Carrot “lox” – a healthier alternative to smoked salmon

When I decide to start my blog several years back, it stemmed from a desire to spread the word about Scandinavian, more specifically Norwegian, food and share with my readers that yes, we do eat foods beyond Swedish meatballs and smoked salmon.

Of course the latter inspired today’s post, as I’m always trying to find plant based versions of animal based dishes from my home country.  When I veganized my blog three years ago, I was admittedly a tad worried I wouldn’t find things to write about,  as 90% of our dishes consists of either meat, fish, dairy or eggs.  But thanks to some very imaginative vegan cooks, and my own desire to use plants in a more diverse way, I have seen the most amazing creations being produced.

Which leads me to today’s recipe I would love to share with you, taking on the very famous smoked salmon dish so cherish by the Nordic countries.   I might gain some enemies when I say that salmon is not at all “healthy”, the way it has been advertised in media and on many health websites.  Salmon is in fact, half fat, which increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the fish derived Omega 3 found in fish inhibits the action of insulin, thereby increasing blood sugar levels and aggravating diabetes.

Most salmon out there now are in fact farmed salmon, which contain unhealthy levels of contaminants like PCB, arsenic mercury, dioxins and other chemicals that cause cancer.   Commercial ships who are largely unregulated and heavily government subsidized, are cleaning the oceans of fish, particularly wild salmon, so eating this type of fish is now easier said than done.  In fact, three quarters of stores who claim their fish is “wild caught” is in fact farmed.

According to the Norwegian government, the salmon and trout farms in Norway alone produce roughly the same amount of sewage as New York City. The huge amount of raw sewage, dead fish corpses, and antibiotic-laden fish food sludge settling below farmed salmon cages can actually cause the ocean floor to rot, destroying vital habitat for the already strained marine ecosystem and turning coastal waters into open sewers.

While you may not be ready give up fish entirely just yet if you are still consuming this food, I encourage you to do your own research on this topic, perhaps starting by reading these articles here, here and here.  I always encourage everyone to come up with their own conclusions after reading studies and research that has not been funded by the specific industries of the product you are trying to read up about (reading articles from the fish industry on this topic would not be very objective, for instance).

All the information I’ve been studying for the past years, have made me want to come up with alternatives for fish but with the same taste.  I’ve been able to recreate crab cakes using palm of hearts, “tuna salad” using chickpeas and “Fish” tacos using Gardein fishless filets with much success.  And now… smoked salmon using carrots!

So how on earth can carrots taste like smoked salmon you say?  It all comes down to using the flavorings that make up the original dish.   Meat, for instance, wouldn’t taste very good if you eat it raw or just cook it without seasoning. It’s the rub, marinades and sauces you put on them that make up the dish.   With smoked salmon, it’s  salted and smoked – so for the “smoky” flavor I use something called “liquid smoke”, which is incredibly effective for re-creating the experience, and I add nori sheets, which is the Japanese word for for an edible seaweed species, to add the “fishy” flavors to the carrots.  You will see nori sheets being used to make and wrap sushi.  You can find nori sheets in your local health food store or at Asian specialty markets.

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Seaweeds are incredibly healthy and helps boost your immune system, may lower blood pressure and may favorably alter estrogen metabolism by modulating women’s gut flora, resulting in decreased breast cancer risk, among other things.

Today, with the increasing wealth, access to and development of fast food chains in Norway, people who are obese, living with diabetes, and developing cancer and heart disease are on the rise.   While people are in general eating more vegetables, the consumption of fish, meat and eggs have not gone down, and in many cases increased. It’s a well researched fact that everybody could do well with reducing animal based foods in their diet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate the same experience and flavors in your favorite traditional dishes!

I hope you will try this dish with an open mind, and perhaps you even have vegetarians in your household that would appreciate eating a traditional, Norwegian dish!

I served my smoked “lox” on top of scrambled tofu (resembling eggs), with slices of red onion, cucumbers and a sprig of fresh dill.  I also made home made rye bread with loads of seeds like sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and whole oats.

One recipe at a time… so here you go – and velbekomme!

SMOKED CARROT “LOX”

3 big carrots, peeled

1 nori sheet, crumbled into small pieces

1 tsp liquid smoke

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

In a small bowl, combine the liquid smoke, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil and fresh dill and set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler or a mandoline set on thin seeting, slice the carrots into large ribbons.  The carrots should be thin but not paper thin or see through.

In an medium sized, oven proof dish (I used a Pyrex dish), place the sliced carrots and sprinkle the nori sheet crumbles over.

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carrotlox

Add the liquid mixture and combine well.

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Cover the dish with a lid or foil. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake carrots for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit to cool on top of stove with lid on. When it’s cool, place in fridge and let chill for at least 2 hours.

Now your carrot lox is ready – serve on bagels with vegan cream cheese, or home made bread like I did with scrambled tofu or chickpea “eggs” with red onion, cucumbers, capers and lots of fresh dill!

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Norway’s obsession with licorice

If you’ve ever been, or go to Norway – you are bound to see an unusually  wide variety of salty licorice candy in stores across the country.  Norwegians’ love for this not so sweet candy is very strong, and other Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Finland (the Finns refer to it as ‘salmiakki’), share our taste for licorice. In fact, I hear many Scandinavians who move to the United States, complain that some of what they miss the most, is their dear licorice, as if it’s an important food group and vital for their happiness!

