5 reasons to love Norwegian bread

As a typical bread-loving Norwegian, it can be difficult to live in a country that is protein obsessed and deathly afraid of carbs.  But it didn’t stop me from making today’s recipe of whole grain, multi-seeded loaves of bread that

I think I’ve shared my first experience arriving in the U.S. seeing all the plastic wrapped breads sitting on the shelves for weeks, thinking, “how is this possible? Why doesn’t the bread go bad?”  Yes, I know – I was pretty naive. Then I picked up a slice, only to discover that it was mostly air, and I was able to squeeze it in the palm of my hand and shape it into the size smaller than a ping pong ball.  I knew then, that this was not something I particularly wanted to put in my body.

This is when I became slightly obsessed with baking my own breads, buying specialty flours online and seeking out health food stores that would have the kind of darker, whole wheat and grain types we use back home.

Why eat Norwegian style bread, you ask? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Whole grains and seeds contain lots of nutrients and fiber, the latter helping you to stay fuller longer, causing you to eat less
  2.  It will help lower your cholesterol
  3. Stabilizes your blood sugar levels, helping you stay more energetic throughout the day
  4. Contributes to good digestion and gut health
  5. Can help prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease

A bonus reason is that as opposed to white bread, whole grains and seeds contain tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help keep your body healthy. Why not opt for both healthy AND delicious if you’re going to eat? Norwegian bread is the way to go!

I am a believer in using quality grains and flours when making bread, cookies, pastries and cakes. I use organic products from smaller producers whenever I can, and wholeheartedly believe that if everyone would do the same, we would see less people intolerant of gluten and grains, and less obesity.

Yes, that’s right.  There has never been as much obesity in the world since the widespread popularity of the Atkins Diet, where red meat, bacon, eggs and cheese were touted as “health food” and food to eat if you wanted to slim down, whereas bread, pasta and rice were looked upon as the devil himself.

Come to think of it, growing up in Norway, we ate bread for breakfast, lunch and “kveldsmat” (a late night meal after dinner, because Norwegians eat dinner super early, around 5pm), and I never really saw any overweight people around. Food for thought, literally.

If you’re new to my blog, you might want to read my previous blog post about bread from my home region of Sunnmøre, which goes into more history and detail about breadmaking in Norway, and includes another recipe for bread.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there are MILLIONS of recipes for homemade bread in Norway, we just love bread that much.   The best thing about making your own bread is that you know exactly what is in it, there are no fake additives and preservatives that may wreak havoc on your body, and of course: it tastes ten times better than any store bought version you will find! That is, if you follow my recipe of course! 🙂

This bread is made in two stages. You’ll combine the ingredients in the first batch as listed below, then wait a few hours before you add the ingredients from the second batch.  Trust me, the breads will be well worth your efforts! You can also double the recipe to make six loaves and freeze them so you have for weeks to come (or if you’re as big of a bread lover as I am, only for two weeks, hahaha).

Happy baking and please comment if you do try it out or if you have any questions! You can also stop by my FB page, Arctic Grub, and join in on the discussion about Norway and Norwegian food there!

MULTI-SEED, WHOLE GRAIN NORWEGIAN BREAD

Makes 3 loaves

1st batch:

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) wheat bran

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) chia seeds

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) sunflower seeds

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) pumpkin seeds

a scant 1/2 cup (100 grams) organic old-fashioned oats

1 cup (200 g) organic whole wheat flour

1 cup (200g) organic dark rye flour

4 cups (900ml) cold water

2nd batch:

1 cup (200ml) water

2 tbsp maple syrup or light syrup

2 tbsp sea salt

1 packet dry yeast or 50 grams fresh yeast

4-4 1/2 cup organic all purpose flour

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients from batch #1 in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl) and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Let sit for at least 2 1/2 hours at room temp, or overnight if you can. This will expand the seeds and make them chewy, which will help bind them to the dough.

After the mixture from batch #1 has been sitting for several hours or overnight, add in the ingredients from batch #2, perhaps holding back a bit of the flour.  Fit the dough hook of the standmixer on and mix for 5 minutes at low speed, then increase to high speed and knead the dough for another 5 minutes. Add more flour if necessary, until you get a smooth, elastic dough.

