marsipankake

Celebrating May 17th With A Decadent Marzipan Cake

17th of May is Norway’s Constitution Day – it is easily the most important day of the year for many Norwegians, as we celebrate our freedom, and our ability to call our country our own. Norway was for many years under the rule of other nations (including Sweden and Denmark), which is why this day is particularly filled with emotions as we look back on our history where we were not allowed to celebrate or walk in parades to mark the birth of our nation.  On this day you will see a sea of red, white and blue all across the country – the colors of the Norwegian flag. Flag waving is looked upon as something celebratory and positive in Norway, a sense of pride, happiness and belonging.  With only 5 million people, we are a nation of close knit countrymen, we have something special in common that is hard to describe.

The day typically begins with getting dressed in our customary, gorgeous handmade “bunad” outfits, they are unique to everyone and differs according to what region of Norway you are from. I have a “Sunnmørsbunad” as I am from the region of Sunnmøre in northwestern Norway, and like every other Norwegian, think that mine is the most beautiful. Here I am pictured in Norway two years ago when I was celebrating my niece’s confirmation in my hometown of Sykkylven:

SynnovebunadThe bunad is typically given to everyone when they are confirmed, and it is a very generous gift, as they tend to cost thousands of dollars.  But they last for a lifetime (just make sure you don’t gain too much weight from the age of 15 on, ha!) and is worn during weddings, confirmations and other celebratory events as well.

The celebration starts with marching in parades, which is then followed by a large lunch.  So what do Norwegians eat on this very special day?  Typically you will see lots of “koldtbord” spreads (Norwegian for “smorgasbord” – a table filled with room temperature dishes such as salads, decadent open face sandwiches, seafood, cold cuts, cakes and other desserts), and the kids will indulge in plenty of ice cream, soda and hot dogs in the afternoon at various arrangements at schools throughout the country.  You can read all about the tradition and importance of ice cream on May 17th in my recent article for the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper here.

Cake baking has always been a huge tradition in my home region of Sunnmøre, and May 17th is no different. While most cakes are filled with heavy cream (or rather whipped), eggs, milk and sour cream, I set out to find a recipe that would not use any dairy at all, being that I’m now vegan. The good news is that it is so easy to make most of these traditional cakes without resorting to dairy!  For those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, hopefully this alternative will be a nice addition to any celebratory event.

Marzipan plays a huge part in Norwegian baking and has always been a traditional ingredient, particularly in the making of “bløtkake” (a fluffy sponge cake filled and topped with whipped cream and decorated with fresh fruit).  Decadent, yes – but May 17th is undoubtedly the best day to justify such a luxurious treat.

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Image from nrk.no

While marzipan showed up in the market in the year 900 (thought to have come from the Arabic world), it most likely didn’t arrive in Norway until the 19th century along with the arrival of confectioners’ shops, and was for many years just known as an expensive confectionary product. Initially, because the ingredients were so rare, it was only reserved for the wealthier crowd, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that it started developing into a popular product for everyone. Soon, the creation of the marzipan figurines such as in the shape of pigs (“marsipangris”) for Christmas and Easter began to evolve and it’s now estimated that almost every Norwegian eats one marzipan figurine each during Easter (about.4.5 million of these candies are sold each year).

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Image from nidar.no

More recently, cakes from marzipan began popping up in all variations, and is now common in every bakery and household across Norway.

I found a delicious recipe for an awesome vegan marzipan cake on the wonderful Norwegian blog, Vegetarbloggen – authored by Mari Hult, a vegan cook from Stavanger, who offers a ton of delicious recipes.  For those of you who speak and read Norwegian, I highly recommend her blog!  As I’m still learning to veganize the entire Norwegian repertoire of classic foods, I often refer to her for inspiration and tips.

For the cream bit, instead of using heavy cream, you can use a chilled can of coconut milk (the fatty part will harden and form a “lid” at the top of the can which you can remove and use as cream to whip), or alternatively, if you don’t care for the flavor of coconut, another really interesting item I discovered recently is chickpea brine. Yes, it might sound nuts, but adding a little cream of tartar to the drained liquid from a chickpea can whips up beautifully and you can flavor it any way you want. This way you can also make “Pavlova”, a meringue cake typically made with egg whites, and is another very popular cake to serve on Constitution Day.

The below recipe is an adaptation from Mari’s beautiful “Marsipankake” recipe – I hope you will try it!  Hurra for 17. mai!!

17TH OF MAY MARZIPAN CAKE (vegan)

Sponge cake:

400 grams or 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

240 grams or 1 cup organic cane sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups plant based milk (such as almond, rice or soy)

3/4 cup organic vegetable oil

Vanilla Cream:

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

3 tbsp organic corn starch

1 vanilla bean, split

2 1/4 cup plant based milk

Decoration and montage:

1 can full fat coconut milk, left in fridge overnight

1/4 cup granulated, organic sugar

OR (alternative cream):

Drained brine from 1 x large can of chickpeas

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 cup granulated organic sugar

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1/2 cup of strawberry or raspberry jam

Fresh blueberries, raspberries and /or strawberries

500 grams (about 1 lb) of prepared marzipan (I like the Odense brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Oil or butter 2 x 9-inch round cake pan and dust with a little flour to coat.