The original licorice, made from the licorice root, were used only for medicinal purposes up until the 19th century .  It was particularly popular in fighting colds and digestive issues. Traditional Chinese medicine books talk about licorice and it’s also said to be mentioned in Egyptian papyrus rolls found in the grave of Egyptian pharaoh Tuthankamun (1347-1339 B.C).

Today, however, licorice is found in both sweet, salty and spicy versions and is mostly enjoyed as a candy or “sweet”.  The English apothecary George Dunhill, was said to have added sugar and other additives to licorice back in 1760 and thus our cravings for licorice started…

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Salty licorice is a candy that tastes of licorice and has ammonium chloride added, giving it the salty taste.   The more ammonium chloride added, the saltier the candy.

When and how licorice and ammonium chloride were combined to become salt licorice, is unclear, but production in Norway, Finland and Holland can be traced back as early as the mid 1920s.

“Salt lakris” (salty licorice) is definitely an acquired taste – in fact, I believe that Scandinavians probably have a special gene that automatically gets addicted to this flavor. Most Americans I have surveyed for instance, have a strong aversion to the flavor, many even describing it as nasty and gag worthy.    Norwegians, however, like it so much we even add licorice flavor to ice cream, cookies and cupcakes, vodka and chocolate.  While the majority of Americans admit to having a big sweet tooth, many Norwegians have more affinity for salty foods, which could be part of the explanation here.

*Check out a funny Youtube video of a Canadian trying out Norwegian candy for the first time HERE,  licorice powder being the first one.  Too funny!)

I have fond (or should I say funny?) memories of getting together with friends and adding the spicy licorice flavored candy “Tyrkisk Peber” (Turkish pepper) to potato vodka growing up (don’t judge me), making our own flavored spiked drinks…   Let me tell you, this candy is not for the faint of heart… Most people find it so strong they have to spit it out.  Anyway, we must have started a trend, because today vodka companies produce their own Turkish pepper flavored vodka.  Somebody shared our love for it!

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Norwegians’ taste and demand for licorice is so big, that even luxurious licorice candy stores have begun popping up in the country.  LAKRIDS by Johan Bulow is such a store, selling licorice candy that is made with the “best raw ingredients and lots of love”, according to one of their representatives.    Their licorice does not contain any coloring agents and they make products such as licorice sticks, licorice marzipan, licorice powder for baking, licorice syrup and licorice mints.  These all come in boxes ranging from $12-70.

Have I intrigued you to try licorice? If you do, make sure it’s Norwegian! You can buy some here and here.

Or if you fancy a licorice milk shake, add a cup of plant based milk with 4 tbsp of vegan vanilla ice cream and 4 pieces of licorice mints or a tsp of licorice powder. Puree up and enjoy!!

 

*Note:  consumption of licorice is not recommended for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure, because it contains glycyrrhizin.

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Chocolate in Norway; now and then

Chocolate cake, or “sjokoladekake”, is the cake is the most popular cake in Norway today and what inspired today’s  recipe and blog post. Norwegians simply can’t seem to get enough chocolate, in fact Norwegians eat more chocolate than their Scandinavian neighbors in Sweden, Denmark and Finland.  Every Norwegian eats about 9.5 kilos (about 21 lbs) of chocolate per year if we are to believe a study published a couple of years back. The Swiss, unsurprisingly, top the list with the highest consumption, followed closely by Ireland, England, Austria, Belgium and Germany.

Chocolate first arrived in Norway sometime during the 18th century, when a merchant in Trondheim put an advert in the newspaper that read: “a kind of medicinal chocolate, which will help your stomach, chest, is good for healing coughs, gets rid of dizziness, clears phlegm and encourages fulfillment of marital duties.”  The last one cracked me up!

Although chocolate was initially released on the market as a medicinal food, it quickly became a luxury product for the urban elite.  In the beginning the market for chocolate was really small, even as chocolate factories popped up all over Europe.  People were slowly gaining larger disposable incomes, but in order to increase their market share, chocolate producers needed to get creative with naming their products.

By the turn of the century, Norway was in the process of becoming independent from Sweden, and was seeking its own identity.  In a time largely influenced by the romantic period, it was memories of the golden age and references to Norwegian nature that appealed to the masses.  The new products were named “Jarlen” (the Earl), “Bispen” (the Bishop), Fjeldsæter (mountain farm) and Prillar Guri (read more about her here).

But as people’s taste for and consumption of chocolate increased, discussions arised as to whether chocolate was healthy or not. In 1922, the government discussed imposing a “luxury tax” on chocolate, because chocolate was concluded to be damaging for the teeth and people’s health in general.   A tax of 33.33% was imposed on chocolate (10% for baking chocolate), and as a result, chocolate went from “healthy” to “sinful”.

During this time, Norway went through hard economical times, and the chocolate industry was hit hard. They started promoting chocolate as some of the cheapest, most calorie dense nourishment a child could give her child!