Let the dough rest for another 2 hours.  Prepare three loaf pans by greasing them lightly with oil.  Then pour the dough onto a clean work surface, divide it into three equal pieces.  Fit the pieces into each loaf pan (if you don’t have loaf pans you can also free bake them by shaping the pieces into loaves and placing them onto a baking sheet).

Cover the loaves with a clean towel, and let rest for another 45 minutes at room temp. Meanwhile,  heat your oven to 440 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celcius).

Brush the top of the loaves with a little water, and sprinkle additional chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or so until the bottom is hard and make a hollow noise when you tap them. Cool for about an hour (if you can wait) before slicing into ti. Serve with vegan butter and a cup of coffee or tea!

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Celebrate Apple Season With This Simple Norwegian Apple Cake

I’ve written about eplekake, Norwegian apple cake, a couple of times before on the blog, but it’s one I could write about multiple times over.   There are endless variations, such as a vegan version filled with marzipan which I shared here, and before I went vegan there was a vanilla custard variety here.  I’ve yet to measure up to some of the biggest food bloggers in Norway, one who can brag about having over 50 different recipes for apple cake alone! This will tell you how popular this is….

It’s the middle of apple season here in the gorgeous Hudson Valley of New York, and fall is the most magical time of year, in my opinion.  The leaves are turning and displaying gorgeous colors, the air is cool and crisp, and it’s all of a sudden ok to turn to comfort foods like creamy soups, stews, casseroles and baked goods again.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and right around the corner, but that’s for another blog post..

In Norway, there are signs of apples being in existence since the Stone Age (around year 850).  54 apples were found in good condition; a sign they were highly valued.  But it was the monks who started planting apple trees and made it commonplace.  They quickly discovered that Hardanger in the southwestern part of Norway was the most ideal place to grow apples, and since they have been planted all the way up to the county of Møre and Romsdal, where I’m from, as well as further north.  The difference is that the apples in the south are for commercial sale, whereas the ones found in the northern parts of Norway are for personal consumption.   The juicy varieties we have in Norway today, is a result of a long history of cultivating and perfecting them.

The most important Norwegian varieties are Summerred, Aroma, Rød Gravenstein, Rød Aroma, Julyred, Åkerø, Discovery, Rød Prins/Kronprins, Lobo and regular Gravenstein.

The apple cake is a very traditional cake in Norway, and most people have some type of relationship to it.   It’s the epitome of an autumn cake, and I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t like it!

Most of the Norwegian apple cakes are super decadent, containing tons of eggs, sugar and butter and while I certainly have enjoyed a piece or two hundred in my lifetime, I wanted to prove that no eggs or dairy is needed to create the same wonderful gustatory experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased the VeganEgga product made by the company Follow Your Heart, as I set out to re-create one of my favorite foods; a Spanish tortilla layered with potatoes and caramelized onions.  As a side note I’m happy to report that the result was fantastic, with my egg-loving husband giving it a big thumbs up.  But this week I wanted to try the egg in baked goods to see how it acted.  I’m thrilled to announce that the cake ended up  as juicy, rich and flavorful as the one I grew up eating in my mom’s kitchen!  I’m typically not a fan of using ready-made vegan products, but in this instance, I’m going to be making a regular exception, the results were that good.

Of course there are plenty of options should you not have the VeganEgg available to you in stores where you live.  Combining a tablespoon of either ground chia or flax seeds with 3 tbsp of water will equal one egg, or you can also used mashed bananas, apple sauce, cornstarch and/or nut butters. In this instance, I would naturally choose apple sauce, to go with the flavor profile of the cake.   Remember, eggs only serve as a binder in baking,  so as long as you find something that can bind the batter/dough, you are good to go!

I hope you will try this version of eplekake, it comes together in no time – I use a small mandoline to slice the apples, much faster and you get uniform sizes, ensuring even baking.  If you are a fellow cinnamon lover (if you are Scandinavian I won’t have to ask), you can go a little over the top on the cinnamon-sugar mixture that you toss the apple slices in for extra enjoyment!

