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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Pepperkaker: a staple on Norwegian Christmas tables

Pepperkaker is what the Norwegians lovingly call gingerbread cookies.  These are very common all over the country, not just as cookies served in people’s homes, but they are often seen placed on tables in retail stores, kindergartens, nursery homes and other public buildings as an offering during the Christmas holiday season. They are particularly suited to enjoy with the piping hot mulled wine beverage, “gløgg” –  the spices in both the cookies and the wine are similar, and nothing says “Christmas” quite like this combination.  Families will serve this while decorating the tree, wrapping Christmas presents or just as a snack or treat in the evening time while watching Christmas movies.

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Above image from ikeafamilylivemagazine.com

Tradition in Norway is to make seven different kinds of cookies before Christmas, and pepperkaker is often part of this series. There are strong opinions about which cookies exactly belong in the group of seven, and you are bound to hear as many different answers as there are Norwegians! But the most important thing, is that you select seven cookies that you and your family enjoy eating and perhaps have been part of your family history.  I don’t see how anyone could dislike biting into some pepperkaker, so I always include these in my seven :)  Kids always love to bake these, as they are easy, tasty, come in funny shapes and sizes and are also fun to decorate. For people who are extra motivated and ambitious, gingerbread houses are often made with the same dough recipe and decorated with ‘seigemenn’, an awesome Norwegian candy:

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pepperkakehusImage from pepperkakegalleriet.no

It wasn’t until the 19th century, when the oven became a standard household appliance in Norway, that the true art of cookie baking kicked off.  In the 17th century, no specific cookies were defined as “Christmas cookies” and before that it was unclear which cookies were typically baked during Christmas. What people considered food tradition for this holiday, were also repeated and made for Easter and Pentecost.  The first trace of  the “seven different cookie” phenomenon was traced back about 100 years ago in western Norway, but then for a wedding, not Christmas.  They also included big “lefser” (a very traditional Norwegian soft flatbread made out of flour, milk and cream and spread with butter, vanilla sugar, and sometimes cinnamon), and on top two slices of bread and two types of cakes on top of that again.  They were the kinds of cookies and cakes we no longer regard as very fancy, but the emphasis was on the importance of serving seven different varieties.

pepperkakevisitosloAbove image from visitoslo.com

Along with “kringler“, more sophisticated types of bread and “kavring”  (buns, biscuits or bread that are dried in the oven), the pepperkaker arrived to Norway in the 17th century.  Since most people did not get ovens in their houses until the 18th century, as mentioned above, these cookies usually arrived from bakeries or large farms who were equipped with ovens. The tradition of pepperkaker continued to spread as more and more people started baking themselves when they acquired their own ovens.

So today I continue the tradition of making seven different kinds, and today is pepperkaker!

For best results, it’s preferable you make the dough for the gingerbread cookies the day before you bake them. This allows for all the spices to steep into the mixture, but also for the dough to get firm and cool enough so it is easy to handle.   This recipe is super simple to veganize as it traditionally contains no eggs, and I have just gone ahead and substituted plant based creamer /milk for traditional heavy cream. This way, these cookies, while they might contain their fair share of sugar, are at least low fat! But who’s counting calories this time of year anyway? I hope you like these!!

Awesome Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 50 cookies

1/2 cup light corn syrup (or use maple syrup or other liquid sweetener of your choice)

1 cup granulated sugar

150 grams (2/3 cups or 1 stick and 2 tbps) vegan butter

1/2 cup soy milk/creamer, or other plant based milk

3 -4 cups all purpose flour (enough to get a firm, smooth dough)

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsps ground cardamom

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar

1 tsp baking powder

First Day:

Combine the syrup, sugar and butter in a small saucepan, heat up until sugar is dissolved.   Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool down the mixture.  Whisk in the milk/cream, then gradually add the flour, spices and baking powder and stir until well combined. Cover the dough and place in fridge until the next day.

Second Day:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).

Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Knead the dough and roll out the dough until very thin, about 1/8 inch thick.  Using your favorite cookie cutters, start cutting out cookies and place on the prepared cookie sheets.