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In a time when many went hungry, it was important to consume enough calories, and the commercials showed mothers with healthy looking, chocolate eating children. Simultaneously, chocolate maintained its luxury status, as seen in the many confectionary boxes (konfektesker) with many names of royals on the lids:

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In the 1930s, the chocolate industry started targeting men as well, to increase their market reach.  “Hjemmekos” (our word for the Danish term “hygge”, basically having a cozy time at home), wasn’t something that appealed to men, but going for outdoor hikes and being out in nature, on the other hand, became a sort of status symbol for men .   This most Norwegian of  all phenomena, was not common before the turn of the century.  People didn’t have the time or the money to go on hiking trips, as this was something associated with the wealthy and having money.  But with time, people’s financial status slowly improved.

Going hiking and being in nature now became common place, and the motto “Ut på tur, aldri sur” (literally translated to ‘out hiking, never in a bad mood’), became popular, as chocolate was always included in people’s backpacks as part of an easy, nutritious “niste” (packed lunch) when they went out in nature. In one of their commercials, big chocolate producer Nidar said that “big packed lunches are impractical and completely unnecessary baggage.  A few bars of chocolate in your pocket takes up no space at all”.

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To this day, no Norwegians forgets to pack  their chocolate bars when going skiing or hiking.   Roald Amundsen, the famous Norwegian explorer of polar regions,  took part in commercials for both Freia and Nidar:  a symbol of a real  Norwegian man who fought the  tough nature!”

From poor mothers feeding their children, royals and celebrities to polar heros –  we can see it’s not so much the chocolate that has changed, but situations and society around it.

Even today, Norwegians prefer their own chocolate;  produced right in their own homeland.  Brands such as Nidar and Freya are most popular, but there now a ton of local artisan producers of chocolate, one of them is “Fjordnær”, a gorgeous chocolate made in the gorgeous Geiranger fjord:

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fjordnaer

Norwegians are pretty conservative in their taste, a recent study shows that 40% of people like and stick to the same chocolate they ate as children.  Milk chocolate is the predominant go-to type for Norwegians  (Freia’s “melkesjokolade” is king here),  and older, traditional brands are most popular. Typically a clean chocolate with not too much fuss is preferred.

While I love to cover traditional foods from Norway, I also want to shed some light on what is actually being eaten, cooked and baked in Norway today.   Like I mentioned earlier, chocolate as a product has not changed,  but the way in which is is enjoyed changes with the evolvement of time.  As the world is becoming smaller and smaller with the internet and people traveling more, we see an increased popularity in particularly American food in modern Norway.

Brownies have to be some of the most popular international pastries made by Norwegians today, particularly among kids and younger people.  Since I’ve already covered sjokoladekake in a previous blog post which you can read here, I wanted to pay tribute to my adopted home land and post a recipe for brownies made entirely without eggs or dairy to show you how decadent and similar pastries can be without the use of these animal products.

This is a cake that can be whipped up in minutes, and guaranteed to be a hit with anyone you serve it to.   Use whatever chocolate you have on hand. Despite being Norwegian,  I prefer dark over milk chocolate (also I no longer consume cow’s milk), and that is what I used in my recipe.

Happy baking and don’t forget to brush your teeth after you indulge, because you never know! 🙂

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DECADENT VEGAN BROWNIES

1/4 cup natural almond butter

heaping 1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup (packed) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flaxseeds mixed with 6 tbsp water)

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celcius).

Line an 8 X 8 brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine almond butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and melted coconut bowl with a whisk.  Whisk until you have a nice, smooth mixture.

Add cocoa powder slowly in, while whisking, making sure no lumps are left. Add in the vanilla extract and salt, then the flax eggs. Switch from a whisk to a spatula and lastly add the flour, before folding in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 25 minutes or so.  Cool for about an hour before slicing and devouring!