Happy baking and as we say in Norway: Velbekomme!

 

NORVEGAN EPLEKAKE

 

7 oz /200 grams vegan butter, room temperature (just shy of 2 sticks)

7 oz /1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbsp VeganEgg powder whisked together with 3/4 cups (180ml) ice cold water

7 oz/200 grams/1 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 tbsp /40 grams/1.5 oz potato starch

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup/100 ml plant based milk

Topping:

2-3 large apples, cored and sliced thinly

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegan butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius). Dress a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Add the vegan butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, and with the paddle attachment, whip it until light and fluffy.  Slowly add in the VeganEgg mixture.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, potato starch and baking powder.  Add slowly to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and combine until no traces of flour are left.

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and add the apple slices to it and coat well.  Carefully arrange the apple slices on top of the batter, stuffing the apples mid way down the cake batter in a circular pattern.

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Dab the 2 tbsp of butter over the top and bake in oven for about 50-55 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.  Serve with some whipped coconut cream or your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream!

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Vegan cardamom scented cinnamon buns in celebration of Cinnamon Bun Day on Oct 4th

I’ve long been trying to perfect a vegan cinnamon bun,  or “kanelboller” or “kanelsnurrer” as they go by in Norwegian.  Luckily it’s not hard to veganize them, as they don’t need eggs nor dairy, and omitting these ingredients will not affect neither the flavor nor the consistency.

Nothing makes me as happy as when Cinnamon Bun day comes around every year on October 4th. As if we really need another excuse to whip up a batch of these gorgeous creations… but when in Rome…

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about cinnamon buns, you can find my previous posts (and recipes) here, here and here.   I will therefore not go into the well known love us Scandinavians have for cinnamon and baked goods in general in this post again. I of course welcome any questions in the comment section!

I regard these delightful, fluffy and flavorful pastries a vital part of the Norwegian (and Scandinavian) diet, and there are few things I find as enjoyable to eat.  Equally suitable for breakfast, an afternoon snack or even a post-dinner evening delight (us Norwegians drink coffee at all hours of the day), they serve as a decadent, yet familiar pastry on Scandinavian tables.  I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t get served pastries made from some type of yeasty cinnamon flavored dough when you’re visiting a Norwegian home, it would be an unusual experience – they are that widespread and popular!

In Norway we have a saying called “kjært barn har mange navn”, which loosely translates to “a dear/special child has many names”, and this is true about the cinnamon bun.  It goes by “kanelboller”, “kanelsnurrer”,  “kanelknuter” or “kanel i svingene” (cinnamon in the turns) interchangeably and there are as many recipes for them as there are inhabitants in Norway, I believe.  I have to say I’ve rarely met one I didn’t like, so you can safely attempt this recipe and expect decent results!

In this recipe I also have added ground cardamom to the dough in addition to the cinnamon spread, I find that this adds an even more authentic touch to the buns and I hope you’ll agree with me.  Fluffy and light, you may not want to share this batch with anyone (and I won’t tell).

Wishing you a happy Cinnamon Bun Day and a fun time baking!

NORVEGAN CARDAMOM SCENTED CINNAMON BUNS

Makes about 18 buns

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

1 stick (113g) vegan butter, melted

1/2 cups (about 350ml) plant based milk (I used almond)

about 4 cups (500 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (120) grams granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon sugar spread:

heaping 1/4 cup (or about 4-5 5 tbsp) brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

about 1/4 cup melted vegan butter

In a small pot, melt the butter on low heat, then add in the plant based milk.  Carefully heat mixture up till about 110-120 Fahrenheit, make sure it’s not too hot or you will kill the yeast.

Pour the butter-milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast in with a little bit of the sugar. Let stand about 5 minutes until you see the yeast starting to foam or bubble. If it doesn’t, it means your yeast is dead and you’ll have to do it over.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients; flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt.

Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook and on low-medium speed, start adding the flour mixture gradually.  Beat on medium for about 5-10 minutes until you see a smooth, firm dough forming and that should leave the edges of the bowl (you may or may not need to add a little more flour).