Prepare the vanilla cream first. Whisk together the sugar and corn starch in a small pot. Add the vanilla bean. Whisk in the milk and heat up on the stove over low heat, while continuously stirring (this is important so it does not burn). The cream will begin to thicken as it simmers, keep stirring for another few minutes before removing it from the heat and placing in the fridge. The vanilla cream will continue to thicken in the fridge.

To prepare the sponge cakes: Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl). In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, oil and vanilla extract. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until all the flour is incorporated and no lumps are left, be careful not to overmix. It should take less than one minute.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and let them cool  for 10 minutes before moving them onto a rack.

Let the sponge cakes cool completely before decorating with the whipped cream and berries.

To prepare the whipped cream, scoop out the top, thick layer of the coconut milk (it will have stiffened overnight in the fridge), and discard or save the liquid for another use.

Place in a bowl of a stand mixer with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and sugar and whisk until stiff peaks. Place in fridge while you prepare to layer the cake.

Place one of the sponge cakes on a plate. Spread a generous amount of strawberry or raspberry jam on the surface and let sit for a bit to have it soak into the cake.  Add some whipped cream, then vanilla cream on top.  Add another generous amount of jam onto the second cake layer and place that on top, jam side down.

Roll out the marzipan large enough to fit the entire cake (top and sides alike),and place it gently on top of the layered cake.  Fold the spillover against the sides to neatly fit.  Decorate the cake as in the photo with berries and you can also use additional marzipan by braiding it into roses (or ring) or other decorative figures. The options are endless!

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Image by vegetarbloggen.no

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May 1st: The Cuckoo’s Day

The first day of May is traditionally a holiday in Norway, where most people take off and take a break from work (although one could argue that this year this is no different than any other Friday, as the trend in Norway is going towards a 4 day work week, with a lot of people getting in the habit of taking Fridays off).  But what is the history of this day, known as the “International Worker’s Day”? It started with a world congress in Paris in 1889.  Workers in the United States had fought a long time for an 8-hour work day and  May 1st was their gathering date. On this congress in Paris it was decided that this day were to be an international demonstration day. This has since developed into an observed holiday in many countries.

In Norway, it’s a sign of that spring is in full arrival, with a bit of green appearing on the birch trees, while the snow capped mountains light up the background, all of it surrounded by the stunning blue fjords. What could be more beautiful? Here is a photo my friend Pia took of my hometown of Sykkylven just a couple of weeks ago:

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Photo Credit:  Pia Janet Yksnøy

This day was historically also called the “Cuckoo’s Day” (gaukedagen).  The name may have stemmed from the pre-Christian name of the first summer month, the Cuckoo month.  (For those that don’t know, the cuckoo is a medium sized bird, not seen in the United States, but more in Europe and Asia).

Guira Cuckoo

On this day, it was important to notice which direction one would hear the first cuckoo from. For instance, it was a bad sign if one would hear it from the north.  Another rule was, when the cuckoo sang, the kids were allowed to go barefoot. This was something the children really looked forward to;  as soon as they heard the cuckoo’s hooting call, they threw off their shoes and socks and ran across the field in their bare feet.  To hear the cuckoo was important for various reasons, as it would signify what weather to expect; from rain, to cold , to sunshine and warmth.

May 1st is an important day for many, and is marked in different ways, such as participating in parades and giving speeches, celebrating workers and their rights. Others celebrate the day off with a long and delicious breakfast, and perhaps set the year’s first celebratory table out in the garden.  The day has brought both snow, sleet and gorgeous sun throughout the years, so when the weather agrees, it’s a particularly fun day for Norwegians!

Freshly baked goods and a few flavorful salads are typical additions common when preparing a delicious May 1st breakfast.   “Tebirks”, also called “breakfast bread”, is a type of pastry that is popular to include, and can be made savory or sweet.   It is also commonly seen in Denmark, where it goes by “tebirkes”.   These pastries were particularly popular in the late 60s, but I love them even today, as it is a nice break from the traditional whole wheat breads that are offered at breakfast, and are a bit more decadent and festive.

As I’m not off on May 1st here in the U.S., I am planning on making these this weekend instead, but wanted to include a super simple recipe in time for today regardless, and have included a few pictures of what they look like.  Hope you all enjoy and that you will try to replicate a Norwegian May 1st breakfast this weekend too!

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Photo Credit: klikk.no

TEBIRKS  (vegan)

1 1/2 cups  plant-based milk (soy, almond or cashew milk works great, you can also use water)

50 grams/2 oz vegan butter (about half a stick – I like to use Earth Balance)

25 grams / 1 oz fresh yeast (or 1 packet dry yeast)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

about 1 lb of all purpose flour

50 grams/2 oz (about half a stick) vegan butter, melted

water or plant based milk for brushing dough

poppy seeds for decorating

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500F (250C).  Dress two baking sheets  with parchment paper.