brownies5

brownieswholepan

Sunnmørsbrød; a traditional bread from northwestern Norway

Sunnmøre is the Norwegian region in which I was born and raised.  Located on the north western coast, it’s an impossibly beautiful part of the country, decorated with majestic mountains, gorgeous, big fjords and beautiful valleys scattered all over the area. Geiranger, one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations, is also located here.
There is such a rich food history in Sunnmøre, and the interest for local, organic and artisan products have skyrocketed and now there are an incredible array of high quality food producers offering everything from jams, vinegars and sauces, to biscuits, organic flours and oats, mustards and spice mixtures to mention just a few of the selections from home.
While this blog piece is about bread, Sunnmøre is most famous for its incredible cake culture (think bløtkake, marsipankake, kvæfjordkake, nøttekake, tropisk aroma.. I have covered them all here on the blog). If you get invited to a confirmation, wedding or other major party here, don’t think there will only be one, or even TWO elaborate looking cakes on the table.  Most likely there will be at least seven or eight, and I have witnessed up to TWENTY FIVE different cakes on a table at once. You can safely say the Sunnmøre locals love their desserts!
But I digress…. back to bread!  The people of Sunnmøre is also known for their love of bread, much like the rest of their fellow Norwegian countrymen.  I grew up with a mom who would make home made bread on a regular basis.  I loved coming home from school (which was only a stone’s throw away by the way, I could walk to my grade, middle and high school in anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), smelling that yeasty, sweet bread smell, knowing I would have some delicious open face sandwiches in store.  Her mom had shown her how to make these special dark rye and whole wheat flour based breads that tasted so fresh and from the region, and it was this memory that was sparked in me about a week ago when I received a truly special artisan made Norwegian apron from Hovden Formal Farm Wear.
This small company specializes in making traditional old school Norwegian work shirts called busseruller, and is run by an amazing fellow Norwegian woman, Ingvill Kaasin Montgomery, who like me, is an expat and an entrepreneur.   You can read all about her and her beautiful creations in my blog post from yesterday HERE.
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What we think of as “bread” today (i.e. loaves=, was not bread for most people in the country side in the old days in Norway, and was predominantly a city phenomena until the mid 19th century.   “Bread” was actually a crisp bread, what Norwegians today call “flatbrød”.  This was often referred to in Norwegian as “stump” or “kake”.  The flat bread was usually made in huge batches, and could last up to a year, stacked up on top of each other, until it was time to make bread again.  Part of the reason why breads were made super thin and flat like this, was to avoid mold forming on the bread.
People’s every day “bread” was in fact porridge, made out or barley, rye or oats,  as this was extremely filling, made with readily available ingredients and not expensive.  Wheat flour, of which most modern breads are made of today, was not at all common back then.  There is a word in Norway called “hvetebrødsdager”, which relates to the period after people get married, where no obligations have to be met, but the couple will go just relax and spend time with each other.  Hvetebrød is Norwegian for wheat bread, and so the meaning behind this is that it’s a special, luxurious occasion, much like baking with wheat was back in the old days.
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My sister Agnes reminded me of Sunnmørsbrød a few weeks back when she sent me a photo of her weekend activities in the kitchen. She is an amazing and seasoned baker, and she inspires me weekly with her creations, as she too, is very interested in bringing back old, traditional recipes.   The bread recipe in this post is loosely inspired by one she sent me, and I’m happy to say the bread came out perfect!
The amazing thing with this bread, is you don’t have to let the dough rise twice so it’s quicker to make.  The dough gets rolled out immediately after kneading and shaped into loaves, and it needs resting only once. As always, play around with baking time, but 45 min-50 min should do it at 400 degrees – they should be crispy on the outside, soft and light on the inside, and gorgeously brown on top.
Whenever I bake, I like to use organic flours, and sometimes even sprouted flours too, for maximum health benefits. This is a typical hearty Norwegian bread, with a crispy crust and soft and moist on the inside.  Honestly my favorite way of eating it is straight out of the oven with just a nice, thick layer of (vegan) butter, but of course you can freeze these breads easily and they hold up really nicely without crumbling.
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SUNNMØRSBRØD

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

About 5 cups luke warm water

3 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup or light syrup

1 tbsp salt

1 1/4 cup (300 grams) whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cup (300 grams) rye flour

1/2 cup (100 grams) old fashioned oats

4 1/4 cup (1,000 grams) all purpose flour

Pour the yeast, water, rapeseed oil, sugar and maple syrup into a bowl of a stand mixer.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl, combine the rye and whole wheat flours, oats and salt and let sit for about 15 minutes.  Then add the all purpose flour and with a dough hook, start kneading the dough for about 10 minutes.  Pour the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide in three equal pieces and roll out to loaves.  Place in three 2 quart loaf pans (or you can just place them in free form on a  lightly oiled baking sheet which I did for two of my loaves), cover with a towel and place in a slightly warm area for about 1 hour.    You can see the difference in shape/appearance of the loaves baked in a form and the loaves just placed losely on a sheet. I kind of prefer the latter, and not a ‘perfect looking’ bread myself 🙂
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the top of the loaves with melted vegan butter,  and bake for about 45 minutes.  Let cool on a rack but not too long – because warm bread and butter is the BEST!! Freeze any loaves you and your family don’t devour immediately! 😃

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Reviving the busserull; an old Norwegian work shirt, plus an apron that inspired me to bake

Every so often life throws you those serendipitous moments, when a reader of your blog connects with a Norwegian across the United States, mentions you and suggests reaching out. That woman does, and you end up getting to know a wonderful, budding entrepreneur and fellow Norwegian you otherwise wouldn’t have come across.

That is exactly what happened just a few short months ago. I believe nothing is a coincidence. People come in to your life for a reason, as much as they leave your life the same way.   The person I connected with is Ingvill Kaasin Montgomery, founder of the super interesting company and online clothing shop,  Hovden Formal Farm Wear, who happens to share my interest and love for Norwegian history and traditions.

Ingvill told me she was inspired to bring back old the Norwegian work shirt from 150 years ago worn by farmers and workers, called “busseruller” in our language (“arbetsskjorta” in Swedish and Danish), and decided to start her own company after she moved from Norway to the United States.

What on earth is a busserull It’s a traditional, every day light shirt or cardigan that was worn in the 1800s by men, particularly when working outside.  It is made from square pieces in the back and front with wide arms, and has either buttons or a string tie in the neck.  The name stems from the Italian and low German  ‘busserun’, which means seaman’s shirt, and the French ‘bougeron’ (work blouse).

Don’t think you have to be a farmer or do manual labor to wear busseruller.  These beautiful, classic creations have a versatile usage, and are worn to parties, everywhere in daily life and even weddings!  Just don’t ever think about wearing it to church…

While a busserull looks like a shirt, it’s typically worn as a heavier layer on top of a lighter shirt.  The busserull made a comback in the 1960s when the academic crowd started wearing the shirts, perhaps because they saw it as a traditional piece of clothing for the labor force.