Shape into a firm ball and leave in bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

In the mean time, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the spread, and melt the butter.

Punch down the dough, then using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to  a square that measures about 20 inches  (50 centimeter) on every side.

cinnamonbundough

Brush the dough with the melted butter and spread the cinnamon sugar evenly across the dough.

cinnamondoughspread

Fold 1/3 of the squared dough towards the middle and the other 1/3 against the middle slightly overlapping the edges of the first fold and roll out again to a smooth square.  With a dough cutter, cut the dough diagonally into about 1 inch strips (2 1/2 cm).

For a visual tutorial on how to form the cinnamon knots/buns, check out this link.

Place the finished buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again for about 20-30 minutes.

cinnamonbunspreoven

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celcius).

Bake the cinnamon buns for about 10 minutes until golden up top.

Enjoy with a strong cup of black coffee with good friends and family!

cinnamonknots

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The magic of Norwegian plums + a cake you will want to make!

There are few fruits as exquisite as Norwegian plums. They taste far better than any imported plums, yet the season in Norway is super short with availability during the month of August and September only.

Norway has planted plums since the 18th century (possibly earlier),  so we have a long tradition utilizing plums in our cooking. Plums are regarded as one of autumn’s most delightful harvests, and there are a number of different varieties available.   The ones most known are Edda, Mallard, Riis, Jubileum, Opal and Victoria.

Side bar and fun fact: According to the newspaper Bondebladet , 2017 is inching towards holding a record for plum production with over 1400 tons harvested nationwide. Most of the plums come from Hardanger.  Norwegians are demanding more Norwegian grown fruit like apples, cherries and plums, than ever before, as eating local and seasonal is increasing in popularity. 

I remember the enormous plum tree my parents had growing right in front of our verandah that stretched over two floors.  I couldn’t wait for plum season, and ran straight out to the tree after school to snag a handful of delicious, huge blue plums to snack on.  There seem to be a never ending supply, but I also recall being impatient for them to ripen before the season hit.

My mom would begin a huge canning process of the plums we weren’t able to eat fresh, so we could enjoy them through the winter.  She served them up with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert after dinner on weekdays, because in my household, dessert was expected every day (by my dad mostly – he had a big sweet tooth!),

In addition to canning them, other popular ways of cooking with plums in Norway include making jam, porridge, compote and chutney.    I think the most delicious way to enjoy them besides eating them straight from the tree, is to make a cake.  Plommekake is a fun variant of the traditional Norwegian “eplekake” (apple cake) and a great way to use any leftover plums you might have.

The recipe really is very simple; flour, sugar, baking powder, a couple of spices along with milk and vanilla extract. The traditional version has eggs in it, but I’ve used apple sauce, as it functions just as well in this cake.  Remember, eggs only act as a binder, there is nothing more magical about eggs than that.  You can elect to add in a some ground up nuts as well, I’ve omitted them in my recipe to please those that may have nut allergies or want a lighter cake.

Hope you will try my vegan version of plommekake out – this is not overly sweet, as the tanginess from the plums balance out the sweetness of the batter.  I served it to my local businesswomen group earlier today and got rave reviews!

Remember to follow my FB page Arctic Grub for daily updates on Norwegian food, culture and other fun posts on Nordic content!! I also love hearing from you so comment below if you have any questions when it comes to Norway and /or Norwegian food!

NORVEGAN PLUM CAKE

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 heaping teaspoon of cornstarch

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of salt

5 tablespoons of vegan butter – room temperature (I use Earth Balance brand)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup apple sauce

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup of almond milk

4 large black or blue plums – sliced into 1/4 inch slivers

2 tablespoons of chilled vegan butter

1/4 cup of brown sugar

Instructions

Heat the oven to 350° F (180C).  Coat a 9 inch spring form pan with the 2 tablespoons of chilled butter and sprinkle the brown sugar in.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together.

Whip the vegan butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl on a high speed until completely combined.

Add the apple sauce and vanilla extract and  stir in well.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to mixing bowl while going on a low speed until mostly combined. Add 1/3 of the almond milk and blend.  Continue adding the flour and milk in 1/3 increments.

