Aug
29
2012
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Balancing vegetarian and non-vegetarian in the kitchen

Making your hamburgers more interesting

Here in Sweden most people are meat eaters. One look at summer’s food magazines, and one recognizes that barbecued meat has become the favorite menu of the season. The strong sensitivities about how we treat the rest of the natural world in this culture means that the debate about our handling of animals, including those that we consume, rages strong. Since the famed creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, pleaded in her engaging newspaper articles for the rights of farm animals during the 1970s and 80s, there has been a lot of discussion about the alleged gruesome treatment of pigs in Denmark, the conditions that chickens live in, etc.

Though the number of vegetarian restaurants in Stockholm has increased, reflecting an increase in vegetarians in the population, one can safely say that most people look for their meat (the priority), veg and potatoes on the plate. Although my own children go to Waldorf schools in which there are probably more vegetarians than in other schools, they miss the salami when it is not in the refrigerator and enjoy a finely roasted leg of lamb with rosemary in the autumn.

Having been a vegetarian before coming to Sweden, living without meat isn’t a sacrifice, in fact I find it challenging and exciting from a culinary point of view. For my family it is a little more challenging, which is the reason that I try to keep a balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian in my kitchen. Yet, schedules and lack of time to think through the shopping list can sometimes result in that balance going out of wack. We all know that it’s important to reign in our meat-eating habits for both environmental and health reasons, so this autumn I’ve come up with three principles to keep my kitchen in balance:

1. Plan a vegetarian meal every other day and don’t mention to the family that you are doing so (no one will notice).

2. For the non-vegetarian days, find new ways to combine vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients (as in the recipe suggestions, below) thus allowing you to use less meat . Provide “veg and potatoes” (could be a salad or interesting grain) that are so interesting and tasty that they become the main attraction. Check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for many options.

3. Don’t do any major food shopping without a shopping list which you’ve thought through. This can seem daunting when you have a heavy work schedule, but it makes life so much easier  and satisfying if you’ve taken a few minutes on Sunday to plan ahead and scout the recipe books for vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Planning also tends to benefit your bank account, as you don’t end up purchasing unnecessary foods.

Delicious Hamburgers with Fruit of the Autumn

500 g or 17 oz minced meat
2 slices white toast bread crumbled, crusts removed
1 onion (white or red), finely chopped
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 large cooked beet, chopped into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the grill in your oven. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add all ingredients. The mixture is best blended using your hands so that you end up with a smooth “dough.” Line a baking tray with baking paper and form the mixture into hamburger patties. Grill for about 5 minutes on either side. Serve with any number of wonderful salads you can find in the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

You can try the same recipe mixing in other types of interesting vegetarian ingredients which increase flavor, improve consistency, create bulk and reduce the quantity of meat you need to buy. For instance, try raw carrots instead of beetroot.

Written by Admin in: Beef,Beets,Meats,Root Vegetables,Vegetables | Tags: , ,
Dec
22
2010
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Healthy Nordic Alternatives for your Holiday Season Table

Don't let Christmas weigh you down!

It’s Christmas again and with this a time when your healthy kitchen could take a nose-dive. But not here at Julie’s Kitchen! With all due respect to saffron buns and Christmas ham, we really do need to start to think along different lines. Christmas mingles in Sweden usually offer up gingerbread biscuits, hot spiced wine and a host of other delicacies which unfortunately often include an overdose of refined flour and sugar. Yet the Scandinavian traditions of Christmas also offer unique opportunities for healthy eating that will leave your digestive system feeling light and bright. So here are a few suggestions of healthy Scandinavian elements to think about introducing into your Christmas that will also make your Christmas smorgåsbord or mingle especially interesting.

Starter Ideas

Focus on crisp breads with different types of smoked fish toppings. Make a luxurious pate using your favorite smoked or preserved fish topping by pureeing the cooked or smoked fish with olive or canola oil, a twist of lemon, salt and pepper. Combine in a food processor, adjusting ingredients to give you just the right consistency. Sardine is a fish that is hard to beat in pate.

Experiment with sour, vitamin C rich berries such as cranberries or rowanberries as a tangy topping for crisp bread combinations.  Place small bowls of berries in between the crispbread and toppings. Try not to sweeten too much – just a sprinkling of sugar and a bit of cinnamon will do it.

Main Dish Ideas

Make vegetables the focus! What could be better than a steaming platter of honey-baked grilled root vegetables accompanied by some festive tossed kale? For the root vegetables (beets, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and more): peel and cut into large chunks, toss in olive oil and rosemary or bay leaf, and a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 200c or 390 F for 40 minutes. 10 minutes before the end of the baking drizzle over a bit of honey. For the kale: Chop roughly and saute for a few minutes in olive or canola with onions, golden raisins, salt and pepper. The kale should keep some of its firmness. Serve the vegetable dishes with some Turkish or Greek yogurt (not Scandinavian but it’s a great topping!).