(Images below are from Hovden Formal Farm Wear’s website):

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A native Norwegian now located in Portland, Oregon since 2008 – Ingvill started making busseruller in 2014 and works with a local designer to create these historical shirts, focusing on using sustainable and ethical production methods made from quality pieces.  She consciously chooses not to resort to cheap labor in Asia, but rather 80% of her clothes are produced by a small company located in Pamplona, Spain consisting of 8 ladies who specializes in sewing traditional, European clothing (among other things, traditional Basque garments).   Her goal is to keep all production as local as possible, and part of her plan is to move the American production to Portland, OR where she resides.

Ingvill originally got the idea to produce busseruller when working in the wine industry in Oregon, witnessing winemakers, who are essentially farmers, having to attend wine dinners, tastings and presentations in the city .  They didn’t feel comfortable wearing suits,  and the look also didn’t represent them as wine producers. So Ingvill thought: busseruller would be perfect! Elegant looking yet comfortable to wear – a win win!

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Because Ingvill’s company is so dedicated to ethical manufacturing, social and environmental standards, she is committed to raising consciousness of the price we have to pay for mass produced, cheap clothing.  Instead, Hovden Formal Farm Wear insists on making quality clothing and pieces that are long lasting; an ode to vikings who didn’t have much, but were meticulous in taking good care of their clothes so they could last a life time.  I just love this about the company!

The original busserull look (Photo Credit: Paul Stang, Fylkesarkivet):

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Hovden’s website reads: “One of the reasons the shirt is so unique is the way the pattern was designed. Because fabric was a scarce commodity 150 years ago, the shirt was made up of squares and rectangular pieces, which resulted in almost no fabric going to waste. The proportions were drafted in such a way that fit the 3-dimensional body with ease and comfort. We have replicated this pattern.”

This is an important part of the makings of the busserull shirt, based on how Norwegians used to live in the old days where every single thing is utilized, and nothing is discarded. I’ve repeatedly written about this concept on the blog, as it relates to food history in Norway, where using leftovers regularly and creatively was an important part of our tradition.  I believe we can all benefit greatly from being reminded of the importance of appreciating the value of ingredients and things we surround ourselves with.

While the busserull was originally a man’s shirt, today it’s gender neutral.  Women’s work clothes back then were aprons.

I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful apron Ingvill made, which you see me wearing in the main picture in this blog piece.  I love how comfortable and versatile it is, but the best part of this apron for me, is that I feel it brings me home to my ancestors and family in Norway. My grandparents on both sides were farmers and fishermen, much like a lot of Norwegians back from a hundred plus years ago.  They were humble, hardworking people who appreciated and cleverly used local resources available to them, and not to mention: amazing cooks!   I can envision both my grandmothers, Sarah and Karoline, in an apron such as this, hard at work in the kitchen baking lefser, flatbrød and soups and stews from root vegetables grown on their farm.

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Wearing the apron inspired me to get in the kitchen immediately to bake a special kind of bread from my region of north-western Norway, which I will share with you in part 2 of this blog series tomorrow!

You can read more details about Hovden Formal Farm Wear’s gorgeous apron and purchase it HERE.

As a female career and empowerment coach, I love meeting other women who are in business for themselves. It’s extra fun  when these women are Norwegian and expats like myself,  on a mission to improve the world and raise consciousness of how we live our lives!

I look forward to working with Hovden Formal Farm Wear in the months and years to come, to promote and support Norwegian businesses, history and traditions in the United States.

Hovden Formal Farm Wear has an online store and can ship shirts all over the world. You can find Ingvill at http://hovdenformalfarmwear.com.  Also check out their FB page and Instagram account.

Email hovdenffw@gmail.com.

 

 

Mandelstenger; simple Norwegian almond cookies that will impress

I remember a little over three years ago when I decided to go vegan for the animals, and I thought to myself “Christmas will never be the same”, because I thought that when I made the conscious choice to give up meat, fish, dairy and eggs, there would be nothing left to eat in the Norwegian cuisine. And most certainly was I not going to be able to enjoy all the delightful Norwegian cookies we make – 7 different kinds every year, at the very least!

Boy, was I wrong. Little did I know that vegans are super creative, and that includes Norwegian vegans!  I’ve been following the super talented blogger and now cookbook author, Mari Hult from Vegetarbloggen for a while now.  My niece brought back her newly released cookbook “Sykt godt” from Norway earlier in the fall, which I have been thoroughly enjoying.   Her recipe for mandelstenger (literally translated as ‘almond sticks’) was my inspiration for today’s blog post.  Spoiler alert: they turned out amazingly good, so get excited!!

The vegan movement is growing in Norway, as people are getting increasingly aware that their meat and dairy heavy diets may not be the healthiest choice. Heart disease, cancer and obesity has risen dramatically in Norway as in the rest of the western world and processed and fast food is plentiful everywhere .  That is not to say every choice we make has to be 100% healthy, but overall,  if we choose to be more conscious about what we put in our bodies, our health will benefit as a result. This is also the basis for my health and life coaching which you can read more about over at sunnygandara.com.

To get back on track: Christmas is definitely in the house in the Gandara household! I realize a lot of my readers are very in touch with the classic, Norwegian recipes of old times such as krumkaker (still wildly popular in Norway), sandkaker, fattigmann and goro (not so much), sirupssnipper and more.   Regardless, Norwegians are known to go a little nuts with baking cookies during this holiday, it’s simply not Christmas until you’ve got at least a handful of different varieties (7 to be exact) baked and boxed up.