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Brush off any extra flour on top of cookies.   Bake for 8-10 minutes; the cookies are supposed to darken, but not become dark brown.

Cool off on a rack. If you want to decorate the cookies, you can mix some confectioners sugar with a few tbsp of water until proper consistency, place in a piping bag and let the artist in you out! Enjoy!

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The Healing Properties of Fermented Foods

I’ve now more than passed the half way mark to completing my education at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and was just recently awarded the title Certified Holistic Health Coach. I am so inspired and motivated learning about all kinds of different dietary theories, but also how what we call “primary foods” (our  personal relationships, career, spirituality and exercise to name a few) make such an impact on our health.  I’m surrounded by a sea of wonderful people who are also in the program and so knowledgeable and resourceful about the world of nutrition, and we all share the same desire: To make the world a healthier place for everyone in a way that inspires and motivates, and not discourages.

As we are encouraged to look back at our childhood and remember what we ate while growing up, I naturally reflect on Norwegian cuisine and what my mom fed me.  Luckily I have a mother who made everything from scratch, and is an incredible cook. There were no pre-packaged, processed items that made it to our table, and the dishes were recreations of what her mother and her grandmother had made, going back over one hundred years. As I’ve grown older, I grew more curious and wanted to research further about dishes that are particularly Norwegian, ans has a long history in my country, hence the creation of this blog.

Fermenting vegetables (and fish) has a long tradition in Norway from the old times when people did not have refrigeration, yet allowed people to store food in a safe and nutritional way.   Cabbage and caraway were popular items to use in this process.  Caraway was planted and harvested in the fields and was a popular item to chew on when people had problems with bloating and gas, for instance.  The combination of cabbage and caraway is popular as a side dish for Christmas (surkål, translated directly as “sour cabbage” because of the vinegar added to this process), but here the cabbage is cooked.  When fermenting cabbage, the cabbage is not cooked but rather macerated with salt to bring out the natural juices in the cabbage. Cabbage consists of a lot of water, as I’m sure you home cooks know; when cooking it on the stove, very little water is needed as the cabbage produces its own water, which is also more nutritious.

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Fermentation of vegetables happens when the natural bacteria in the vegetables break down the components of the vegetables into forms easier to digest and often more nutritious than the raw vegetable itself.

For those who have apprehensions about food safety, fermented vegetables can be safer than raw vegetables, thanks to the ability of lactic acid, which forms during fermentation, to hunt down and kill any harmful bacteria that might be present.

Fermented vegetables are incredibly healthy, and especially good to promote gut health.  To understand why, read on here (or skip to the recipe!):

Your digestive tract is probably the most under appreciated system of your body, often ignored until it screams of discontent loud enough for your to even hear.  Unhappy gut bacteria can even make you fat! Your gut is much more than a food processing tube — it houses about 85 percent of your immune system. When your GI tract is not working well, a wide range of health problems can appear, including allergies and autoimmune diseases. If you suffer from any major illness, you simply will NOT be able to fully recuperate without healing and sealing your gut. Balancing the menagerie of microorganisms that occupy your GI tract is a key part of maintaining your immune health.  More than 100 trillion bacteria live in the human gut.1 In fact, throughout the body, microbes outnumber human cells by about 10-to-1.2. While the thought of playing host to so many microbes can be unsettling, these “gut bugs,” most of which live in the colon, have very important jobs. Friendly bacteria can help protect the body from disease-causing bacteria. They can break down fiber and other undigested carbohydrates to produce substances that provide us with energy. They can even make vitamin K and some B vitamins.

Ninety percent of our cells are nonhuman, microbial cells. Since our diet influences our microbes, it’s true: We really are what we eat.

The good news is that you can cultivate a new microbiota, formerly known as gut flora, in just 24 hours—by changing what you eat. Bacteria that live in our intestinal tract, also known as gut bugs, flourish off of colorful, plant-based foods.

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Healthy gut bugs act like quarterbacks in our intestinal tracts: They call the shots and control the tempo by helping our bodies digest and absorb nutrients, synthesize certain vitamins, and rally against intruders, such as influenza and toxic cancer-forming carcinogens. In addition to boosting our immune system, microbiota sends messages to our brain and helps regulate metabolism.