Dessert Ideas

That’s simple! Lay out clementines, mandarins and oranges in generous bowls interspersed with small bowls of walnuts. If you want to provide an extra special touch to the walnuts, melt some good quality dark chocolate and bathe the walnuts in it. Place spoonfuls of chocolate walnuts on baking paper and allow to harden in the refrigerator.

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Check The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for many other great suggestions for your holiday season table!

Mar
16
2010
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Eating Naturally

Still working on using up last season's carrots

Still working on using up last season's carrots

We’re being asked to do so many things when it comes to food and diet these days. The new drive to combat obesity spear-headed by Michelle Obama in the United States is long overdue yet at the same time opens the floodgates for all sorts of new diets suggesting a host of rules and regulations about eating and food preparation. Today it is common knowledge that rigid diets do not serve us well over the long term. They might reduce weight for a time but they won’t do anything for us as the years go by. So what do we do?

At the same time as we are being urged to think about how to eat for healthier weight, we are also being asked to choose in relation to the environment, taking climate change, pesticide use and genetic modification into account. On top of all of this we should prioritize fair trade, meaning the purchase of food products which improve the working and living standards of producers in developing countries.

All of this seems a tall order. You could be forgiven for standing in your kitchen holding your head in your hands. It was with all of these various new demands in mind, the experience of winning over a food disorder and the strong desire to have a natural relationship to food that I came up with The Natural Eater system for thinking about food choices. On the concept page you can read about this values based idea for having a relationship to food that feels freeing and healthy rather than constraining and leading only to short-term health solutions.

With The Natural Eater system in mind, I’m freeing you up with a refreshing little recipe for using up whatever is left and creating a hearty meal out of it. One of the operating principles of The Natural Eater is that food is creativity. For this to be so, it’s important to have enough food preparation skills so that you can look into your fridge or pantry at any given time and prepare something good to eat. Limitation is the mother of invention if you have certain basic food preparation skills. The idea of using whatever is left also relates to another important Natural Eater value which is that food is solidarity with the planet and its peoples and therefore we do not waste it.

I opened my fridge at about 5 pm this weekend and found a few carrots, a carton of champignons, a bit of cottage cheese, a stick of mozarrella cheese and some remaining soured cream.  I had a few other odd ingredients around and wondered whether I should instead shoot off to the supermarket to reduce my thinking time. Then I thought of one of my favorite food programs shown on BBC television for years in which a well-known chef was asked to prepare a meal with a bag of inexpensive ingredients purchased by a regular everday person who would be their assistant. Using this program as my inspiration, I came up with the following:

Carrot & Champignon Lasagne (serves 8 persons)

1 package of lasagne sheets
6 carrots, peeled and grated
dried or fresh herb such as parsley, tarragon or nettle
1 box of champignons, rinsed and sliced
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 dl or 1 cup soured cream
2 dl or 1 cup cottage cheese
500 g or 1 lb mozarrella cheese
3 dl or 1.5 cups milk
canola or olive oil
salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 390 F. Grease a rectangular pyrex (mine is 30 x 17 cm or 12 x 7 inches)and cover the base with lasagne sheets. Set aside. Prepare the lasagne fillings. Toss the grated carrot with 2-4 tablespoons of herb. I used dried nettle which you cannot find in shops but parsley, tarragon and a host of other dried or fresh herbs work just as well. Drizzle over a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Set aside. Drizzle some olive oil into a pan and saute onions and garlic over medium heat for two minutes. Add the sliced champignon and saute for another two minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. In a mixing bowl blend the cottage cheese, soured cream and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the mozarrella thinly.

Assemble the lasagne. Spoon half the carrots onto the bottom lasagne sheets and cover with a new layer of pasta. Spoon half the mushrooms onto the new layer of lasagne sheets and cover with half of the milk mixture. Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets and repeat the layers once more, finishing once you have spooned over the rest of the milk mixture. Cover the surface of the lasagne with mozarella slices, season with salt and pepper and drizzle over oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until the lasagne sheets are soft and the mozarella is lightly browned. Serve with your favorite salad.

I thought the dish would last us for two days. It didn’t. We probably ate one too many portions, but at least you know that this recipe lives up to the taste test!

Sep
03
2009
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Lovely Leftovers

We love them at nordicwellbeing.com!

We love them at nordicwellbeing.com!

