The First of Advent

Don’t you think it’s absolutely amazing that the first Sunday of Advent was on the 1st December this year? Or is it just me who is an absolute fan of these kind of coincidences?

Also a coincidence, or just good timing from my part, that I was done with my next portion of handmade Christmas-decorations by yesterday:

Star Frames

These lovely crochet stars are the idea of Sandra from Little Golden Nook, which is a beautiful blog. I saw the stars on Pinterest, and followed Sandra’s lovely tutorial to make them. I picked a bag of curtain rings, some yarn of my choice, and some Christmas postcards, and the 10 starts were done surprisingly fast.

let's make frames

 

I really enjoyed making them. Here they are, bathing in sunshine 🙂

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Also, as you can all imagine, we have been very busy with advent preparations all weekend. Actually I have been planning it for quite a long, because the advent calender is something very important in our family. And getting 2 times 24 small, cheap, yet exciting and funny gifts for small kids is a challenge in itself… And then wrapping all of them… Even when I only had to wrap advent gifts for Cherry, I decided that the maximum amount of children in our household is going to be 2. Because there is noone on earth who can handle packing 72 (or more!) tiny little gifts every year, or is there? 🙂

For advent calender we decided to go with the tradition of my husband’s childhood. Every year his parents hung the gifts on a piece of string somewhere in the house, but without numbers on, and he and his sister got to choose one present every morning. And they loved it. So that’s how we do it too. No numbers, but random picking every morning. It has been two mornings so far, and my kids are in absolute trance 😀

Our Advent Calender

Sorry for the poor picture quality, I made the photo late in the evening on Saturday, when I was done with hanging the packages, and obviously there was no natural light at my disposal in our living room 🙂

We also got out our Christams boxes, placed a few elfes, Santas, candles here and there in the house, and made an advent wreath – well, it is just 4 candles in a box with some dried fruits and branches from our garden really, but it is nice.

nisse collage

 

So, we are ready for the Holiday Season. Is it too much to ask for a little bit of snow as well? 🙂

Risalamande

Monday was St. Martin’s day. Another holiday that people usually don’t remember the origins of, but are still looking forward to it, because it means some special, big eating, right… 🙂

In Hungary it means eating goose, but in Denmark it is duck. Since roasted duck is also very usual as a Christmas dish, with potatoes, caramel-potatoes, red cabbage and gravy, it is not unusal for Danes, to celebrate Sankt Mortens Dag (as they call it) with an early Christmas feast. As it happens, that is what we exactly did this year 🙂

I made the complete Danish Christmas menu, and to make it whole, I also prepared the special dessert that goes with it: Risalamande.

Risalamande with cherry sauce

Risalamande is basically chilled rice-porridge, blanded with chopped almonds, vanilla and whipped cream, served with sweet Cherry sauce. Usually on Christmas evening the hostess hides a whole almond piece in the middle of the pudding, she asks a few other people to stir it well, so there could be no cheating (at least that’s what my mother-in-law does), and then she serves it to the family. The one who finds the whole almond in his/her dish, is the winner of a special almond gift 🙂 It’s a little bit like the coin in the British Christmas-pudding, I guess.

Making Risalamande is not very difficult, however it takes its time, especially because of all the cooling.

Here is how it goes:

Risalamande:

  • 3dl water
  • 2,5 dl porridge rice (small and round)
  • 1 liter milk
  • 100 g chopped almonds
  • 2 vanilla sticks
  • 4 sp sugar
  • 2,5 dl cream for whipping
  • cherry sauce or other berry sauce for serving

First you will make rice-porridge: Take a heavy-based saucepan, put water and rice in it and boil them together. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional 2 mts while stirring it constantly. Add the milk and cook it at a low temperature, still stirring, for another 10 mts. Cover it and cook for half an hour more, stir it once in a while. Once it is done, let it cool in the fridge. It is best, if it can rest for a whole day.

preparing risalamande

Bland the cold porridge, the vanilla seeds of the two sticks, sugar and the chopped almonds together. Whip the cream until you get a light foam, and then carefully fold it into the porridge. Set the risalamande in the fridge for another 2 hours before serving.

For serving take some lovely cherry or berry sauce. In Denmark you can buy hundreds of different types of little cartons of cherry sauce from November until January, in any shop.

Enjoy 🙂

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Midsummer

Summer is officially at its peak. It is midsummer, 6 months after Christmas, 6 months before Christmas – alas the best time of the year to have birthday, according to my husband. As it happens, it is my birthday today 🙂 But that’s not what I was going to write about.