Heat up the milk and butter until the mixture reaches a temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celcius).  Be sure to not overheat the liquid, as the yeast will die. Add in the yeast, followed by the sugar, salt and flour. Work the dough lightly together, it should not be too stretchy, but light.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Place the dough onto a floured surface and roll the dough out to a  8 x 32 inches rectangle (20x80cm).  Brush the dough with a the melted butter, leaving about an inch butter free around the edges.  Fold the dough in three parts and turn the folded side down towards the table and cut the dough into 2 inch pieces.  Let rise for another 30-45 minutes.  Brush the pieces with some plant-based milk and sprinkle poppy seeds on top.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on top.  Serve them warm, fresh out of the oven with butter,  home made strawberry jam or topping of your choice!

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Photo Credit: bakkedal.info

Tebirkes

Photo Credit:

Marte-KnipeSynoveDreyer

A Norwegian Grandmother’s Favorite Dessert

A big reason why I started this blog, was to research and share information, not just about Norwegian cuisine, but the history of our food, and more importantly, why certain recipes came about. Today’s dish is so old school I suspect younger people in Norway today might not even have heard of it, but that is what makes it so fun and interesgin! Why should we deprive this generation of something delicious and an interesting piece of our culture? There are many things we can do to adjust recipes to fit our current lifestyle without missing the essence of our history and traditions. I feel strongly about connecting with my roots and getting a taste of what my grandparents and forefathers used to eat, without resorting to animal ingredients :)

Marte Knipe (or Marte Kneben, as it is called in some parts of the country), made from sago is a play on the word “knepent”, meaning ‘scarce’ – as this recipe has very few ingredients.  The modern recipe includes raisins and almonds, but we can assume that these ingredients were snuck in at a later stage.  Another version of this dessert is simply referred to as “sagogrynspudding” (a pudding made from sago pearls).

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Many people might think of the sago grain as tapioca. Nobody is quite sure how old this recipe is, but sago has been in use in Norway since the 17th century, according to food critic Henry Notaker, and was a popular ingredient in soups and puddings for its thickening ability, as it is a starch.   While the tapioca that is found on the shelves today is made from potato flour, the tapioca back in the day was made from far more exotic ingredients.

Real sago is a starch extracted from the spongy centre, or pith, of various tropical palm stems, especially Metroxylon sagu.   The sago is then dried and ground into flour, and made into pearls. The name ‘sago’ comes from the word sagu, which is Malaysian for “ground pith”. Tapioca, then – is a substitute, since it’s made from potato flour.

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Real sago, according to old cookbooks, requires a long cooking time – up to two hours. True sago pearls are white, but the older they get, they turn a reddish color. Previously, it was possible to buy red sago from potato flour , but production has since stopped, most likely because the coloring agent used, was no longer legal in food products.  If you wander into Asian food stores, you can still see tapioca pearls in all colors of the rainbow.

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Sago pearls bought in Norway that are made from potato flour, contain no additives and are gluten free and otherwise free of any allergens. If buying them in the United States, I would select an organic brand to make sure they are as “clean” as possible.

This recipe is also dairy free, as I’ve made it with almond milk (you can use any plant based milk you want, such as cashew, soy, hazelnut,  quinoa, etc.).  Although the traditional accompanying sauce is made from cherries, you can add any berries or fruit to your liking, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, mango, peaches, apricots, etc.  Use your imagination and get a taste of Norwegian history!

MARTE KNIPE

Serves 4

Pudding:

4 cups of almond milk

1/2 cup sago pearls

1/4 cup raisins

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup toasted almonds

2 tsp rum or rum extract

Cherry Sauce:

300 grams or 1 1/2 cup frozen cherries

1 1/2 cup water

4 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp potato flour

6 tbsp water to mix in with potato flour

1/4 cup of toasted, sliced almonds for topping

Directions:

To make the pudding, combine the sago pearls with the almond (or plant based milk of your choice) milk in a pot and stir over medium heat until it comes to slightly under a boil.  Let the mixture cook on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Add the raisins, sugar and rum (extract).  Pour the pudding into a serving bowl and let cool for a good while before serving.

To make the sauce, combine the 6 tbsps of water with the potato flour in a small cup, and set aside. Combine cherries, water and sugar in a small pot and cook for a couple of minutes.  Whisk in the potato flour and combine until lump free.  Take off the heat and slowly whisk in the stream of the potato flour-water mixture until a rich and smooth sauce forms.  Bring the sauce up to a quick bowl right before it’s cooled off and served.

Marte-KnipeSynoveDreyer

Photo Credit: Synøve Dreyer

Information source for this blog post  from aperitif.no

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Celebrating Norwegian Easter With an Orange Cake

There would simply be no Easter in Norway without oranges. What a peculiar food to mention in the same sentence as Norwegian cuisine, you might think. Not so.  Here’s a fun fact to kick off with:  Norway is among the top importers of oranges, and during Easter, Norwegians double their consumption of this succulent, orange fruit and devour over 20 million oranges.  Oranges from Spain dominate, but Israel and Egypt are also important countries from which we import the fruit.

