The first time I had Oda’s Danish creamed cabbage was at Christmas time. After a fancy Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day offered a more laid-back menu — Danish Frikadeller (meatballs) and creamed cabbage.
Cabbage is one of those nutritional unsung heroes — full of dietary fiber, vitamin C, K, and B6. It’s also a great source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, and folate, to name a few. It’s versatile and delicious, too! The Danes use cabbage in many recipes, and this side dish is one of my favorites.
Danish Creamed Cabbage
Serves about 8
1 head green cabbage (about 3 lbs)
4 TBSP butter
6 TBSP flour
3/4 cup milk
Reserved cabbage water, about 1/2 cup
salt and pepper to taste
Cinnamon sugar or nutmeg or cardamom
Wash cabbage head, cut in quarters, removing stalk
Cook in covered saucepan with 1″ salted water until tender
Drain, reserving water, then press out moisture ( I use a wooden spoon)
Chop and squeeze out more moisture
Make white sauce:
Melt butter, add flour and whisk
Add milk a little at a time and whisk until smooth
Add reserved cabbage water a little at at time until sauce is the right consistency, stirring constantly. You’ll want to keep it a little on the thicker side, since the cabbage will give up some moisture
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Add cabbage to white sauce, stir to combine
Serve with cinnamon sugar to top ( the traditional Danish way) or salt and pepper. I’ve also seen some people sprinkle nutmeg or cardamom on top.
Monday, August 20, 2018, is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of our Founder, Oda Lassen. Although we lost her in 2013 (at the age of 94 1/2), her spirit and spunk have stayed with us.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how at the age of nearly 53, she bravely opened the first Lassen’s in 1971 (you can read that post here) and this week I just want to celebrate the person that she was.
Oda was unafraid to say what she thought. I don’t know if it was the fact that English was not her native language that made her so blunt, but she would just tell you what she thought. When some of our boys were teenagers with long hair, she complained to me about it. I told her it was just hair and not a big deal, and she replied, “But it looks so awful!”
Oda was very willing, and often anxious, to pass on her wisdom, regularly with humor. She had heard someone say that the only reason you should raise your voice at home is if the house was on fire. One day she came into my house and caught me yelling at — well, who knows what. She just said, “Where’s the fire?” That made me laugh, and, as you can tell, I don’t even remember what all the yelling was about.
Oda had a quick wit. During a Sunday dinner she scolded one of her grandchildren for being so sassy. He replied, “Well, I can’t help it since I got it from you!” She shot right back, “You couldn’t have gotten it from me because I’ve still got it!” She was well into her 90s and hadn’t skipped a beat.
Oda was very smart. She loved learning everything that she could about Natural Foods and Supplements. She was constantly reading and studying so that she could help her customers in the store. She also loved to read magazines that carried stories about people and products, and in the 1990s was even featured in one of the bargain magazines with an article about how Green Magma had helped her arthritis. That laminated article was on the wall of the store for a long time! She was very proud of that!
Oda also had quite a head for math, and could keep track of every expense and sale. She watched the books very closely, and didn’t make risky moves in the business. This vigilance carried into her personal finances — If we went to a store together and she paid for both of our items, you can bet she would make sure that she was repaid in a timely manner, and to the penny!
Oda put her familiy first. She had a large family — seven children — and a large extended family but everyone knew that she loved them. Most of all, her husband Hilmar knew it. One day I was at her house in the morning when she left for work at the store. After a few minutes she came rushing back into the house with an explanatory, “I forgot to kiss my husband goodbye!”
There was no greater Bedstemor — Danish Grandmother — than Oda. Sometimes, when my kids were little, she would call me and tell me I needed a break. She would drive to our house, pick up the children, and take them for a walk or to the park while I had some time to myself. She was also a great Svigermor — Danish Mother-in-law. One of her daughters-in-law tells about how Oda would show up at their front door with a broom, mop, and bucket and announce that she was going to mop their floor. She’d sweep and mop, then be on her way.
After she and Hilmar downsized from their home, they came to live in a granny flat next to our house. Our children grew up with Bedstemor and Bedstefar just a few steps away, and that enriched their lives every single day. I would often go see what she and my children were up to, and they were making cookies together or watching Shirley Temple or Disney movies, or just sitting on the couch, Oda patting their little legs, listening to music. When the grandchildren were babies, she was in heaven. She would swoop up a screaming baby, hold him close, and dance and sing until he calmed down. Her trick was to sing louder than the baby was crying. She had a special “dep-a-dep” song that all of the Lassen children, grandchildren, and most of the great-grandchildren can still sing.