I love this time of the year, especially in Denmark. As all of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark also welcomes an extreme amount of light hours during these months. The sun is up (even if sometimes behind the clouds) about 19 hours per day. Fantastic 🙂 A nice change after the long winter months, when we can be happy, if we have 5 hours daily sunshine… All this light is beautiful, even if sometimes it causes its troubles, like when I am unable to get my kids to sleep, cause who is going to fall asleep in bright sunshine, even if it’s already 10.30 in the evening…. I remember my dormitory days, when I used to work as a dishwasher in a fancy restaurant to pay my bills, and every Saturday we had a wedding to attend to. It meant that I rarely got home before 4 o’clock in the morning, shut the blinds on the window of my dorm room, and wanted to fall into unconscious sleep, but I simply couldn’t, because of the light finding its way through the blinds, and all the birds making a terrible noise, singing happily outside my window… oh, those were the days of my youth 🙂

Summer by the way means a lot of beautiful things. Like our roses that have sprung…

Or the fresh strawberries that make the milk you pour on them just amazingly pink and sweet…

strawberries

And also, the yearly Midsummer celebrations 🙂 We had a little grilling and bonfire at our village’s sports field, where a lot of our neighbours, my husband’s football buddies and our children’s day care friends met up. It was a lovely evening, despite the occasional showers (but again, it is Denmark).

A man-sized bonfire was built earlier that day, and it was not easy to set it on fire, but finally the men managed to start it.

starting the fire

It was beautiful and scary at the same time, the flames reaching up to the sky, and I was so happy that I was not born a few centuries earlier, because I am sure that I would have been burnt as a witch, just because of my freckles… what a terrible death.

At the same time as the bonfire, a rainbow showed up above the village 🙂 If you look at the picture carefully, you can see that it was actually a double rainbow!

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We had a lovely time, and walked home around 9 p.m, when our kids started to get tired, and somewhat wet from the on-and-off rains.

 

A Little Lookback To The Holiday Season

We are very lucky this Christmas, because we can enjoy the hospitality of my parents for quite a long time. We only go back to Denmark next Friday!

It also means, that my time at the computer is limited. Not that I am that sad about this fact, but it explains the rarity of my posts nowadays 🙂 But now I have some time to write a little bit about our Holidays.

christmas piggy

This year was special, because we celebrated Christmas twice! First we held a little Christmas with my in-laws in Denmark. Cherry helped decorating the tree, she is getting very good at that, this was her second tree for the season 🙂 After that we danced around the Christmas tree, according to Danish traditions. Danes always put a flag garland on their trees, and my mother-in-law made not only a Danish garland, but also a Brittish and a Hungarian one, to please her children-in-law 🙂

danish tree

We ate roasted pork with caramell-potatoes, red cabbage and gravy, yumm 🙂 My husband’s Mum also made a portion of rice-pudding with cherry-sauce, so however we were visiting 3 days before the actual Christmas, it really felt like the real one!

danish yummies

 

Santa came and visited us, leaving very nice and huge gifts behind for the kids, including a Cars pushing car for Paddington, and a pony princess castle for Cherry 🙂

After crazy packing and dropping our puppy off at a dog pension, we flew to Hungary on the 23rd. Due to the lovely snow-storms across Europe, we had to wait 3 hours before our plane could finally set off. It was very stressful, a lot of people trying to get home for Christmas, delayed and cancelled flights, restless children… but finally we got to Budapest.

The Hungarian Christmas tradtitions are quite different from the Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon traditions. We follow the German line, like in so many other things. Santa doesn’t come to us at Christmas. No. Saint Nicholas visits the Hungarian children on his name day, 6th December. He leaves some chocolate, fruits, small gifts in their polished boots, and some dry branches, if the kids were naughty. Christmas belongs to Jesus Christ. Baby Jesus, and his helpers, the angels leave a fully decorated Christmas tree in the children’s home, and obviously gifts as well 🙂 So on the 24th we heard the magic bells ringing from the living room, went in while singing, and found all the gifts under the tree.

hungarian christmas

We also had the traditional Christmas food, which is fish soup and fried fish on the 24th, and stuffed sour cabbage on the 25th (at least in my family this is the tradition).

hungarian yummies

 

 

And New Year’s Eve? We spent it nice and quiet, just the kids, my parents, my brother, his girlfriend, my husband and me. Playing board games, staying up late, drinking champagne.

champagne

 

What about your Holidays? What are your traditions, how did you spend these few days?

Cookies in Boxes, last volume for this year :)

Due to circumstances I had no power over (like my own bowel movements for a short period of time…), I did not manage to make as many cookies as I wanted to. Well, no problem because the missing ones can be still made next year 🙂 But we did manage to make a portion of each Danish delicacies that are sooooo connected with Christmas.

The first one is called Pebbernødder, meaning “peppernuts”, and has absolutely nothing to do with either pepper or nuts, its just a nice, spicy ginger bread style cookie, which has a shape of a nut. The other one is not really a cookie, rather layered marzipan, but nonetheless very yummy.