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Up until 1956 there was an import restriction in Norway of oranges, and they were a rare and expensive treat at the time.  When the regulation disappeared, the sale of oranges sky rocketed. Norwegian prefer sweeter oranges, and these typically appear at the end of the citrus season, which so happens to be around Easter; hence the peak season for oranges and  the holiday season fell together and tradition was made.  The color of the orange also represents the sun, and symbolizes the switch between winter and summer…. lighter times are ahead when Easter arrives!

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As many of you know, Norway is fortunate to have a plethora of majestic mountains, and Norwegians are very good at taking advantage of the nature surrounding them. Most people own cabins, and for Easter this is the preferred destination to spend the holiday, skiing, suntanning, eating great food and enjoying time with family and friends. Carrying oranges in backpacks while on a skiing trip is a well known Norwegian tradition. There is probably nothing more satisfying than sitting down at the top of a mountain after a long, beautiful, but physically challenging cross country skiing trip, opening up my back pack, peel an orange and sink my teeth into the sweet, juicy fruit. One orange covers your daily requirement for C-vitamins, but don’t think Norwegians are too healthy. We also consumer millions of “Kvikklunsj” (Norwegians’ version of Kit Kat, although of course ten times better:) along with truckloads of marzipan candies during the holiday.

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Other than enjoying oranges on their own in the breathtaking outdoors or mountainside, there are many other ways to use oranges in cooking. I experimented with a couple of different recipes for an orange cake earlier in the week as I longingly looked at photos from my friends in Norway who had already taken off for the holiday to enjoy the nature, food, and the company of friends and family.

My first recipe was a gluten free cake made with chickpea flour and polenta – this turned out to be quite crumbly, not too sweet and a more ‘casual’ cake.  The second recipe I tested included regular all purpose wheat flour but had very little fat, no butter, but just  a little oil and lots of orange juice. This turned out super juicy, light and fluffy, and I’m still reeling from the deliciousness of it. Both cakes serve a purpose, so I wanted to include both recipes for these here, so you can decide what you are in the mood for:  a daily treat (the polenta cake) or get decadent (the latter)!   The best thing about both is that they are super easy and takes five minutes to put together. Whichever one you choose, you are in for a treat – decorate with fresh oranges on top of each one to make it colorful, and if you are creative enough, you may even be able to sneak a piece in your backpack if you go out hiking or skiing this weekend! :)  Happy Easter everyone!

POLENTA ORANGE CAKE

1 stick vegan butter (about 8 tbsp)

100 grams or 1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup almond milk or other vegetable based milk

zest from 1/2 an orange

1/2 cup polenta

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1 rounded tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 400F. Dress an oiled 8-inch spring form cake pan with parchment paper at the bottom.

In a standmixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add in the almond milk, orange zest, polenta, chickpea flour, and baking soda until a smooth batter forms.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and baking in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool on a rack while preparing the glaze (Recipe further down, you can use the same glaze for both cakes).

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JUICY ORANGE CAKE

350 grams/1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

350 grams/ 1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup freshly pressed orange juice

1/2 cup rapeseed or other neutral, organic vegetable oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

zest from one orange

2 tsp vanilla extract

Handful of toasted walnuts, chopped for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Dress a 10 inch round spring form cake pan with parchment paper and oil lightly the bottom and sides of the pan.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix them into the dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

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Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, depending on your oven.  The cake should be golden on the top and firm on the edges, use a cake tester to determine when done. Cool on a rack while you prepare the orange glaze.

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Orange Glaze: 

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

juice from one orange (give or take)

1 tsp orange zest

Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl with orange rind and add orange juice until you get a smooth glaze to your desired consistency.

Garnish both cakes with added orange zest, fresh blood orange slices, and/or chopped nuts of your choice (I omitted the nuts).

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Dill; A Taste of Norway

What would Norwegian food be without dill? The mere smell of dill sends me right back to the kitchen and garden of my home in Sykkylven, in north western Norway. There is something so pure, vibrant and satisfying about this fresh herb, I suppose one has to be Scandinavian to truly appreciate all of its glory, as the flavors and aroma of this wonderful herb does not just remind me of food and my mother’s kitchen, but of life in the fjords.

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Dill is used frequently in cooking in northern, central and eastern Europe, but less so in southern Europe.  Dill originated in Central Asia, and its name stems from the English word “dile”, which again has its roots from the norse word “dilla” or “dylle”, which means to calm down. Tea made from dill, for example, has a calming effect, and has been used to battle insomnia, and the oil from the dill seeds calms and stabilizes the stomach. Dill has been used as food, medicine and a sorcery herb since the old times. During the middle Ages, people thought dill had magical effects, and was used in love potions and as an aphrodisiac.  During weddings, the bride was to put dill seeds in her shoes, and the groom carry them in his pocket, as this would then lead to a happy wedding. Dill would also be used to help ease the pain of contractions during child birth and combat colic. Pretty powerful and diverse herb, right?!