But what kind of cookies do Norwegians like to make and eat in 2016?  In addition to today’s cookie, others include brune pinner (very similar to mandelstenger), kokosmakroner, mandelflarn, julekaker/julemenn, pepperkaker, smultringer, hjortetakk and risboller to name a few. I’ve also seen the influence of American and other international pastries in Norwegian households, as my fellow countrymen have embraced the love for brownies, muffins and biscotti.

Mandelstenger are soft and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, and is almost like candy it’s so good.  They are very similar to the better known ‘kransekake’, as the base for the batter is ground up almonds. I’ve also seen versions of this called “heksefinger” (witch fingers!) and “Finnish bread.”

Super quick to make and requires few ingredients, it has become a favorite of many people.  Even though it may be considered a ‘modern’ recipe, this cookie has existed for a long time in Norway’s cuisine in different versions, and were by many considered one of the “7 types of cookies” made for Christmas (read more about that in my blog archives here.)

You can make these gluten free recipe simply by omitting the all purpose flour and substituting either gluten free flour or cornstarch, it just helps bind the batter together.

I hope you will enjoy these as much as I did, they will most definitely continue to be part of my Christmas cookie baking tradition going forward!

MANDELSTENGER

Makes about 20 pieces

7 0z/ 200 grams whole almonds

3 oz/ 80 grams vegan butter

6 0z  (3/4 cups) / 160 grams sugar

3 tbsp soy yogurt (I used the brand Kite Hill which is deliciously creamy and tangy) plus extra for brushing on top of batter

4 tbsp all purpose flour (sub gf flour or cornstarch if gluten free)

1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celcius).

Dress a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Set aside about 10-15 whole almond and roughly chop them up.  These are to be sprinkled on top of the cake batter.

Grind the remaining almonds in a high powered blender or a food processor into a mealy flour.

In a stand mixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the soy yogurt. Add the ground almond meal, all purpose flour and baking powder, stir until just combined.

Press the dough onto the parchment paper dressed cookie sheet into a large square – the batter should be about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick.   Spread a little soy yogurt on top and sprinkle with the remaining almonds.

Bake in oven for about 15 minutes on the bottom shelf, remove from oven and using a pizza cutter, slice into about 2 inch thick/4inch long pieces, while the dough is still soft.

mandelstenger4

Place back in oven and bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Keep them in a container with a tight lid. Will last for about a week.

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mandelstenger3

mandelstenger1

Kanelkake; a simple, everyday Norwegian cinnamon cake

It’s no secret that Scandinavians have a special love for cinnamon and Norwegians are no different.  Cinnamon has been documented to be used in cooking since the 17th century in Norway, but started to be imported already in the 13th century to convent gardens and to major cities.  Bergen was one of the main cities for spice trade.  The traditional Norwegian farmer remained however skeptical at this stage to using these foreign spices.  Spices and herbs were associated with status and wealth for the longest time. In the middle ages, people in Norway ate very few vegetables, but spices and herbs were added to meat (which was also sparse and reserved for the richer population).  In the 17th century it became more common place to use cinnamon to add flavor as well as to preserve foods.

cinnamon

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find any popular pastries not containing cinnamon in Norway (although perhaps a bit of an exaggeration), but you won’t find this one complaining! 🙂

I love recreating simple cakes such as the one I am featuring today, “kanelkake” (kanel is Norwegian for cinnamon), because it’s very light and not overly sweet.  Most cakes I have come across in the United States are either covered in frosting or buttercream, which makes them a “special occasion” cake at best. This is more like a coffee cake or a breakfast bread even, that you can enjoy in the morning or a Tuesday afternoon (or any other day!).

The best part for me is that it contains no dairy or eggs, but is still super juicy, light and fluffy and of course- flavorful with a nice kick of cinnamon!  My chef husband devoured half of this cake before I even got to it – so if you make it, hide it in a special place, and be sure to have a piece while it’s nice and warm right out of the oven!!

KANELKAKE (Cinnamon Cake)

1 1/4 cup almond milk (or other plant based milk)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or neutral oil
2/3 cup coconut sugar or cane sugar
2/3 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups all purpose or spelt flour

Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Dress a 9X9 inch rectangular baking pan (like a brownie pan) with parchment paper (or 20x30cm pan for those of you in Europe).

Combine all ingredients in the order above in a large bowl, and pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until a cake tester runs clear in the middle. Cool on a rack before you dive in!!

kanelkakeimg_0195

A silly, yet popular Norwegian tale about a pancake that got away

Ok, so this is a blog post I’m not sure will really translate very well into English, but I happened to come across it earlier and it brought back so many wonderful childhood memories I just had to at least give this a try!  This might be a funny story for the Norwegian-Americans who are reading this, to tell your children or grandchildren or you may even have heard this story! And for the Norwegians (like me), you may have completely forgotten about this tale from when you were a little child until now, just like me!

Food and childhood memories are so closely linked together, in fact it’s how I justify why I love certain dishes as much as I do, because there is no other reason than sentimental ones (some Norwegian food can be, admittedly quite strange to the outsider).