Arrange the plum slices in the buttered and sugar coated spring form pan.

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Pour the batter evenly over the plums and smooth until the pan is evenly covered.

Bake for 50-60 minutes – place spring form on a baking sheet to prevent spillage.

Let cool completely before removing from and inverting the pan.

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10 Things You May Not Know About Norwegian Waffles

If you are a fan of Norwegian waffles, you know that they are heart shaped, thinner and softer than the American version.   We also don’t eat waffles for breakfast, rather we enjoy them with a strong cup of black coffee in the afternoon or evening, preferably in the company of good friends and family.  The easiest and most widespread food to whip up when you have guests come over, is, in fact, Norwegian “vafler”!  We love them slathered with butter and strawberry jam, or for a more decadent version; sour cream and strawberry jam which is a delicious combination of tangy and sweet.

For more history about the Norwegian waffle, you can go HERE to a previous blog post I did on this topic.

So while the above mentioned points might be common knowledge to “Norwegianophiles”,  you might not haven known the following:

  1. There are few foods that exists that have as many different recipes as waffles.  The first recognized recipes for waffle batter in Norway appeared in the early 18th century in Stavanger at the Kielland family library.  The batter contained wheat flour, sugar, butter and eggs, as well as ground cardamom, mace, cloves, anise seeds and ginger.  Today, many of these ingredients still show up in waffle recipes.

2.   One variant that is not as widespread anymore is making waffles from porridge leftovers.  It was commonly used by the farming community, because their daily diet consisted of  porridge.  Porridge leftovers often ended up in waffle batters along with flour, water or milk, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and eggs.  The ingredients depended on what kind of porridge was included and how nice of a waffle batter one desired to make.

3. “Lompe”, bread of waffel?  I refer to lompe as the ‘tortillas of Norway,’ you can read my blog post about them HERE.    The classic combination is to serve a hot dog in lomper, but in the Norwegian town of Moss, serving hot dogs in waffles is a culinary classic. You’ll find this combination sold at soccer games there.  The tradition is said to have started in the 1960s when a man by the name of Eyvind Hellstrøm ran out of lomper when he worked at his uncle’s hot dog and ice cream stand.  His solution was to combine the waffles with the hot dogs.

4.  Today, waffles in Norway are associated with “hygge” or cozy times throughout the year, but in the 13th century waffles were spoken about as a romantic meal in the churches of Paris during Easter celebration.  Waffles were also used as a meal to break fast.  According to author Kristin Solli Schøien,  waffles stem back to the monasteries during the middle ages.  Un-soured bread were baked during communion,  and the alter breads were so tasty that they started making something they called apostle cakes for special holidays.  These are said to be the predecessors to the waffles served at Norwegian seamen churches across the world today.

5. For Norwegians abroad, waffles are a symbol of both homesickness and a heartwarming treat, according to the Norwegian Seaman’s Church.  For more than 150 years, the heart shaped waffles have served as a special trademark for what you can expect when you stop by the church.  Every year, the 31 seaman’s churches all over the world compete over who makes the best waffles.  In 2012 they made and handed out 27,500 waffles combined.

6. Waffles is a continuous symbol of thoughtfulness, also at home in Norway.  Volunteers set aside time weekly to hand out free home made waffles to homeless people  on the streets. The initiative from “Vaffelgutta” (The Waffle Guys) started in Oslo, but has quickly grown.  Today they are providing free waffles to people in the cities of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim.

7. Despite how un- Norwegian International Waffle Day sounds, the tradition stems back to our neighboring country, Sweden.  The official explanation is that on March 25th, virgin Mary received the message from the angel  Gabriel that she was to give birth to baby Jesus exactly 9 months later.  This day was celebrated by eating cakes both in Norway and Sweden. Later on it become customary to have waffles.