Below is a photo of some beautiful crown dill (my favorite)  – great for decorating dishes!

krondill

Whether dill is used to pickle cucumbers or beets, added to sauerkraut, aquavit or added to cheese, it adds a distinct taste to dishes that can only be from the Nordic countries.

Here’s an example of a super simple dish using dill; crushed potatoes with lemon and dill and lots of cracked pepper (image from bama.no):

Poteter-med-sitron-og-dill

Dill is of course the star player in dishes such as cold poached salmon, herring, gravlax and mustard sauce, in salad, potato dishes, dressings, breads and with shellfish, but since I have chosen to live plant based I wanted to showcase a dish without animal products.  I was inspired to make a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ book “Isa Does It” where dill is the star. Isa is a brilliant vegan chef and her recipes are some of the best I’ve ever tested, plant based/vegan or not, and highly recommend checking out her work!

This is an incredibly flavorful stew with a roux base (flour and olive oil cooked with vegetable broth to make a thick, creamy sauce), with lovely rosemary dumplings cooked with white beans, potatoes (another Norwegian staple), carrots and onions.  While not necessarily 100% Norwegian (this might remind you of a plant based version of chicken and dumplings!)  you will certainly be reminded of my country’s flavor profile when biting into these delightful dumplings and sipping on the wonderful, dill flavored sauce.  This was yet another hit in my house with my meat eating family members! Hearty, yet not so rich you feel like taking a nap afterwards! :)

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DILL FLAVORED STEW WITH ROSEMARY DUMPLINGS

adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ “Isa Does It” cookbook

For the stew:

3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 medium sweet Vidalia onion, quartered and thinly sliced

1 tsp kosher salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups vegetable broth, at room temperature

2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch chunks

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch half moons

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or more!)

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

generous pinch of ground black pepper

1 x 15 oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained (About 1 1/2 cups)

For the Dumplings:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp fresh or dried rosemary, finely chopped

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other non dairy milk of your choice)

2 tbsp olive oil

Prepare the Stew:

First make the low-fat roux. Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium- low heat. Add the oil and sprinkle in the flour. Use a slanted wooden spatula to stir consistently for about 3 minutes, until flour is clumpy and toasty.

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Add the onion and salt, and toss to coat the onions completely in the flour mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 more seconds.

Stream in the broth slowly, whisking constantly to prevent clumping. Add the celery, potatoes, carrots, dill, thyme, paprika and black pepper, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir often so it doesn’t clump or boil over.

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Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the potatoes and carrots are tender. In the meantime, prepare the dumplings.

Prepare the Dumplings:

Sift the flour, baking powder, and slat together in a large bowl. Mix in the rosemary. Make a well in the center and add the milk and olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to mix together until a wet dough forms.

When the stew is ready, mix in the beans and plop spoonfuls of dough right on top of the stew. You should get about 14 dumplings.

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Cover the pot tightly and cook for about 14 more minutes. The dumplings should be nice and firm. Use your ladle to dunk them into the stew to coat them.

Ladle the stew into bowls, and top with the dumplings. Garnish with additional dill and serve.

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Meatless Norwegian Meatballs

I often get asked by people how I manage to write about Norwegian food now that I’ve gone vegan. After all, 90% of the classic dishes contain some type of animal product, whether it be meat, fish, eggs or dairy.  The beautiful thing is that it is quite possible to recreate almost any dish using plant based foods.  Being relatively new to the vegan world, I am amazed every day at the creativity of my plant loving fellow chefs and recipe developers out there. There are plenty of fabulous Norwegian plant based cooks and food writers, one of them is Jane, author and creator of the site veganmisjonen.com.  She is known throughout the Norwegian vegetarian community for coming up with the fabulous “vegisterkaker”, a riff off the classic “medisterkaker”, pork meat patties that are served with the traditional Norwegian Christmas dish, “ribber, or pinnekjøtt (more meat in the form of mutton…).  Now I love little piglets too much to make these anymore, but I can tell you that Jane’s vegisterkaker are amazingly tasty and will be part of my yearly holiday meal going forward. She inspired me to come up with a recipe for Norwegian “kjøttkaker”, or meatballs.  Many people are forced to watch their red meat intake these days due to deteriorating health, so even though you may not be vegan, want to avoid having too much of this in your diet. Red meat is packed with saturated fat, and can cause clogging of arteries, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, not to mention the environmental impact of raising meat; to produce a four-ounce (quarter pound) hamburger, for example, requires 7 pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and irrigating feed crops, 75 square feet for grazing and growing feed crops, and 1,036 BTUs for feed production and transport—enough to power a microwave for 18 minutes. Something to think about!

Yes, an oxymoron, you might say – why call them “meatballs” if they do not contain meat at all? To me, these look exactly like the meatballs I made when I used to eat meat, and dare I say- taste even better. Made with cooked lentils, brown jasmine rice, some ground up oats and chopped parsley with lots of warming spices; these made my big meat eating husband squeal in delight. (He even had the leftovers the following night!). He first started whining when I suggested I make them, expressing “I want REAL meatballs!”, then after he tasted these, he quickly quieted down, and scraped his bowl clean. Mission accomplished!!  I serve my “meatballs” with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and lingonberry sauce. I no longer miss my mom’s meatballs, that’s how good these are! Try them out and let me know what you think!