Last week I managed to recreate the thin, crepe-like Norwegian pancakes we typically have for dinner,  in a dairy free and eggless form for breakfast to my husband, who was craving them.   I was worried he was not going to be crazy about the new version, but I’m happy to report that both the flavor and texture came out beautifully.  I have included the recipe in this blog post, and you can feel free to skip the “funny” story about the pancake I grew up with and go right to it 🙂

This folklore tale is a “regeleventyr”, which means it’s a fairy tale that rhymes in a way, but it won’t in English, however you will still get the jist of it.  It’s hard to decide who to feel sorry for – the hungry people in the tale or the pancake (I tend to side with the pancake).  You be the judge! Ok here we go. The names in parentheses are the Norwegian words for the characters in the story, that rhyme:)

pannekaka

THE PANCAKE

Once upon a time, there was a women with seven kids, whom she cooked pancakes for. The pancakes were made from raw milk, it was laying there in the pan, rising so big and fluffy, and the kids were standing around the pan, and the old father looked upon.

“Oh please, mom, let me have a little pancake, I’m so hungry”, said the first child.

“Oh please”, said the second child

“Oh pretty, please”, begged the third child

“Oh pretty, kind, dear you, please”, begged the fourth child

“Oh pretty, kind, dear, good mom, please”, begged the fifth child

“Oh beautiful, pretty, kind, dear, good mom, please”, begged the sixth child

“Oh beautiful, ,pretty, kind, dear, good and sweet mom, please”, begged the seventh child

“Yes, my dear children”, said the mother,  “just be patient and wait until I can turn it around, then you will all get a piece, just have a look and see how thick and fluffy it’s getting!”

When the pancake heard that, it became scared, and all of a sudden it turned itself, initially wanting to jump out of the pan, but it turned on the other side, and cooked a little on the other side too. It became a bit firmer  so it got the strength to jump out of the pan and on to the floor, and then it rolled across the room and out through the door.

“Hey!!” yelled the woman, and all the kids and even the old father tried to run after it to catch it.  But the pancake rolled and rolled and soon it was so far gone that the women and children couldn’t see it anymore, because the pancake was faster than they were.

pannekakeeventyr

After a while of rolling, the pancake met a man.  “Good afternoon, pancake” said the man.

“God bless, man”, said the pancake (mann, brann)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,”  the man asked.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and kept rolling until it met a hen.

“Good afternoon, pancake”, the hen said

“Good day, hen,” replied the pancake. (høne pøne)

honepone

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the hen.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, and a man,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling like a wheel until it met a rooster.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the rooster

“Good afternoon, rooster”, replied the pancake (hane, pane)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the rooster.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man and a hen,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling as fast as it could. After a long while it met a duck.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the duck.

“Good afternoon, duck” replied the pancake. (ande, vande)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the duck.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen and a rooster,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling until it met a goose.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the goose

“Good afternoon, goose”, replied the pancake. (gåse, våse)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the goose.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen, a rooster and a duck,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and hurriedly continued to roll down the road.

After a long, long time of rolling, the pancake came across a gander.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the gander.

“Good afternoon, gander”, replied the pancake. (gasse, vasse)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the gander.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen, a rooster, a duck and a gander,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and rolled quickly down the road.

After a long while, the pancake encountered a pig.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the pig

“Good afternoon, pig”, replied the pancake (gylte, grisesylte)

“My dear pancake, stay a little while, no need to hurry off.  Let’s walk together through the woods, I heard it’s not safe to walk through there alone.”

The pancake thought that made sense, so it agreed.

pigpancake

But after while, they came up to a creek.  The pig could float on water due to his flesh, so he had no problem crossing the creek, but the pancake could not.

“Sit on my face,” the pig said, “and I’ll carry you over”. And so the pancake did.

“Oink, oink”, said the pig and ate the pancake in one gulp.

And when the pancake couldn’t go any further, neither could this tale!

grispannekake

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Silly, right?? I guess I’m still finding these tales amusing 🙂

Enjoy the pancake recipe and as always, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!!

NORWEGIAN PANCAKES (vegan)

2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 tbsp vegan butter, melted

1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 cups (700ml) plant based milk

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Add the flax seed mixture in with the plant based milk and our over the dry ingredients, combine until no more streaks of flour are visible, then add in the butter. Don’t over mix.  Let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes before pouring a small amount in a lightly oiled or buttered frying pan over medium heat. Cook until lightly brown on both sides.

Top with fresh blueberries or blueberry jam or any topping you wish!

Norwegianpancakes

 

 

 

 

 

A Nordic Root Vegetable Stew to Celebrate The Return of the Sun

I was inspired to right about this special day from old times in Norway, as I’ve recently noticed how the sun rises earlier and stays later in the day, making me feel ready to bid winter adieu and get ready for longer, brighter and lighter days.

Sunfest, or “Solfest” as we call it in Norwegian, is a date that is difficult to pinpoint, because it varies from town to town whether the sun is completely gone during the winter, and when she returns.

Like all other life, humans are also dependent on the life and the energy the sun gives us, and this was felt even more so in earlier times, when the only light people had were the day light (i.e. no electricity).  In many counties in Norway, it has been a long standing tradition to celebrate the day the sun returned, especially in small towns where the sun is gone for a long time during the year.