Oda was blessed with beautiful olive skin (not a standard pale Dane!) and a thick, full, head of hair. I liked to tell her that she had enough hair for three people, and several of her children — including all of her sons — inherited that thick hair. So lucky!
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss Oda. She was a woman of incredible integrity and perseverance, even in the face of real hardship. Honest, hard-working, and loyal, all of us in her personal and business family knew that we could count on her, no matter what. There are so many things that we have been able to accomplish and experience because she paved the way. It is our quest to honor the legacy she left for us. It’s what give us our values: Passion, Commitment, and Respect.
When I came into the Lassen family and learned that Oda owned and ran a Health Food Store, I just sort of thought, “Oh, that’s cool.” It wasn’t until about ten years ago that it really hit me how astonishing that was.
Oda was born in August, 1918 — nearly one hundred years ago. That means that when the first Lassen’s store opened in 1971, she was almost 53 years old. Fifty-three. At a time when most are thinking about the end of their careers, she bravely began one. But she was driven to do so because she saw a problem and she knew she could help solve it.
When the Lassens arrived in America in early 1952, the industrial packaged food trend was really gaining steam. Oda was appalled. She was horrified with much of American food — low quality, pre-packaged, tasteless, full of refined sugar, salt, preservatives and artificial ingredients, and definitely lacking in nutrition. This did not seem like progress to her. She knew how vital quality food was to overall health — she’d lived without it during the war and knew how detrimental that could be! She knew that families needed acess to more healthy foods as well as information about natural solutions to health issues.
So once her youngest children were in school and more independent, she decided that she could do something to solve that problem. She took a job at a local Health Food store, and devoured as much information as she could. She took advantage of every opportunity, even questioning the way the owner ran the business. She was disgusted with much of what he did, from his product mix (junk food right next to the supplements) to his habits (smoking fat cigars in the office.) When he let her go in favor of a younger woman, she decided that losing the job was a blessing — that she could do better. She wanted to help her community to be knowledgable about natural remedies and have access to healthy, nutritious foods .
The idea to open her own store began to grow and expand, and as she discussed it with Hilmar, he said he would help her do it. They found a little store to lease on Pickwick Drive in Camarillo, and got to work. They made plans and recieved permits, then built and set up everything. The shelves were cleaned and stocked. They opened the doors for business.
Forty-seven years ago this week, on July 6, 1971, Lassen’s Health Food Store held its Grand Opening. This ad ran in the local paper. People began to shop at the little store, and Oda gained more confidence. At first the divider between the selling area and the back room was close to the front of the store, but as her sales volume grew and as the product offerings expanded, that divider was moved back farther and farther. After a few years she moved across the street into a larger store, and that store has been expanded another time since then.
This was very much a family undertaking, as shown here with a teenaged Anna. All of the Lassen siblings spent plenty of time after school and during the summer dusting shelves, stocking product, bagging nuts and dried fruits, and helping customers. Hilmar did the produce run to LA and served as the handyman, while still maintaining his masonry business. But Oda was the hub of the business, and her customers remained loyal to her well after her retirement.
It was a big step when Oda was able to hire her first employee, Jennie. She became a wonderful asset to the business, and almost part of the family. You can see that there is a lot more product on the shelves than in the previous photo!
Many people told Oda and Hilmar that the Health Food craze was just a fad, and would never last. But Oda knew that this wasn’t just a hippie thing — it was a basic, human, need to nurture bodies, strive to heal naturally, and to take care of the earth.
All along the way, Oda kept uppermost in her mind her purpose to provide families in the community with healthy, nutritious, high quality foods and supplements. In those early days organic foods were difficult to find, but she sought them out wherever she could. And of course, the organic standards were not codified into law at that point, so she had to be extra vigilant in checking ingredients and manufacturing practices.
There were plenty of discouraging times, but Oda continued to build on her foundation of caring about everyone who came into the store. She learned more as she attended seminars and read everything she could so that she could help them with their health concerns.
Now, forty-seven years later, we at Lassen’s strive every day to build on Oda’s foundation of caring about our communities. Our dedicated buyers constantly search for the highest quality healthy, sustainable, and ethically produced items. We feel grateful to have so many great producers, many who live and produce locally. Our knowledgeable staff is trained and anxious to help you find solutions to your health needs. Those are traditions that Oda started so many years ago — supporting both suppliers and the community.