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NORWEGIAN MEATLESS MEATBALLS

Makes about 14-6 meatballs

1 Vidalia (sweet onion), chopped and sauteed (I like to caramelize them for additional flavor)

2 cups cooked brown basmati rice

1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils

3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats, coarsely ground in blender/food processor

1/4 cup all purpose flour (or use gluten free flour if you want to keep recipe gluten free)

1-2 tbsp olive oil (use about 1/3 cup vegetable stock if you want to avoid oil)3

3 tbsp tamari

1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (this adds a rich, cheesy flavor and contains B12 vitamins)

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp-1tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp smoked or sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for sauteeing

Directions:

Cook the lentils and rice according to the package directions, let cool. Place them in the bowl with the ground oats.

In a medium or large saute pan, saute the onion until caramelized. Add the onions to the lentil mixture and add all other ingredients.  Combine with a spoon and stir until the mixture is thick and sticking together, about 2-3 minutes.  Using a spoon form the meatballs into sizes of a golf ball and place on a tray. I like to flatten them a bit to ensure they cook evenly and don’t burn on the outside and cook all the way through in the middle.

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Prepare a saute pan over medium heat with a touch of olive oil. I like to test a small piece of the mixture first to see if it needs additional seasoning.  Saute the meatballs in batches of 5 or so, and place on a tray while you prepare the gravy.

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Flavorful Gravy

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp vegan butter

2-3 cups vegetable stock

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

touch of nutmeg

1-2 tbsp lingonberry relish

1-2 tbsp fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary and/or oregano, chopped

1/2 cup almond or other plant based milk

In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the butter and cook for a couple of minutes, until the roux browns a bit and the flour is all cooked out. Slowly start adding in the vegetable stock, constantly whisking. Add enough vegetable stock until you have the consistency you want.  Add in the nutritional yeast, spices, fresh herbs and lingonberry relish, finish with the almond (or other plant based) milk, whisk again, season with salt and pepper to taste.

ERTESTUING  (Mashed Peas)

This popular, ultra Norwegian side dish is versatile and can be used as a companion to many meals.  Most commonly known as the side kick to the famous (dreaded?) “lutefisk”, I certainly prefer it with my kjøttkaker. Simple, but satisfying – just remember to season well – nobody wants bland peas!!

Recipe:

2 cups green peas (frozen is ok, just thaw them first)

1 tbsp vegan butter

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp sugar

salt, pepper

about 1/2 cup of plant based milk (almond, cashew, soy)

If using fresh peas, soak them overnight. Cook them according to the package in lots of salted water, about 1 – 1 ½ hour.  Drain. (otherwise if using frozen peas, all you need to do is thaw them ).  Melt the butter in a sauce pan, whisk in the flour. Add in a splash of plant baed milk and whisk until smooth. Fold in the peas and let them simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.

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Sweet and Fluffy Norwegian Wheat Buns

With Fat Tuesday and “fastelavn” just behind us, I am still thinking about how easy and tasty Norwegian “hveteboller” are. There is something special about Norwegian and Scandinavian baked goods. It’s never over the top, the pastries are rather rustic, and done just right, enough to make my mouth salivate by just looking at the many selections.  While the French might take the crown for their baguettes, pain poulaine, croissants, eclairs, macaroons and other fabulous pastries, Scandinavians are not far behind when it comes to mastering this craft.

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Growing up in Norway, I delighted in buying one of these sweet and fluffy wheat buns at my local bakery after school or on a Saturday afternoon when out shopping with my mom, it was always such a treat.  I would eat them plain, just as they were on the shelf, no need for any topping or spread, as they are naturally incredibly tasty, with just a hint of cardamom and a sweetness from the sugar (and sometimes vanilla sugar) in the batter.  Why the cardamom in Norwegian baked goods, many ask? One theory is that the Vikings brought home this spice from Istanbul, Turkey, after being hired soldiers there. While most countries use cardamom in savory dishes, we like to use it in our sweet and baked goods. Cardamom is supposed to be good for digestion, metabolism and balance out your hormonal system. But I digress… (no excuses needed to chow down on these awesome wheat buns!)

While some of the recipes call for regular butter, milk and eggs, you will be astounded to learn none of these ingredients are necessary.  On this snow Sunday afternoon, I decided to make a dairy free and eggless recipe of “hveteboller” for my husband and myself as we are watching “The Shining” .. because, that is just what we felt like doing on this lazy day. And I have to say, the buns came out amazing.  Light, fluffy and so flavorful they almost melt on your tongue, it brought me back to the times as a child when I ran to the bakery with my 5 kroner and bought myself a hvetebolle.  A true treat does not have to be expensive or decadent.  Try these out and let me know what you think…   If you want, you can always cut these in half and fill them with whipped coconut cream and a dollop of jam to make them an extra special affair… at your own risk, because one is never enough!!