A more creative explanation is that the day Mary got the message,  was named “vårfruedagen” in Sweden (Our Lady’s Day), which got muddled into “vaffeldagen” in Swedish among the people…

8. No waffles without a special waffle iron. The particular checkered pattern of the iron stems from the 13th and 14th century and is said to be made by following a model for bees wax cakes in the beehives.  The tradition of baking ‘cakes’ in this way stems back to the Greeks, according to Henry Notakers’ “Appetittleksikon” (Appetite Dictionary).  The actual waffle iron was invented by the American Cornelius Swarthout and was patented on August 24th, 1869.

9.  It’s actually not impossible to feed hundreds of people with just one waffel!  The biggest waffle in the world was measured to be about 98 cm or 38.5 inches. The Guinness record from 2011 is held by Norwegian Joar Mortveit from Skjold.  This record big waffle was baked in a gigantic waffle iron weighing 250 kilos  (551 lbs).  For every waffle, 10 liters (2.5 gallons or 42 cups) were used and each waffle took 20 minutes to bake.

10.  If you live in the United States, you don’t have to necessarily visit seaman’s churches to eat waffles. The internationally known and successful Norwegian fashion company Moods of Norway have become known for selling their clothes and accessories worldwide, inspired by Norwegian traditions.   They have also marketed Norwegian waffles by creating a waffle iron in the shape of a tractor. Below you can see how the waffles look after being baked in their iron.

moodsofNorwayKristerSørbøVG

Photo Credit:  Krister Sørbø/VG

I hope you found these facts interesting, because I sure did!  They are translated from the site godt.no and sourced from a variety of people and institutions.

I bet you are getting hungry for some Norwegian waffles now !  I’ve included a SUPER simple recipe below that you can throw together in a couple of minutes and the only kitchen equipment besides a waffle iron needed is a blender (or a food processor).

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This recipe is both vegan and gluten free, but it tastes so decadent you wouldn’t believe that it’s a healthy version!  Instead of eggs, I’ve included a banana, and oats take the place of wheat flour.  I’ve subbed maple syrup for white sugar, though you can use any sweetener you’d like for a very similar result.

I hope you enjoy this quick and delicious recipe ! If you try it let me know in the comments what you think! Velbekomme!

SUPER SIMPLE AND HEALTHY NORWEGIAN WAFFLES 

about 3 cups (700ml)  old fashioned rolled oats

1 1/4 cup (300ml) water

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) plant based milk (I used almond milk)

1 large ripe banana

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp maple syrup

melted vegan butter (I love Earth Balance)  for greasing the waffle iron

Throw all the ingredients in a high speed blender, alternatively use a stick blender or food processor, and puree until smooth.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Heat up the waffle iron and bake according to the manufacturer’s direction.

Serve spread with butter and  strawberry jam, or top with bananas, fresh berries, extra maple syrup or even plain! (Coffee optional, but that’s extra Norwegian:)

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Råkostsalat; a true Norwegian vegan dish

Having just returned from a week in London, I definitely feel a tad heavier after too much restaurant food and wine.   The Brits sure like their share of booze and heavy food… I do try to eat as healthy as possible while I am on vacation, but I also subscribe to the theory that you should also go for the experience and allow yourself some foods you wouldn’t normally eat.

Today’s recipe then was inspired by me craving a lighter meal and more vegetables. I wanted to create a cold meal because the temperatures have been soaring to 90 degrees here in New York for the past few days, which doesn’t make it very tempting to be standing over the stove.

When I first started veganizing my blog,  I went into a state of panic.  How on earth could I write about Norwegian food if I didn’t include smoked salmon, mutton, eggs, milk and butter?  Thankfully the vegan world has some very creative cooks who have managed to recreate both shrimp, fish, meatballs and cream cakes using plant based foods.

But what about original Norwegian dishes containing only vegetables and fruit?  They certainly are far and few in between but some exist.

Enter “råkostsalat”,  literally translated as “raw food salad”.  This simple dish is often served with ‘fiskekaker’, or fish patties, but is also enjoyed on its own when people want to lose weight or even just find a way to add more vegetables to their diet.   The Danish are also fond of this salad, and you will find even more variations there.

