Lili – April 23, 2018

Although April can still be a little chilly here in Chicago, it’s always exciting to know that warmer days are just around the corner. When I went along to The Danish Home to help with a flower arranging class earlier this month, it really felt like spring. It’s an especially pleasant time of year there because, with an extra layer, residents can finally sit outside and enjoy the beautiful gardens once again.

I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect that when my two-times great grandmother Margarethe Olsen helped found The Danish Home, she thought the gardens would be just as important as the house. What I do know is that our family has always enjoyed outdoor spaces, even if Brad and I employ a landscaper to keep ours looking its best!

Many delicious recipes come from the fruits of the earth – root vegetables, especially appropriate for Earth Day!

The Danes are known to be an environmentally friendly people. Denmark has been voted the fifth greenest country in the world, with Copenhagen the greenest city, not only in Denmark but in the whole of Europe. Most residents get around on either public transport or bicycles, and they recycle and take energy conservation very seriously.

In Denmark, Earth Day, which was celebrated around the world this past Sunday, is about much more than simply turning off your lights for an hour. Danes hold an annual rally in Copenhagen which includes guest speakers, a march for science, and ceremonial drumming. Danish marches have a different focus than those here in the U.S., addressing how to use science to benefit society.

Denmark is one of the most environmentally friendly countries on earth.

In our city, Earth Day Chicago showcased several events, from a “Parks and Preserves Clean-up” to a “Party for the Planet” at Brookfield Zoo. For the first year ever, my youngest, Anna, took part in a project to pull weeds from the land around her school. It was very gratifying to see her helping others, when it’s all we can do to get her to pick up her plate at home!

Oh, and speaking of plates, our family started a new tradition, deciding that every Earth Day we would eat a meal entirely of plants, herbs and seeds grown in the earth. Being Danish, I went back to my roots, if you’ll pardon the pun, with some old recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.

We started with a hearty vegetable soup made from kale, followed by Copenhagen potatoes with sweet and sour cabbage. It was so delicious, I’m including the recipes here in case you’d like to try them yourselves.

And if you really want to be green, you can turn all the peelings into compost, because if there’s one thing Earth Day should do, it’s remind us to care for the environment not on just one day, but all year ’round.

Danish Gronkaal Soup (Green Kale Soup)


  • 1 recipe ham broth or 10 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups cubed cooked ham or 2 cups coarsely chopped meat from pork hocks
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed (4 to 5 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots (3 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped leeks (3 medium)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped fresh kale
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker combine ham broth, ham, potatoes, carrots, leeks, celery, garlic, pepper, and nutmeg. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Gradually stir in oatmeal. Stir in kale and thyme. If on low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Cover and cook for 30 minutes more.

Copenhagen Potatoes

Serves 4

  • 1½ pounds potatoes
  • ½ pound bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook unpeeled potatoes in boiling water. Drain, remove skins and cut into cubes. Cut bacon into squares and fry crisp in butter. Add potatoes, vinegar and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss lightly until well mixed and hot.

Grandmother’s Sweet-Sour Cabbage – Mormor’s Hvidkål

Serves 6

  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 tart apples – cored, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 whole cloves

Brown onion lightly in the butter. Add remaining ingredients in order given. Cook until cabbage is almost tender.

Enjoy the fruits of the earth!