I love to make this Danish dessert whenever we have guests come to dinner because it is different from anything they have ever had. We always make a game of having them guess the main ingredient, and they can never figure it out. It’s simple to make and so delightful — rich, and yet light.
The secret ingredient is buttermilk! Kærnmælk, in Danish.
So here is it is: kærnemælkfromage, Buttermilk Dessert
1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depends on how sweet you like your desserts)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cream, whipped until stiff
Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water in a 2-quart saucepan, and then put on the stove over low heat.
Stir constantly until disolved (which will take less than a minute), then add the sugar and stir until dissolved
Remove from heat and add the vanilla, orange juice, and buttermilk; stir to blend well
Place the saucepan in the refrigerator to cool and gel
Check in about 30 minutes. When the mixture starts to firm, whip the cream
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the whipped cream, and blend with a wire whisk until smooth
Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until firm, about an hour
Serve with Danish Strawberry Pudding (Jordbær Grød — the recipe can be found here). It’s also wonderful with fresh berries
When the Hilmar and Oda Lassen family immigrated from Denmark to California in the early 1950s, their first order of business was to find a way to earn a living. Hilmar and Oda had always been hard workers, and the trial of the German occupation of Denmark during World War II had strengthened their persistence in even the most challenging times. In preparing to immigrate, Hilmar learned the bricklaying trade in Denmark before they set sail. When they got here, however, he found that the American method of laying bricks was different than the Danish way. So the best job he could find was a bricklayer’s assistant. He took the job, learned the American method, and struggled to learn English.
They settled in the San Fernando Valley, and the girls entered school. Hilmar and Oda took English lessons — he didn’t like to study, but she did. Oda told me that she would do Hilmar’s homework for him. She was very motivated to learn, probably because she was not out in the working world and wasn’t about to have the practice that he did. There were no dual language programs in the 50s, so Bee, Ida, and Doris had to just learn on their own. For the first six months they felt completely lost, and came home crying from school every day. But within a year they were pretty much fluent English speakers.
The years went by and Oda and Hilmar had three American-born children — Anna, Peter, and James (Jimmy). Hilmar earned his Contractor’s License and they became American citizens. Hilmar traveled all over Southern California, building everything from block walls to custom homes.
The Lassens began to live the American dream, even buying a house in San Fernando. In 1963, Hilmar decided to build a spec house in the little Ventura County community of Camarillo. It was mostly avocado and orange orchards then, and there was only one stop sign in town. One Sunday Hilmar brought the family to Camarillo to see the house, located behind the Catholic Church on Las Posas and Crestwood. They attended church in town, and liked the community so much that they decided to not sell the spec house, but instead to sell their house in the Valley. So in December 1964, the family moved into that house and began to sink their roots deep in Ventura County.
Hilmar stayed busy in the construction business. He became not just a bricklayer, but a craftsman — even an artist. When I first came into the family in the early 80s, we would often take Sunday drives and Hilmar would show us what he was building, and also point out other jobs he had done over the years. He built the first Taco Bell in Camarillo on Arneill Road, which is now Hector’s Fresh Mexican Food. He loved to tell how he built the fireplaces and other brick and stone work in Ronald Reagan’s house in Pacific Palisades.
All the while, Oda was very busy holding down the fort at home with those seven children. She nurtured and taught them, and ran them to and from their activites. The Lassen siblings enjoyed their family life, learned, and grew. John enjoyed scouting, eventually earning the rank of Eagle. Peter especially loved the American pastime, baseball. The older ones left for college, married, and the grandchildren began to arrive.
Once all of the children were in school, Oda began to work outside the home. She had always been interested in the area of health, and one of her jobs was at a local Health Food Store. The job was short-lived however, as she was fired — mostly because, according to Oda — the owner wanted to hire a “younger, more attractive” woman. But even if Oda had not been let go, she was disgusted with the way the owner ran the business — selling healthy items right next to processed and definitely unhealthy foods, and smoking big cigars in his office. She was ready to strike out on her own.
Next Month — Oda the Brave decides she can do a better job herself, and leaps into another adventure!
This Danish Strawberry Porridge is one of the first Danish recipes that I tasted when I met the Lassen family. Simple and tasty, it takes advantage of the beautiful fresh berries we have in California. It makes a wonderful stand-alone dessert (served with cream or coconut cream), but can also be used as a topping for cheesecake or rice pudding.