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NORWEGIAN “HVETEBOLLER”

Makes about 16 buns

1 stick/8 tbsp vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)

1 1/2 cups almond milk or other plant based milk

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 packet dry yeast (about 2 1/2 tsp)

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

about 4 cups of all purpose flour

almond milk/other plant based milk for brushing buns

Optional: You can add some raisins to the dough if you’d like (called ‘rosinboller’ in Norwegian)

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F. Butter/oil two sheet pans.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pot, then add the milk.  Whisk in the confectioners sugar until smooth and heat until the mixture reaches around 125F. Be careful not to let the liquid get too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast.

Add the yeast, salt and cardamom into the bowl of a standmixer, fit it with a dough hook and gradually add the flour and beat for about 10 minutes on low-medium speed until a firm dough forms. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, divide in half and knead each half into two long “sausages”. Using a dough cutter, divide each sausage into 8 equal parts, and roll into a bun. Place the buns onto the greased sheet pans and cover with a towel. Let rise again for about 20 minutes or so.  Brush with almond /plant based milk and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Best when fresh out of the oven!

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Chocolate Cake: A Universal Delight

Norwegians are as passionate about their chocolate cakes as anybody else in the world, so it seems wrong not to include a recipe for one on Arctic Grub.  I have been looking to make the perfect chocolate cake for quite some time now, and I finally have a recipe that I am super excited about!

Chocolate cakes can take many shapes and forms, using lighter chocolate like milk chocolate or dark, poured into baking pans, cake pans, loaf pans or even muffin pans.  Here’s a picture of some classic Norwegian chocolates:

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I prefer using dark chocolate, not just because it is void of any milk products, but because I find the flavor is much richer and deeper, and of course… dark chocolate contains more nutrients and has all the heart-protecting anti-oxidants. Here are some great reasons why you should choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate:

1.  Dark chocolate is brimming with monounsatured fatty acids.

2. It contains half the sugar of milk chocolate and four times the fiber.

3. Iron levels soar in dark chocolate and can help make you strong!

4. It’s got way more magnesium and twice the potassium.

5. Dark chocolate has more theobromin, the bitter alkaloid of cocoa that helps lower blood pressure.

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Now, if I still haven’t convinced you which chocolate is better, all you have to do, is just make this chocolate cake and you will throw your hands up and agree with me! :)

It’s hard to believe this cake does not contain any dairy or eggs. Rich, yet still light and fluffy – it comes together in 6 minutes and you don’t need a bowl to mix the ingredients – you just mix them right in the cake pan! Quick, easy and delicious? Yes, please!   Don’t think the vinegar in the recipe is a mistake, the combination of vinegar and baking soda helps the cake rise.

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For the frosting, use a high quality chocolate like Valhrona or Callebaut.   For a more beautiful presentation and if you have a few more minutes, you can mix the ingredients in a bowl, and line the cake pan with parchment paper, oil the sides and dust with flour. This makes for an easy removal of the cake after it comes out of the oven and a more elegant look for guests.

I made this for my colleagues at work, and the cake was gone in minutes! Enjoy!

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MY FAVORITE, MOST DELICIOUS VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
Cake Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold, strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Chocolate Glaze
  • ½ pound dark/bittersweet chocolate
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Equipment: 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan, 2-cup measuring cup, double boiler
  2. Preheat the oven to 375º.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan.
  4. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, coffee, and vanilla.
  5. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly.
  6. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.
  8. To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  9. Stir the hot water and vanilla into the melted chocolate until smooth.
  10. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake.
  11. Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Kålruletter: An Old Norwegian Recipe Gets A Lift

In my constant quest of veganizing the Norwegian cuisine, I’m updating an old, classic Norwegian recipe called “kålruletter” or “kålruller”, which in the traditional way, are Savoy cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork and baked in the oven, served with a white, creamy sauce.  My version has cooked rice, lentils, sauteed shallots, garlic and red bell pepper seasoned with freshly ground nutmeg and spiced paprika.  I have to say… my version is a lot more flavorful – of course I’m not biased at all ! I still challenge you to try my version, as I feel it’s packed with deep, layered flavors from all the different ingredients and also incredibly satisfying.

For those hard core old school’ers, you can check out my old post about kålruller here.  Even if you prefer the vegetarian version, you can get some additional information about the dish and its background there.

According to the World Healthiest Foods, cabbage can provide some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you cook it by steaming (as in the first step of this recipe). The fiber-related components in cabbage do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels.

Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, and has great anti-oxidant related properties, which is partly responsible for its cancer prevention benefits.

Cabbage has a long history of use both as a food and a medicine. It was developed from wild cabbage, a vegetable that was closer in appearance to collards and kale since it was composed of leaves that did not form a head.

It is thought that wild cabbage was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. It was grown in Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations that held it in high regard as a general panacea capable of treating a host of health conditions.

