Ely a.k.a. The Dinner Diva's "Saving Dinner" book

Bon appétit!

Have a thoroughly thrilling Thursday! :)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

DIY Fastelavn - Danish Carnival

[This post is also published over at - the official website of Denmark run by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

Last week in We heart Danish Drama, I gave you an idea for a Carnival costume. And, by jingo, if you’re planning to celebrate Fastelavn (as the Danes call it), you’d better get your skates on. Because this year the moveable feast falls early. Really early. Sunday 19 February. Which is the Sunday before the Danish schools’ winter holiday week – eek!

Fastelavnsboller = Danish carnival buns
The kids and I are busy getting into the swing of things. We’ve already eaten several huge, sticky fastelavnsboller (traditional Danish carnival buns). DD9 (Dear Daughter, 9) has her carnival costume ready and waiting on a coathanger – this year she’s Hermione from ‘Harry Potter’, selvfølgelig. And DS12 (Dear Son, 12) has politely informed me that he won’t be needing a costume this year because he’s “too old for that kind of thing, Mum!” ;)

However, he wouldn’t say ‘No’ to a fastelavnsris, so we’ll still be making those… Now we could, of course, buy them readymade from the local supermarket or sweetshop but a) we can save a fortune it’s fun to make our own and b) the kids can choose the sweets themselves. You don’t know what a Fastelavnsris is or how to make one? Never fear! Here’s my post from last year, complete with step-by-step instructions.

Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(First published 2011)

My DD8 (dear daughter, 8 years old) was looking forward to going to school this morning. Because in art class they’re decorating piñatas for fastelavn (carnival). Carnival in Copenhagen! Okay, so we’re not talking Carnival like the one in Rio. Honestly, would you want to dance around the cobbled streets, half-naked, peely-wally white, in sub-zero temperatures? I think not. If you want the whole historical background of the Danish festival, I suggest you go google or take a peek at Wikipedia. Here’s what I think you need to know:
  • it’s celebrated seven weeks before Easter Sunday (6 March 2011, 19 February 2012)
  • it’s the highlight of the kids’ year (aside from Christmas), it’s basically the Danish equivalent of Halloween
  • kids wear fancy dress (which, for the under 6s, is invariably a superhero or something pink and princessy)
  • the kids make (or buy or receive) a fastelavnsris [don't know what that is? Hey, you're in luck! Keep reading for instructions on making your own...]
  • you eat special fastelavnsboller [sticky buns, duh, of course there's food involved!]
There are tons of parties where the kids get a chance to slå katten af tønden (literally ‘hit the cat out of the barrel’). Schools and kindergartens devote a whole day to the celebrations. And if your child goes to scouts or football practice, there will also be a party organised there. Not to mention events organised by public libraries, museums, local businesses and supermarkets… A tønde (large barrel, similar to a piñata) is filled with sweets and fruit. Much more politically correct than filling it with live cats, as they used to do up until the early 1800s… The barrel is then strung up and the kids take it in turns to whack it with a bat.

The boy or girl who knocks out the bottom of the barrel is crowned as Kattedronningen (the Queen of the Cats). The person who smashes the very last piece of the barrel is crowned Kattekongen (the King of the Cats). A huge honour. You get to wear a little golden crown for your efforts. And be the envy of your friends for years afterwards.

Here’s how to make your very own Danish Carnival essential – a Fastelavnsris. Which is sure to make you the envy of your friends! ;)

You’ll need:
  • a few bare branches (should be easy to find at this time of year…)
  • sellotape, thread, ribbon or wire
  • coloured carton or paper
  • bits n’ bobs
  • some small sweets (wrapped, if possible)
Take a small handful of branches and secure them at one end. You can tie a piece of ribbon around, if you want to pretty up the ‘handle’. Use wire, sellotape or thread to stick on the sweets.
Cut out a few shapes from coloured card and stick on. Traditional shapes are cats (remember those live cats that used to be put inside the barrels…), barrels and masks. Go mad with glue sticks and sequins… The branches should be looking quite colourful now. Add a few coloured feathers if you have them. And streamers. Stick on some Carlsberg or Tuborg bottle tops – a great way to recyle them?! Or whatever takes your fancy…
When you’re all done the fastelavnsris can either be hung up in a hallway or stuck in a vase until it’s ready to be eaten. Back in the ‘good old days’, it was used for flogging. Eek!
God fastelavn! Happy Carnival! :)