Over time, microbiota forms colonies to combat obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and even certain forms of cancer.

The bottom line: The more diversity you have in your gut bacteria, the better off you’ll fare in the long run.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, contain sulfur-containing metabolites, known as glucosinolates, which are broken down by microbes to release substances that reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach cancer.

(above info taken from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine).

In addition to helping prevent cancer, red cabbage is a great food for the detoxification and elimination of harmful chemicals and hormones found in food, water, and air pollutants. The vegetable’s waste removing abilities are particularly beneficial to the liver, the digestive tract, and the colon.

I could go on in much more detail about this, but have I convinced you to try out fermenting cabbage yet?? :)

Some of you may have heard of kimchi, which is the Korean version of fermented vegetables. You can also ferment beets, carrots, and ginger among other vegetables. You can do the below recipe with regular white cabbage, but I love the color of red cabbage, and in general am a huge fan of colorful foods!

Try this out, it will spritz up and add amazing flavors to your dish. Be kind to your body – because all it wants is to keep you healthy!!

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                                                     Photo Credit: Nadin Martinuzzi/renmat.no

 

FERMENTED RED CABBAGE

2 whole heads of red cabbage

2 tbsps sea salt

1 tbsp whole cloves

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp whole peppercorns

1 handful blackcurrants (optional)

Directions:

Clean the cabbage well, and remove the outer leaves and the stalk.  Slice the cabbage into thin strips.

Place the cabbage with the salt in a large bowl and massage the salt into the cabbage until the water starts to release. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Add the mixture to a fermenting pot, or a big mason jar with a wide opening.  Using your fist, keep pushing the cabbage down into the jar until the water reaches above the cabbage.  It is important that the water level rises above the cabbage to complete the fermenting process. If it doesn’t, add some salt water. 

Place a heavy item on top of the cabbage (like a dish with something heavy on top) to keep the cabbage submerged in the liquid.  Place a cloth tightly on top and around the jar to prevent any bugs to get into it. Place on your counter to naturally ferment for about 7-30 days, depending on how acidic you want the mixture.

When your tastebuds have decided the mixture is acidic enough, add it to a clean mason jar and tighten it with a lid and keep in the refrigerator.  If you like a little bit of sweet mixed in with your fermented cabbage, you can add maple syrup or a little bit of red currant jelly for a nice touch. Enjoy – your gut and your body will thank you!!

 

October Means Pumpkin!

After living for more than 20 years in the United States, I have finally learned to appreciate the pumpkin. I love carving them out for Halloween and to see everybody’s decoration with these glorious vegetables around my neighborhood and around the state of New York, but only lately have I really started baking with this delectable orange product.

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I have mentioned in a previous blog post that pumpkin is not a traditional Norwegian food item, hence I suppose we never developed a taste for it in my country until just recently. My mom used to pickle pumpkin to use as a condiment for various dishes , and I always thought it sounded and tasted a bit “exotic”, because none of my friends’ mothers used this. I suspect she picked up the recipe in one of her women’s home magazines she subscribed to in an effort to create something different for dinner for us :)

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Image from frukt.no

With the increasing popularity of Halloween in Norway, around 200,000 pumpkins are produced in Norway today, and there are about 10 serious pumpkin producers in the country.   It is thought that the origins of the pumpkin has its root in North America and arrived to Europe in the 17th century. Archaeological findings show that Native Indians produced pumpkins as long as 5,000 years ago, and there have been findings of seeds from pumpkin like plants in Mexico all the way back to 7,000-5,500 B.C.  There are over 700 different varieties of pumpkins and they range in size from 30 lbs to an astonishing, 1,000 lbs!  Pumpkins can be grown in all climates, expect the Antarctic.  A few fun facts about the pumpkin!