While it’s unclear when and where the headed cabbage that we know today was developed, cultivation of cabbage spread across northern Europe into Germany, Poland and Russia, where it became a very popular vegetable in local food cultures. The Italians are credited with developing the Savoy cabbage. (end quote whfoods.com)

If you have not been convinced yet by the amazing health benefits of cabbage (and vegetables in general), then at least try this recipe for its amazing flavor!  The meat will not be missed, I promise! :)


Kålruletter The Healthy Way

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup white rice

1/2 cup green lentils

3-4 shallots, sliced thin

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1 tsp organic vegetable bouillon powder

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

1 head of Savoy cabbage, whole leaves picked apart

1 cup vegetable broth

Directions:

Oil an ovenproof dish that will fit 8 to 10 rolled up cabbage leaves and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F.

Rinse the rice and the lentils separately. In two different small pots, cook the rice/lentils with 1 1/2 cups of water each for about 15-20 minutes until done.  Set aside.

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Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, add shallots, garlic and bell peppers and season with salt. Saute for 5-7 minutes, then add nutmeg and paprika, saute for another 30-40 seconds until fragrant. Add the rolled oats and toasted walnuts, and saute for another minute.

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Add the lentils, rice, and onion mixture in a food processor along with bouillon powder and the 1/3 cup of water and pulse a few times until a rough farce is formed.  Place in a bowl and place in fridge while you prepare the cabbage leaves.

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In a large pot, bring a generous amount of salted water to a bowl, and place the separated cabbage leaves in the water, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until just starting to soften. Be careful not to overcook, as you want the vibrant color of the cabbage to remain.  Scoop the leaves out of the water and place on clean dish towels so the water dries off.

Place one big spoon of the lentil rice filling into each cabbage leaf, and roll up like a spring roll.

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Place the stuffed roll with the seam down into the prepared ovenproof dish. Fill with the vegetable broth, it should only cover the bottom of the pan.

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Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes, the cabbage rolls should be golden brown on top.

Bechamel Sauce

1/2 cup vegan butter

1//3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

3 cups non dairy milk (I used almond milk)

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup

Heat the vegan butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until melted. Add the all purpose flour and whisk.  Allow to cook, whisking frequently, for a few minutes until a roux is formed. Make sure it does not darken, as we are making a white, not brown gravy!

  1. Add the non dairy milk, nutritional yeast, salt, Dijon mustard and garlic powder and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes until sauce is nicely thickened to the consistency of cheese sauce.  add the lemon juice and agave nectar and stir. If too thick, add some more non dairy milk.

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Serve the baked kålruletter with the baked potatoes and drizzle over some of the white sauce. Guilt free and super delicious!!

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Norwegian “Pannekaker” Re-invented

It has been nearly two years ago since I posted about Norwegian pancakes on this blog, where I included a traditional recipe which included eggs and milk, you can read that post here. A lot has happened since, the most important thing has been my decision to adopt a plant based diet.  Initially I was slightly worried I was not going to be able to supply true Norwegian recipes, because let’s face it: 95% of all dishes from my country contain one animal ingredient or another…  Diving into test mode a bit further, I was relieved that not only can I make a lot of the old, classic recipes without resorting to butter, milk and eggs, I could recreate them to taste exactly the same way, and sometimes even better!

In place of eggs, I use flaxseed mixed with water, often referred to as “flax eggs”.  It looks something like this and acts like a binder, just like eggs do:

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Here are some of the other ingredients I added into this batter: almond milk, maple syrup, good quality, organic all purpose flour, and the secret ingredient to all the tasty Scandinavian baked goods: vaniljesukker, or vanilla sugar.

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In Norway, pancakes are thinner than American pancakes, and enjoyed for dinner, not breakfast, and typically filled with blueberry jam and accompanied with a savory vegetable soup, such as “beta suppe” (although this often has meat in it) or green or yellow pea soup. The combination of sweet and salty is heavenly,  very filling and most importantly, satisfies all the taste buds.

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This recipe for pannekaker is very versatile and can be used both for savory and sweet pancakes – simply omit the sweetening agent and the cinnamon if you prefer them savory. I personally like a bit of a sweet batter, regardless of what I choose to stuff them with.   These are super soft, juicy and delicious, all without adding eggs or milk!

COMPASSIONATE PANCAKES NORWEGIAN STYLE

makes about 8-10 pancakes

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

2 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tbsp water

1 1/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil (rapeseed oil or canola) *or 4 tbsp melted vegan butter, I like Earth Balance

1/4 cup maple syrup

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  In a smaller bowl combine all the wet ingredients, then gradually add into the dry mixture until well incorporated and the batter is free of lumps.  The batter should be relatively thin in texture.  If too thick, you can add a bit more water/almond milk /plant based milk of your choice.

Let the batter rest for about 10-15 minutes before you begin cooking them.  Add a bit of oil (not too much) or vegan butter to a frying pan and carefully pour in the batter with a ladle.  When the surface starts drying out, flip the pancake and finish cooking on the other side until golden. Repeat.

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Top with blueberry jam, fresh fruit, maple syrup, sauted vegetables or topping of your choice – roll them up into a sausage like concoction and chow!

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