Pebbernødder:

pebbernoedder

These cookies simply cannot be left out for a real Danish Christmas. If you don’t bake them, you buy them in big bags, and munch them during the wonderful month of December. My husband insisted on that we should make them ourselves this year, because it is so fun to bake with kids (and it is!). So I called my mother-in-law, and asked for her recipe. When it comes Danish recipes, she is the first one I turn to, not a cooking book 🙂 Later she sent me this recipe:

  • 1 kg flour
  • 400 g margarine
  • 500 g sugar
  • 2 sp light syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dl milk
  • 3 tsp hartshorn salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • bit of ground lemon peel

pb dough

I only used half amount of everything, and still got plenty of cookies in the end. You just mix everything together, then roll thin cylinders out of the dough, and cut small pieces of it. Perfect job for little girls with at least 4-5 beaded necklaces on 🙂

pb cutting

Lay them on a baking tray covered with baking paper, and bake them on 200 Celsius for about 20-25 mts, until they get nice and brown.

pb done

Once they are done, it is very important to perform a quality check on the cookies! Little boys are very suitable to do so 🙂

 

Marzipan Slices:

marzipan slices

Or, my little brother’s favourite treats 🙂 You can also buy them in any shop around Christmas, in many different qualities. But it is much more fun (and sometimes even more expensive…) to make your own ones 🙂

You will need some raw marzipan, some nougat bar, and food colouring of your choice.

pure marzipan

I went with green and red marzipan, and of course the raw colour and nougat as well 🙂 Now all we have to do, is to make thin slices of everything, then layer them nicely. I found cheese cutter to work best for slicing nougat, and a very sharp knife, to slice the cold (out of the fridge) marzipan.

layered marcipan

Once I layered them, I decided to put them back into the fridge again, before cutting them up, because it is much more easier to work with cold marzipan.

In the meantime, I made some figures out of the left-over marzipan: An elegant, pink, plumpy, Icelandic type of pony for my daughter (yes, it is a pony, stop laughing!), and a cool sport car for my car-maniac son. If you, at this point, would like to form comments like “Geez, I understand why she is not a professional marzipan figure manufacturer”, then I have to tell you, that luckily my kids are very sophisticated, and recognize art at once when they see it, and knew instantly what the two figures were 🙂 However, Paddington refused to eat or even touch his marzipan car…

marzipan figures

Anyway, look at these divine marzipan slices…

divine slices

This year I decided to make small packages of Christmas goodies for family members as a gift, so I made a few scone shaped paper bags, and packed them with pebbernødder and the marzipan slices. I hope they will be received with joy 🙂

wrapping the goodies

 

 

Cookies in Boxes Vol.2 – Linzer

Oh, the Linzer…

Linzer

Anyone, who has ever heard about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is not gonna be surprised by the fact that Austria and Hungary share a lot of traditions and recipes. Especially when it comes to cakes, cookies, tortes, and all the heavenly results of the development of confectionery. One of these shared heavenly gems is the Linzer torte. It is very popular as a cake, but also as cookies, made according to the same recipe, and they cannot be absent from the Christmas dessert table. It is almost obvious that I also had to make them this year to fill up at least one of my empty cookie boxes…

I guess every family has their own recipe for it. So do we 🙂 This recipe is old, very old, and my Mum always makes it for Christmas, following the sharp, decent handwriting of her grandmother. I copied this recipe to my own cookbook, and brought it to Denmark.

My Greatgranny is very special to me. I was named after her (she hated her given name all her life – until I was born and given the same name), and we were lucky enough to spend the first two years of my life together, in the same home. When my Mum went to university, she left home and moved in with my Greatgranny. It was not easy to get your own flat at the time my parents were young, so when my Mum and Dad got married, they simply lived together with Greatgranny and looked after each other. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of the time spent together with Greatgranny. But I have heard the stories all my life, and she must have been a great person! She lives through us, and her legendary cooking and baking.

That’s us, about 30 years ago 🙂

greatgranny

 

And this is her recipe for Linzer:

  • 600 g flour
  • 300 g margarine
  • 150 g icing sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of baking soda
  • grated peel of half a lemon
  • 3 egg yolks
  • milk
  • jam of your choice

Making linzer dough is not rocket science, really 🙂 You just put all the ingredients (except the jam) in a bowl, and work them together thoroughly. You only need to add a little bit of milk, so you get a light dough. It really depends on the quality of the flour you use, but it is really only a little bit of milk. Less than a dl, I would say…

Because we are only 2 adults and 2 children, I only used 400 grams of flour and equivalent ingredients, but I heard that Greatgranny used to bake linzer of 1,2 kgs of flour for the whole family…

linzer dough

 

Once the dough is done, roll it out very thin with a rolling pin, and cut different shapes out of it. Perfect task for small baby hands 🙂 Since later we are going to fill the cookies up with jam, it is important that you cut the same amount of full and holey shapes that will go together.

shapes

 

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius, and bake the cookies for no longer than 10-12 minutes! They don’t need to get brown and too crispy, you want them nice and soft.

Once they are done and cold, take the jam of your choice (we traditionally use apricot jam, but any other will do as well), and whip it until it gets hard.

Now you can fill your cookies: Put a spoonful of jam on the middle of the full cookies, then gently put a holey cookie on the top.

baking and filling

 

You can sprinkle them with some icing sugar, so they don’t just taste, but also look yummie 🙂

yummie linzers

 

That’s it. Wasn’t too difficult, was it? Enjoy!