Gröt Glorious Gröt!

The Glorious Filling Grains & Pulses of the Nordic Kitchen

The Glorious Filling Grains & Pulses of the Nordic Kitchen

Gröt or porridge doesn’t seem like the sexiest of dishes but things aren’t always what they seem. Porridge in all of its most innovative and traditional forms is being served up as fine cuisine in some of the most fashionable restaurants in Scandinavia. Why? It’s healthy, fresh and delicious.

My own porridge recipe is as simple as it is delicious. Enjoy with some fresh berries, nuts or raisins strewn on top:

Julie’s Porridge for a Happy Morning or a Satifying Evening

4 dl or 1 3/4 cups oatmeal
8 dl or 3 cups milk
3-4 tablespoons honey

Warm all ingredients in a pot, stirring slowly over medium heat with a wooden spoon. Once thickened, and just beginning to simmer, remove from heat. Lap up and enjoy the warmth surging through your body! You can use water or milk substitutes as an alternative to milk if you are allergic.


Little Cookies

The Famous Small Cookie Tin

The Famous Small Cookie Tin

On several occasions I have written about the virtues of one little old Swedish ladies’ traditions: småkakor or little cookies. In our bigger is better world, these are that marvelous exception. Small is beautiful, particularly when it comes to cookies. If I am drinking a cup of coffee or tea I usually want something sweet with it – I want a småkaka or a little cookie that no one in Wayne’s Coffee or Starbucks is prepared to give me.

For years I read stories to children between the ages of 3 and 10 at a nearby school. I always brought with me a tin of home-made småkakor as I knew that mid-afternoon most kids’ blood sugar sinks to levels that make concentrating seem like climbing Mount Everest. My småkakor were of course a great hit, but to console myself that the kids did not just come for the cookies I told myself that they would not have come had I offered cookies but no story.

Now, I’m not trying to suggest that processed flour, sugar and big lumps of butter are healthy ingredients. All of those should be minimized in our diets and that is just what little cookies do, particularly during the holiday season when everyone wants to feel, well, just a little richer.

I noticed in Johanna’s marvelous thrift blog that she is running her usual new perspective across metal tins. Here is the childrens’ favorite recipe for småkakor which combined with Johanna’s packaging ideas could make a unique and thoughtful Christmas gift.

Chocolate Slices
(makes ca 40 thin biscuits)

100g or 3.5 oz. butter, softened at room temperature
1 dl or 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup or light cooking syrup
2 dl or 3/4 cup white flour
2.5 dl or 1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 C or 350 F. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Cream sugar and butter. Add syrup. Blend dry in ingredients in a separate bowl and mix into the creamed mixture gradually. Scatter a little extra flour across a clean surface. Split the dough into two and form two long rolls about as long as a baking sheet. Place them on the baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly (but not completely) and then cut into flat, thin strips about 2 cm or 0.8 cm in width. Allow to cool completely prior to storing.


Citrus Fruit for the Holidays

Vitamin C for Christmas

Vitamin C for Christmas

The citrus fruit that comes up to Scandinavia from Spain during November and December have become a holiday season institution up North. They are a light, Vitamin C-rich contrast to all of the heavy, vitaminless sweet food offerings of December. The aroma of orange or mandarin is a distinct Christmas aroma in the Nordic region.

Aside from placing a bowl of mandarins on your Christmas smorgåsbord, you can also consider making up this simple compote which everyone will eat loads of because it is sweet and, most importantly, light.

Orange Compote with Berries & Cinnamon

8-10 oranges, peeled and sliced in thin cross-sections
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau (optional)
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup red currant, alternatively 1/2 cup soaked raisins

Slice round segments of orange into quarters so that the pieces are bite-sized. Place in a mixing bowl. Add orange juice and cointreau, if desired. Sprinkle over the icing sugar and cinnamon. Blend gently. Place orange mixture in a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Serve garnished with red currants or raisins.

Since this dish is light, you can afford a dollop of whipped cream on top which makes it even more festive.

Visit the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook!


Holiday Season Beverage

Flavors of the Holiday Season

Flavors of the Holiday Season

If you’re not keen on the red wine flavor of the usual glögg that is served at Christmas or if you are allergic to the tannins in it, you might want to try this delightful non-alcoholic alternative which has the benefit that it can also be served to children.