This time of year every fiber of my body just wants to be in the kitchen all day long and bake while watching cheesy horror movies from the 70s on TV (I have a small TV hanging on the wall in my kitchen – this is how Americanized I’ve become) while my puppies are napping in the living room. The warmth of the kitchen mixed with the wonderful smell of cinnamon, pumpkin and chocolate is more than enough to make a Norwegian girl happy!  I’ve selected to share a recipe I whipped up yesterday before heading into work … I shared some with my co-workers, but kept most of them to myself.  After you’ve tried these, you’ll see why! :)

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (or you can use vegetable oil)
1 cup packed light brown sugar (you can also use maple syrup here for added flavor)
1 1/2 cups organic canned pumpkin
1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.

3. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the pumpkin, flax seed mixture, and vanilla and mix until combined, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon. Shape dough into rounded tablespoons and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Lightly press down on the cookies with a spatula or the palm of your hand.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

pumpkincookies

“Eplekake”: Norway’s Answer To American Apple Pie

The fall is the season to celebrate all the amazing Norwegian produce. This time of year, it’s high season for apples, onions, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, parsnips and rutabaga in Norway.   With the cool climate, it is only natural that root vegetables and fruits high in acidity (apples) as well as berries thrive the best. Traditions around these foods are near and dear to my heart, I love nothing more than to recreate them in my home in New York, as it brings me just a little closer to my family at home while I get to enjoy the familiar smells in the kitchen and taste around the table.  I always find it fascinating that these two cultures share similar customs as well, albeit in slightly different ways.

For instance, Thanksgiving is not just an American tradition.  Although Americans celebrate it in November, since 1889, the Norwegian Church has celebrated Thanksgiving in conjunction with the harvest around September or October.  It is customary to bring in corn husks, fruits, vegetables and flowers to the church during service being held at the end of September.

After a long summer, we often feel as if fall hits us fast and hard with its grey, darker and cold days. But the fact is, much like in the U.S., this is one of the most colorful seasons in Norway both when it comes to nature and the variety of produce in season.   As the weather gets colder, it feels more and more appropriate to spend days inside by a warm stove and do some cooking and baking together with family and friends.  When I saw all of these gorgeous apples at the farmer market the other day, I got inspired to bake one of Norway’s most beloved cakes: The apple cake, or “Eplekake” as we fondly call it.

apples1

Did you know that October 17th is Norwegian Apple Day?  Eplekake definitely belongs to fall in Norway.  This flavorful cake is juicy, moist, light and buttery all at the same time, with the crisp acid from the apples and the sweetness from brown sugar and the apricot jam the sliced apples are brushed with.  Not elaborate to make at all, but sure packs a lot of flavor and every home has their own version.

Here are my sliced apples ready to be placed on top of the batter (sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to avoid them from turning brown):

eplekake1

 

I’ve made it a dairy and egg free cake, where I replaced the eggs with ground flax seeds mixed with water, and I used vegan butter, although you can also use a good vegetable oil (not olive oil as the flavor is too strong).  A nice touch is the sprinkles of sesame seeds at the bottom of the cake pan for added texture and flavor.

eplekake3

This is also an extra decadent apple cake as I add in some shredded marzipan. It really adds tremendous flavor and texture (so moist!) – worth every calorie! I usually buy the ready to use package from Odense, but you can also make your own by combining almond paste with confectioner’s sugar and some sugar water or corn syrup.

Here is what the ground flax seeds look like once they’ve swelled up in water. I use 1 tbsp of flax seeds with 3 tbsp of water for every egg. Works fantastic as a binder – just like eggs!

eplekake2

So simple and quick to make, but will look like you spent hours in the kitchen!

I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did – apples are abundant right now – this is a fun and delicious way to utilize this seasonal fruit!

NORWEGIAN EPLEKAKE WITH MARZIPAN

Serves 10

1 tbs vegan butter or butter of your choice, melted

1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the batter:

200 grams/7 oz vegan butter, melted and cooled off

150 grams/5 1/4 oz marzipan, roughly grated on a box grater

4 tbsp flax seeds combined with 3/4 cups of room temp water

1 cup light brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 cup organic apricot jam

1 tbsp water

50 grams or about 3 tbsp pine nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

Butter a 10-inch (24 cm) cake pan and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and set aside.