There is an old custom all over Norway where one would place a dab of butter in the window sill, and let the sun melt it. “Sun, sun, give me summer butter, here is some winter butter”.   From the town Selje, the following story is told:  “The first time the sun shone after she had been gone mid-winter, mother spread butter on the wall where the sun shone, and greeted her ‘welcome’.   From another town called Davik, the tradition of placing the butter in the window sill was customary the first day the sun shone, and here it was around February 8th.  If the butter melted, the year would be a good one both weather wise and generally.  This was a day filled with lots of happiness, dance and and songs about the sun.  When the sun is gone for months at a time, it’s definitely worth celebrating its return!

Here is a photo of Svalbard, where the sun’s return is typically celebrated around March 8th:

svalbardsol.jpg

Photo Credit: Kristin Sørdal

On this day, it was fitting to serve something colorful and good, a dish you could make in one pot, with ingredients that most people have in house or can easily get during this time of year.  Since root vegetables are in abundance in Norway around this time (and also in New York, where I currently live), I wanted to throw a variety of these in a pot with some vegetable stock and barley (“bygg” in Norwegian), which is the most traditional and widely grown grain in Norway.  We also use barley flour/meal in the popular potato dumplings “raspeballer” as well as in waffle batters, in addition to adding it to soups, salads and even breakfast porridge.  I soak the barley in cold water a few hours before cooking it, which makes it easier to digest, but it’s not necessary.

Not only is this soup colorful and extremely tasty, it is also super healthy!  Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like barley decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy and overall lower weight. It’s a great source of fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. The same health benefits and nutrients can be said for the root vegetables in this soup. Basically – eat your root vegetable soup and you will do your body a huge favor!

rootvegetables

I added a beet to the soup, which colored it this really pretty red color almost like a Russian borscht, and also adds an extremely deep earthy flavor, which reminds me of home. If you don’t want to add this flavor or color to your stew, simply omit it.

Some people would freeze fresh herbs from summer over the winter, thaw it and serve on top of the stew.  Today, we luckily have access to fresh herbs year round.  You can use dill or parsley,  or even fennel fronds (typical in Norwegian soups), whichever you enjoy.  This makes a HUGE batch, which you can freeze and reheat in just a few seconds and have a delicious, hearty and healthy meal on your hands at any time! Velbekomme!

NORDIC BARLEY AND VEGETABLE SOUP

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 leek, white part only, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 celery stalk, diced

10 cups vegetable stock

4 cups water

a handful of fresh thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 cup barley, soaked for a couple of hours in cold water

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

1 small celery root, peeled and diced

1/2 small rutabaga, peeled and diced

1 turnip, peeled and diced

1/2 small head of red cabbage, sliced thin

1 beet, peeled and cubed

small bunch of kale (or Swiss chard or spinach), roughly chopped

freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

fresh herbs, such as dill or parsley, lemon wedges to serve

In a BIG soup pot, heat a little olive oil, add the onion, garlic, celery and leeks and season with salt. Saute for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the barley and coat well, then throw in the veg stock, water, bay leaves and thyme. and stir.  Add in all the root veg including the cabbage and beet, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add in the kale and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with a lemon wedge and some great, Norwegian bread!

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Simple Yet So Delicious: Norway’s Wildly Popular Raisin Buns

As we often hear, simple foods is often best, and that is certainly true when it goes for Norway’s classic “rosinbolle”. This fluffy, slightly sweet cardamom scented bun filled with plump raisins are the favorites of many.  Millions of these are being devoured yearly by Norwegians, we can’t seem to get enough.  In fact, baking “boller” has now become super trendy in Norway, and the variety of recipes that are floating around is astounding!

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Image: kk.no

Norwegians are definitely proud of their buns (no pun intended), and are known across Scandinavia for this specialty.  Often you hear the slogan “world’s best buns” around these creations, and I have to say… it’s not an exaggeration!

I was inspired to make rosinboller this week because it’s winter vacation in Norway, and many Norwegians pick some of these up at their local gas stations (yes, they sell freshly baked goods there – in fact some gas stations in Norway sell more “boller” than they sell gas!!) on the way to their cabins in the mountains, where they will spend the week skiing, catching some sun (hopefully) and being with family and friends.  This tradition also repeats itself a few weeks later during Easter.  It’s also considered the “healthiest” alternative among pastries, because it has no creamy or sugary sweet filling but is just a delight on its own.

Try out my dairy free, eggless cardamom buns that turned out OH so AHmazing…. I’m still reeling over the delight of the first bite, right out of the oven!! Happy baking!

ROSINBOLLER

1 stick vegan butter (around 113 grams)

1 1/2 cups (350ml) plant based milk

1/2 cup (150 grams) confectioner’s sugar

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour (about 10 dl)

1 cup raisins

plant based milk for brushing buns

Place the raisins in a small bowl,  cover with hot water and let them plump up for about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pot over the stove and add in the milk.  Bring it to a temperature of about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (about 43 degrees Celcius). Make sure the mixture is not too hot or it will kill the yeast or too cold.

Add the mixture into a stand mixer bowl.  Whisk in the confectioners sugar, salt, cardamom and yeast and let sit for 2 minutes. With a dough hook, start adding in the flour gradually.  Continue kneading on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm spot.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celcius).  Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Pull the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, and work in the raisins. Knead a few times until all the raisins are incorporated. Divide into about 12 even pieces (or 14, depending on how big you want your buns to be), and roll them into round shapes.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets. cover with a towel and let rise again for another 15 minutes.

Brush the buns with some plant based milk and place in oven, bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly golden on top.

rosinboller