4 lbs fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cornstarch
Wash strawberries and remove stems, place in heavy pot
Pour sugar on top of the berries, stir, and place over low heat. Cover
Open up the vanilla bean lengthwise and open it up, then scrape the inside with a knife to remove the soft insides with the seeds. Add both the scrapings and the bean to the berries and sugar
As the berries heat up slowly, they will soften and release juice, so watch carefully so they don’t burn. (Some recipes add some water, but I generally don’t. Just keep the heat low until the berries are soft and juice has formed.)
Once the berries are soft, bring to a slow boil
Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch in the cold water, stirring carefully
While stirring the berries, pour the cornstarch water into the pot, and stir until thickened. This will happen quickly
Remove from heat and cool, then remove the vanilla bean
The end of World War II was a huge relief to the Lassens and to all of Denmark. They were able to relax a little and resume their lives. They had another little girl, Doris, and Hilmar started a business making, repairing, and selling canvas tarps.
Oda was always a people person. She made friends easily and nurtured those friendships. This is a photo with her friend Gerda soon after they met in the late 1940s. Gerda often talked about how they met and always praised Oda for how kind and helpful she always was to her and her children. After they both came to America, they would visit one another as often as possible, even though Gerda lived hundreds of miles away. They wrote letters and talked on the phone often. Oda and Gerda remained friends until Gerda’s death in the early 2000s.
I never asked Oda about this photograph, but I love how she and the girls were all dressed up. Maybe they were going to church on a gloomy overcast day!
In December of 1950, the Lassen’s welcomed their first son into the family, John. The family is still amazed that petite Oda was able to give birth to a 12-lb baby! To the annoyance of several members of the family, Oda said that he was her prettiest baby.
Even though things were much better in Denmark than during the war years, there were still worries. Oda told me that one of the factors that they took into consideration when contemplating coming to America, was that the Soviet Union was so close to Denmark. She said that she felt real fear of a Soviet invasion.
So when John was just a baby, they made the decision to immigrate to America. They found a sponsor — the father of a church friend — who was willing to vouch for the family. They started to sell most of their belongings and got ready to uproot everything that they had ever known. They thought it unlikely that they would ever see Denmark or their families again.
Doris was just five years old when they immigrated, but she remembers selling their furniture, toys, and dishes in order to have enough money to purchase passage on a ship. They travelled to Copenhagen to receive their passports and other documents, as well as to go through the screening and interviews needed.
When the photographer came to their apartment to take their passport photos, he also took a few extra pictures. John was just shy of a year old, and the photographer caught him taking his first steps! Here is one of the entire family. From the left, Ida, Oda with John, Doris standing in front of Bee, and Hilmar.
They packed all of their belongings into a trunk and two suitcases and had fifty dollars in cash. In December of 1951, they visited their families for the last time, waved goodbye, and boarded the ship Gripsholm, headed for New York.
Hilmar always liked to say that he carried John across the Atlantic ocean. John, who had just begun to walk, did not like the moving deck of the ship and refused to be put on his feet.
There are many more stories of their travels as they made their way from Denmark to New York City, and then across America by bus to the west. Within a few months they were in California, where Hilmar got a job working as a bricklayer’s assistant. All along the way, they gathered their courage when times were tough, as they were for quite a few years. None of them really knew any English, and that alone was daunting. But they took lessons and practiced, and the older girls went to school and helped everyone learn.
The Lassen family has a strong heritage of grit and drive, and nowhere can that been seen better than in their courage as they immigrated to a new country. We strive to have that grit and drive in our business, too, and to always remember our roots!
Salad, Side Dish, Appetizer, Sandwich Topping — You Will Love this Simple and Easy Recipe!
If you have enjoyed a Danish Smörgåsbord (or Swedish, for that matter) you have probably noticed a multitude of small serving dishes with little pickles of all kinds, red cabbage (rødkål, see Oda’s recipe here), peas and carrots, cucumbers, pickled beets, and other items. These can be enjoyed as toppings for open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød), or as a small side dish. The Danes use them as Americans use cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. These tasty sides are not reserved for holidays, but are everyday kind of dishes. They add such a pop of color and taste to many meals, and I love them!