A funny fact about råkostsalat, is that it used to be a classic recipe students would have to learn to make when they entered a school called “husmorsskolen”.   This word translates to “housewife school” but more correctly defined, is a home economic school that was established in the late 19th century and were popular until the 1960s and 1970s.  A type of technical school for the domestic arts, its purpose was to provide specialized instructions in domestic subjects.   They were developed simultaneously with the agricultural schools that popped up around the country and were meant to teach mainly food preparation and housework.

Hence, in order to become a proper “housewife” you had to master making the råkostsalat!   Times sure have changed…

Here is a picture of a husmorskole class around the year 1913:

(photo credit: Romerike.no)

husmorskole

husmorskoledigitalmuseum

(Photo Credit: digitaltmuseum.no)

Råkostsalat is still popular today, and is a perfect food for the summer, because it is, as the name suggest, all raw, so very cooling, refreshing and filling at the same time. Providing lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber,  easy to make with beautiful colors ,  this should be on your repertoire too, whether you are vegan or not!

There are as many recipes for råkostsalat as there are mountaintops, valleys and fields in Norway,  so I encourage you to play around with a variety of vegetables and other ingredients.  We typically use vegetables that are readily available in Norway such as root vegetables and apples, and I find these keep well too.  I use my food processor to shred all the vegetables, but you can also use a box shredder and do it manually if you like additional work 🙂

I like to serve this salad with my vegan crab cakes made from hearts of palm (you will have to stay tuned for that recipe later!), or some beans and whole grains like quinoa or farro.  It can also serve as a healthy snack between lunch and dinner – this dish gives you so much energy and does your body a whole lot of good!

If you feel like whipping up a colorful plate this weekend that is healthy, pretty,  inexpensive and easy to make – this one’s a winner!

RÅKOSTSALAT

2 large carrots, shredded

1 red apple, cored, peeled and shredded

1/2 small red cabbage, shredded or sliced finely
1 small red beet, peeled and shredded
1 small yellow beet, peeled and shredded
1 small rutabaga, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins
juice from 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp maple syrup or other sweetener
handful of fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the shredded vegetables and raisins in a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and maple syrup and pour over the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit in fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend together. Serve topped with fresh parsley or other fresh herbs.

 

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Forget about the prom; here’s how Norwegians celebrate the end of high school

Today’s blog post was inspired by my niece Synne, who is graduating high school this month and is pictured in the feature image (she is the lovely young woman on the very left).  Seeing her photos made me reminisce back to when I was celebrating finishing school in Norway and having fun being a “russ”.    Even though the American tradition of prom has somewhat seeped into the Norwegian culture, it’s the “russ” time that still dominates at home.

If you’ve ever found yourself in Norway around the national Constitution day on May 17th, you may have seen huge parades of people marching on the street.  Intermixed in the crowd, you might spot a number of tired, ragged looking teenagers dressed in red or blue overalls with writings all over them.   Who are these people and why are they dressed like this??

This a phenomena called “russ”,  a nationwide term that describes high school graduate students and has been a country wide celebration for over 100 years.  Historically the word is built on a Danish tradition stemming all the way back to the 18th century where university students called themselves ‘russ’ or ‘rus’.  Back then, Norway didn’t have their own universities, and Norwegian students who were interested in educating themselves further, would have to travel to Denmark.  To be able to begin the studies, one would have to pass an initial exam, called examen artium, and when the exam papers were handed in, students were given a horn to wear on their forehead.  Only when the results of the exam came back and students passed, was the horn removed from their forehead, and they went from “wild animals” to civilized students.  The word “russ” stems from the Latin term “cornua depositurus”, which means to ‘to put away the horns.’

Examen artium was later moved to the high school and the term ‘russ’ followed along with it.

Initially, the russ celebration were for the upper class, elite population and their children only.  In 1905 only 300 students graduated and completed their exams, while today over 40,000 high school students graduate.

Image from wikimedia of the russ celebration in the 1940s:

Russefeiring i Trondheim 17. mai / Avgangselever ved Katedralsko

The russ culture has always been dominated by the idea of breaking with society’s norms and rules.  It’s when young adults get a ‘carte blanche’ in many ways to act out, be a little crazy and do things out of the ordinary.

While the tradition is present both in Denmark and in Sweden, the Norwegian celebration is definitely unique and much grander than in their neighboring countries.

