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).

wafflesblender

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:)

heartshapedhealthywaffles2

 

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.

 

raakostsalat1

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!

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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.

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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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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.

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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!!

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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:)

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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.

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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)

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“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.

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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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