Apple Glögg
(makes 1 quart or 1 liter)

1 quart or 1 liter best quality ecological apple cider
3 tbsps sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole nutmeg
3 star anise
1 piece of dried bitter orange peel

Place all ingredients in a large cooking pot and warm up, allowing flavors to mingle.  Best served in small glass drinking cups with a handle.

If you want to add in a touch of alcohol for a more festive flavor add in 1/2 cup or 1 dl Calvados (apple brandy).

Written by Julie in: Apples,Beverages,Christmas,Fruits | Tags: , , ,

Beetroots for Christmas

Big Beautiful Beet

Big Beautiful Beet

Since I’m on great Finnish food ideas and root vegetables this week, I thought I’d throw in that little extra that will add great color and flavor to your holiday season table.

I just cannot say enough good things about beetroots. Just a superb food. If you don’t eat them yet, start! Want to learn more about them? Check Paavo’s Bytes for May 2008 in More Bytes.

Beetroots in Soured Cream with mashed potatoes or mashed root vegetables (see my recipe in the previous entry in this blog) is a terrific dish and very easy to prepare. Here’s how:


Beetroots in Sour Cream

1.8 lbs or 800 g medium beetroots, peeled and diced
2 medium onions finely chopped
2 tbsps butter
1 2/3 cups or 4 dl sour cream
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
A generous handful of fresh chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a pan and saute the onion and beetroot. Lower the heat, cover and allow to ‘sweat’ until cooked. Blend in the soured cream and wine vinegar. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Place on a warm serving dish and sprinkle over parsley.

Typically, this dish is served with mashed potatoes piped around it. However, you can go for a lighter version and simply serve with my light recipe for mashed root vegetables as a separate dish.

If you are wondering how to avoid ending up with pink fingers after making this dish, wear disposable kitchen gloves.


Just Right with Rutabaga

Rutabaga & Kale - Staple Nordic Winter Foods

Rutabaga & Kale - Staple Nordic Winter Foods

I recently asked my friend, Paavo from Finland who caters to some of the more illustrious tables of Manhattan, what some of his favorite memories of Christmas food from Scandinavia were. I expected something elaborate and well, frankly, upmarket, but certainly not Rutabaga Casserole. I shouldn’t have been so suprised, Paavo is, after all, a master of suprise.

So what is rutabaga? It is what I have previously called turnip or yellow turnip in this blog; a marvelous mixture between a turnip and a cabbage (thus deserving of its Scandinavian name, kålrot, which literally means cabbage root) that will henceforth be known as nothing other than rutabaga in this blog.

Rutabaga has had a hard time in northern Europe.   In hard times it has been a food of last resort, making it a food of no resort during good times. Its rehabilitation has been tough in Germany where it earned a reputation as famine food. In Scandinavia those associations are not quite as strong and there has been some creativity around rutabaga. After all, it comes from this part of the world – it is thought to have spread its way westward from Siberia and Finland during the 17th century – so we ought to know how to handle it!

Aside from its original taste, rutabaga is both nutritious and eco-smart. It is a good source of vitamin C, folate and fiber. The down side is that it is a high GI food, but on the other hand low in fat. As with everything else, consume in moderation. On the environment side, it grows in cold climates, reducing the need for pesticides.

Finns are the grand masters of rutabaga, particularly in the form of Rutabaga Casserole which is a classic during the holiday season. It’s got a bit of cream in it to give it that festive flavor. However, if you want a superb light rutabaga recipe that got 5 stars from my family (can you believe it?), you’ll want to try my low-fat rotmos or Mashed Root Vegetables. This dish is an exciting alternative to the much less interesting mashed potatoes and healthier too! Here are both the casserole and mashed root veg. recipes.

Rutabaga Casserole

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium potato
2/3 dl or 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2/3 dl or 1/4 cup cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 tbsp butter

Cover rutabaga and potato in water with a dash of salt and cook until soft.  Drain off the water and mash. Mix the bread crumbs with cream and allow to soak for a few minutes. Add nutmeg, salt and egg. Fold this mixture into the mashed root vegetables. Pour into a casserole dish, dot with butter and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in 350 F or 175 C for about one hour until lightly browned on top.

Mashed Root Vegetables or Rotmos

1/4 medium rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt/Pepper for seasoning

Cook the root vegetables until soft. Drain and save the liquid. Mash by hand or in a blender so that the vegetables are smooth. Return to the cook pan and over low heat blend in a few tablespoons of the liquid until the rotmos has reached the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

For more recipes visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook!

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