Customarily students dress in red overalls,  make up new names for themselves based on their individual personalities, group together to buy red vans they drive around in during this period,  make their own “business cards” they hand out to younger kids and others,  gather at big events throughout the country, party and stay out late or all night during the entire month of May (and then some),  create and organize a comedic play they act out on stage and invite friends and family to attend, put together a special newspaper with articles and description of each student that will be published and sold on May 17th, come up with special rules and ‘dares’ to accomplish to collect items in the tassels of their hats corresponding with their deeds, and so forth…

Speaking of the latter, a lot of these dares and rules historically involved a lot of alcohol related ‘tasks’, some of which potentially were really dangerous so they have been cracked down on . Other rules have involved illegal actions, hence they have garnered a lot of criticism in the press and among people.   A few examples include:

  • drink 24 bottles of beer in 24 hours (you get a beer cap in your tassle)
  • drink a bottle of wine in 30 minutes (you get a wine cork in your tassle)
  • run naked down the street
  • walk into a store and ask for condoms without speaking
  • stay awake for 24 hours without sleeping
  • go swimming in the ocean before May 1st (you get an ice cream pin)
  • stand up every 5 minutes during class at school and yell “cheers!”
  • walk around for an entire day wearing loaves of bread for shoes
  • sit in class wearing only underwear for an entire hour
  • make out with a freshman in high school
  • spend the night in a teacher’s yard or hallway/entrance

Plus a lot of other rules that may or may not offend the reader… ha!  There is also a group of students who elect to be “kristen russ” (i.e Christian russ), who don’t participate in drinking alcohol or sexual games.  They are often referred to as “krussen”.

Why does alcohol have such a prevalent part of the russ celebration?

During the early 1900s ,the children of the elite would protest against the temperance movement  by drinking publicly during the 17th of May celebration. Even then the russ were obsessed with breaking society’s rules.  Today, alcohol is still an important part of the festivities;  it creates community and fun among students,  and serves as an ‘excuse’ to experiment with your identity, social relations and cultural boundaries.  The act of drinking is also a visible symbol of removing yourself from the label as a child and student to entering adulthood.

The russe period very much signifies the transition from child to adult, much like a confirmation.  The beginning of the celebration begins with a baptism; where each ‘russ’ student is baptized and given a new name, and removes all outer characteristics such as individual clothing and style, and replaces it with the overall and cap.   The students then move into a phase where everything is legal and rules are there to be broken.

Oh, and each year the russ have an official song.  You can listen to this year’s song HERE.

Here is a photo of one of the earliest russe vans:

russebilgammel

(Photo from dagsavisen.no)

And here is how it has evolved, this is from the 1980s:

russebil

Shops and businesses will sponsor the students’ vans if they get their names and details listed on the cars, which is a great way to pay for the van. Today the buses can be a whole lot bigger and more luxurious, here’s a snap of what one may look like inside:

russebilinne

(Photo from midtsiden.no)

So what about the very peculiar clothing?

The russe cap was first introduced in 1905, when red graduation caps were worn by graduates of higher schooling in Kristiania.  The hats were initially only worn by boys, who again were inspired by German students who wore red caps when visiting Norway in 1904.   The overalls and buses/vans didn’t arrive until the 1970s and today are highly influenced by clothing manufacturers and commercial equipment companies.

Why overalls?

It was meant to show solidarity with the workers, symbolic of the radical times in the 70s. The students will wear their overalls and caps every single day for the month of May until graduation, which happens right after May 17th, which officially marks the end of the celebration.

Now doesn’t this sound a whole lot more fun than stressing over getting a date and buying the perfect dress /gift for prom??  Comment below and let me know what you think!

 

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…

lakrisbilde

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!

tyrkiskpebertyrkiskpebershot

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.

lakris1

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!

stratos

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:

konghaakonkonfekt

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”.

kvikklunsj

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:

sjokoladefjordnaer

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! 🙂

brownies1

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

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):

busserull2

busserull3

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!

busserull4

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):

busserullpaulstang

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.

sunnyapron2

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.