Combine the flax seed with the water in a small bowl and let it swell for about 5 minutes while you measure out the other ingredients and prepare the apples.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar in a small bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the apricot jam with the water and whisk until smooth, turn off and set aside.

Whisk the flax seed mixture with the brown sugar until well combined.  Add in the melted butter and the grated marzipan (and vanilla extract if using).  Add in the flour mixture and mix until all the flour is integrated. Pour the batter into the cake pan.

Neatly arrange and stick the apple slices into the batter in a circle until the entire surface is covered.  Brush the apple slices with the prepared apricot jam.  If using pine nuts, sprinkle those on top (I omitted these).  Place the cake in the oven on the lowest or second to lowest rack and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Serve the cake warm with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream or whipped coconut cream. Yum!!

Here is my cake right out of the oven – ready to be devoured!!

eplekake5

A Strawberry Shortcake To Welcome Summer

strawberry shortcake

Most people who have experienced biting into a big, red, juicy strawberry while in Norway agree that Norwegian strawberries are in a league of its own.  Wild strawberries have been known in Europe since the Roman era, but they were not commercially grown until the 19th century.  Strawberries were used as medicine; its juice was rubbed on old wounds along with salt.

Norwegians are known for the record amount of strawberries they consume:  Every Norwegian eats a total of four kilos (around 9 lbs) per year! Filled with antioxidants and containing fewer pesticides than strawberries found in other parts of the world,  the berries are first and foremost so tasty because they get picked when they are fully ripe, not a bit before, as is the case with imported berries (to guarantee longevity when transported).  Additionally, the conditions in Norway are ideal with long, light filled days combined with a cool climate that lengthens the ripening period, allowing the berries to develop great flavors.

strawberries

I was lucky to grow up with a big backyard and a big fruit and vegetable garden with rows of strawberry plants, and had the luxury of being able to put my flip flops on when waking up in the morning, go in the back and pick ripe, juicy berries right from the ground and bring back for breakfast. Of course, as a young girl, I preferred eating them for dessert – just thinly sliced and covered in cream and a sprinkle of sugar…

Here I am photographed in my early teens in front of our vegetable garden at home in Norway:

sunnyveggarden

Due to the very mild winter Norway experienced this year, the strawberry season this year is the best in many years.  I’ve been reading tons of articles about strawberries in Norwegian papers and was inspired by the many recipes that have popped up as a result of this fabulous season.  Naturally, living in New York, I seek to combine my two cultures; Norwegian and American, and felt a desire to create a dairy free strawberry shortcake.  An American classic and family favorite, it’s hard not to love this dessert, and with this coming Friday being the first official day of summer, it is the perfect seasonal dish!

I’m happy to say my version turned out perfectly and although I wasn’t fortunate enough to have Norwegian strawberries on hand, I found some pretty amazingly flavor packed ones at my local farmer market this past Sunday.  The light biscuits get a nice lift and fresh taste by including some lemon zest in the dough, and instead of traditional heavy cream I whipped up coconut cream which added just that extra exotic and exciting flavor to bring the dish all together.  If you can’t find tasty strawberries where you are this time of year, feel free to substitute with any fresh fruit of your choice, it will still taste delicious!

I urge you to try this recipe and compare it to your traditional way of making them – I bet you won’t miss the dairy! :)

strawberry shortcake1

SUNNY’S NORWEGIAN STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

3 cups hulled strawberries, sliced in half

1/2 cup sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon

 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp grated lemon zest

6 tablespoons chilled vegan butter or firm coconut butter, diced

1/2 cup almond, soy or other plant based milk

1 x 14 oz full fat coconut milk *

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Start by macerating strawberries: Combine strawberries in a bowl with the 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice, stir and set aside in fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

To prepare batter: In a food processor, pulse together the remaining sugar , flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt until well combined.  Add the vegan butter or coconut butter, pulsing until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the machine still running, add the non-dairy milk alternative gradually, until the dough just begins to hold together and pull away from the sides of the bowl.

On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and pat into 8 small round biscuits. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with sugar, and bake about 18-20 minutes, or until golden. Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet.