The Lassen family loves to have dinners together, and when we make the assignment list, Cucumber Salad is nearly always included. This is one of my favorite Danish recipes, and also one of the simplest. It adds a great flair and pop of flavor to basic meals and fancy ones alike. Oda, our founder, taught me how to make this salad, and when she and Hilmar downsized their living space, I inherited her Bosch Mixer with the slicing and grating attachments. I used it to slice the cucumbers for this post!
Oda’s Danish Cucumber Salad
1 organic English Cucumber, or 4 Persian Cucumbers (please see *note for special instructions if only regular cucumbers are available)
1/4 cup unbleached sugar — you could also use agave syrup, or any other sweetener if desired
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Wash and dry the cucumbers. English and Persian cucumbers do not need to be peeled.
*Regular cucumbers have thicker skins. When that’s all that’s available, I partially peel the cucumbers so that a little bit of skin remains. This adds great color and a bit more crunch. If the regular cucumbers have tough seeds, I cut them in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
Slice the cucumbers very thinly. If you do not have a food processor or other tool, you can use the side of a box grater — there’s a handy slicer there.
Place the slices in a strainer over a bowl, and then sprinkle generously with salt.
Stir the cucumbers so that the salt is blended in.
Mix the sugar and vinegar in a small bowl, and stir to dissolve.
Let sit for about 15 minutes. You’ll see lots of juice under the strainer
With clean hands, squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the cucumbers.
Drain and wipe the bowl, then return the cucumbers
Pour the sugar and vinegar over the cucumbers, and stir to coat.
Let the salad sit for another 10 minutes or so, mixing occassionally.
Add pepper and salt to taste
Serve! We like to provide small dishes on the side of each plate for this salad, since there is a lot of juice.
This salad will last several days in the refrigerator.
Enjoy this taste of Denmark, straight from the Lassen home!
Let’s Celebrate with a Recipe Straight from Oda and Hilmar!
These are no ordinary pancakes–they are Danish Pancakes from the recipe file of Oda and Hilmar Lassen! They look like crepes, but since they came from Denmark, they have their own Danish, Natural Food twist!
Like most pancakes, the ingredient list is pretty simple. And like most of their recipes, you’ll need to go by the feel of things as much as by amounts! I’ll give amounts here, but pay attention to the descriptions of what the batter should feel like. This recipe is for 2-3 people.
3 organic, free-range eggs. Hilmar taught me to do one egg per person, plus one more egg. I found that when I had a bunch of teenaged boys to feed, I needed much more than that–2 eggs per person!
1 TBSP organic honey
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup organic whole wheat flour
2/3 cup organic unbleached white flour
2/3 cup organic milk (I used 2%)
2/3 cup water
Eggs, Honey, Salt
Beat the eggs and then add the honey and salt and mix.
Don’t be too concerned if the honey doesn’t blend into the eggs much. When you add the rest of the ingredients it will get blended in just fine.
Add the flour a spoonful at a time until the dough is very thick and you think you can’t blend any more flour in. Depending on how big your eggs are, you many have to add a little more or a bit less flour than what is stated on the ingredient list.
Milk and Water
Add about 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of water. Blend until smooth. Add more milk and water until you have a very thin batter.
Prepare the Pan
The Danish way is lots of butter, but you can spray the pan with non-stick spray, if you’d like. Heat the pan until quite hot. The butter should brown.
Start to cook!
Pour the batter in a thin stream onto the hot pan. Tilt the pan at the same time to keep the batter thin on the pan.
Gently swirl the pan around to coat the pan with a thin sheet of batter. Let the pancake cook until the batter is dry-looking and the edges are lightly browned.
Flip the pancake over and cook on the other side until slightly browned. Place on a warm plate and cover with a lid while you make the rest of the pancakes.
Top with jam–I chose strawberry here–and whipped cream, if desired! Roll the pancakes and then enjoy!
Some in the family have Americanized these pancakes and eat them with maple syrup, but the true Danish way is with jam.
Yum! These amounts made 8 large pancakes.
I found this idea for strawberry jam on Pinterest and decided to give it a try, since I’d like to reduce the amount of sugar I eat!
Blend! If you’d like some chunks of strawberries, add them after blending.
Pour into clean containers, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The chia seeds will thicken the berries and there is no need for pectin or lots of sugar. This jam was delicious on the Danish Pancakes! I had them for breakfast this morning!
Enjoy these easy but elegant pancakes for breakfast, a brunch, or even as a dessert!