To prepare coconut cream: *Place can of coconut milk in fridge overnight so that the coconut fat of the milk gathers on top.  Carefully open the can and remove the solid “lid” of fat and place in a bowl (you want to whip only the fat/solid mass). Save the coconut juice at the bottom for another time. Add the vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar and whip in a stand mixer until fluffy and thick. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve.

To serve, slice the cooled biscuits in half, spoon some of the strawberry mixture on top of one half, and place a dollop of whipped coconut cream on top and place the other biscuit half on top. Now you’ve got the taste of summer on your plate!!

strawberry shortcake

 

 

 

Sunny Foods for Easter

Today marks the start of Easter in Norway – Palm Sunday is always an exciting day, as Norwegians look forward to the week ahead when they trek to the mountains in search of snow, sun, skiing, and of course… great food!  The Easter holiday is huge in Norway, and always makes me homesick as I never get the same feeling of this celebratory time in my adopted country of the United States.  Work always seem to take center stage here, while the opposite might be said to be true in my native country.  Life is a little more than your career – it is enjoyment, spending time with family and friends, traveling, getting away from the hustle and bustle and preparing special foods to ring in the holiday.

påskeliv

Food with the color yellow is always popular around Easter. Think Easter eggs, yellow flowers, the color of the sun (which have reappeared this time of year after a long winter) and oranges, which could be said to be somewhat yellowish too.   Norwegians eat oranges like they are going out of style for Easter – it is a popular snack food to bring along in backpacks when going hiking or skiing in the mountains.  Of course, a little chocolate is appropriate too most likely the brand “Kvikklunsj”, literally translated to “quick lunch” and is reminiscent of our Kit Kat bars, but only ten times better :)

I recently came to think of the delicious pastry called “Solskinnskringle” – or “Sunshine Kringle”, shaped into a wreath or like a pretzel, filled with orange marmalade, almonds and vanilla custard and drizzled with confectioners sugar. Ever since having adopted a vegan diet, I was curious as to how I would ever be able to eat vanilla custard again, one of my favorite delicacies in pastries.  I was so relieved to come across a recipe using cashew nuts that, when soaked and pureed in a blender, turned into a creamy, custard like mousse, and with the addition of vanilla beans, tastes just like the real thing.  Below is my interpretation of a dairy free, egg less sunshine kringle – perfect to bake early next week in preparation for Easter weekend! Enjoy everyone!

SOLSKINNSKRINGLE  (Sunshine Kringle)

1 stick  margarine or 3 1/2 oz coconut butter or oil

1 cup almond milk

25 grams or 1 oz fresh yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Vanilla Custard Filling:

2 cups cashews, (soaked in water for 2 hours or more)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean

1/2 cup melted coconut butter or il

1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Add cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil, and sea salt to a high-speed bender. Blend until smooth and creamy.  Place in the freezer to set for 2 hours. Your vanilla custard is ready for use!

vaniljekrem2

3 1/2 oz shredded marzipan

1/4 cup orange marmalade

Confectioners Glaze:

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit (210 Celcius).   Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Heat the almond milk in a small pot until warm to the touch, around 98-99F/37C.  Crumble the fresh yeast into the milk and mix until combined.    In a large bowl, add the salt, sugar, cardamom and flax seed mixture.  Pour in the milk-yeast mixture, and start gradually adding the all purpose flour.  Combine and knead until you get a smooth dough.   Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 1 hour.

Pour the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and with a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 25 x 10 inch rectangle (60×25 cm).  Using a spatula, spread the vanilla custard over the dough and sprinkle on the marzipan. Pour dollops of orange marmalade on top.

From the longest side closest to you, roll up the dough like a swiss roll.  Shape the dough like a kringle  (or pretzel) and place onto the  prepared baking sheet.  Bake the kringle in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden.  Cool on a rack.

While the kringle is cooling off, prepare the confectioners glaze.  Whisk the confectioners sugar in a bowl with the added fresh lemon juice until smooth and relatively thick.  If too thin, add more confectioners sugar.  You can add the glaze to a piping bag or just drizzle the glaze over the cake with a fork.

Now you are ready to celebrate  Norwegian Easter!

solskinnskringletine

Photo Source:  Tine.no

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