My grandmother always used to say that most things that you prepare taste even better the next day if you rehash them a little bit. I guess she had to develop this approach having lived through two world wars. The thing is, I tend to agree with her. I don’t know whether it has to do with actual taste or just the satisfaction of not wasting food.

Who doesn’t have a sealed tub of leftover cooked pasta in their refrigerator? Please raise your hand. Aha! As I suspected, no one is raising their hand. As I had just pulled this year’s beets out of the ground in my kitchen garden yet didn’t feel like spending too much time cooking, I decided to put two and two together and came up with this little number that is just superb. I know you must think that we are beet-lovers at nordicwellbeing.com (yes we are! see our Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook).

Beet Pasta
(per person to be served)

50-100 g or 2-3 oz leftover cooked pasta or cook up some new
2 medium beets, cooked*
30g  or 1 oz. Goat’s cheese: feta or chevre
2-3 tbsps roughly chopped hazelnuts
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt/Pepper

Place the pasta in a microwave-proof bowl. Chop beets into bite-size wedges and add to the pasta without blending. Crumble over goat’s cheese and add hazelnuts. Cover and heat in the microwave until warm (1-2 minutes on maximum). Drizzle over the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Enjoy with a green salad.

* Cooking beets: Remove most of the stalk leaving about 2-3 cm or 1 inch on the beetroot. Wash and place in a cooking pot. Cover with water and add a bit of salt. Bring to boil and then lower heat leaving to cook about 30 minutes or until you can easily pierce the beets with a fork or other. Drain away the water and allow to cool. Remove the skin to use in food preparation. It should slide off easily.

If you do like beets (a wise health choice), please look no further, check Paavo’s Bytes and The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

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Along the lines of food and frugality, please do check out the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm which is now home to the Manna Exhibition which has toured Sweden, Denmark and the US. The new cafe, MatMekka, established simultaneously with the exhibition is well worth a visit!

May
30
2009
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Dandelion Pesto

Dandelions in Northern Norway

Dandelions in Northern Norway

Inspired by Johanna’s thrifty thoughts about dandelions this May 2009, I am including my best dandelion leaf recipe.

Dandelions are nature’s own gift to you in the Spring as their leaves have a strong cleansing effect on the kidneys and gallbladder.

Dandelion leaf has a bitter flavor which you can tone down by soaking for a half an hour or so in water before using in salads and other foods.

The slightly bitter, leafy green taste of dandelion leaf complements barbecued meats and vegetables perfectly.

Dandelion Pesto

1 liter or 1 quart dandelion leaves
1 dl or 1/2 cupVästerbotten or parmesan cheese, grated
3 1/2 dl or about 1 1/2 cups canola or olive oil
1 dl or 1/2 cup pine nuts

Soak the leaves in water for 1/2-1 hour. Pat dry and chop roughly. Blend in a food processor with the remaining ingredients until the mixture has become a smooth paste.

May
27
2009
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Packing a Pre-Summer Health Punch

lima_beans

My favorite butter beans

I’m not giving you my little secret for getting through that warm weather day foodwise until it really is warm. Here in the Mälar islands it is windy and although we are all trying to wear summer clothes, the odd sweater creeps out even with the best intentions of being summery.

So, even if the early summer weather is playing tricks on us with wind and rain, as it is supposed to do if we are going to have a good harvest, there is some great healthy Nordic-style food to be enjoyed in the spirit of getting fit and energized for the season. If you’ve been out for a long walk in the park in this sort of weather, you’ll be hungry and this is just the dish for you.

If there are three ingredients that I find to be very Nordic, they are root vegetables, oily fish and beans. All three have played a major role in the kitchens of this part of the world and all three are clear winners when it comes to your health. The question is can you combine these successfully to create a meal with fantastic taste and a real health punch.

As I found myself out on my deserted island with just those three ingredients and a hungry husband to feed a few days ago, I came up with the following which is a delightful meal on windy, cool pre-summer days when you are trying to give your body something really good. Years ago, I learned that with food limitation is the mother of invention and you should always remember this when trying to find inspiration in your kitchen. Here is the recipe.

Mashed Root Vegetables with Sardines and Butter Beans
Serves 4

For the mashed root vegetables:
6 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
50 grams butter
1/2 dl milk
A pinch of ground muscat
Salt/Pepper

For the bean topping:
1 large zucchini, julienned
380 g lima or butter beans (cooked)
4 tbsps canola oil or olive oil
1 clove garlic

2 cans sardines (including at least 4 whole sardines)

Peel the potatoes and carrots. Cover with water in a pan and add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and cook on medium heat until you can easily pierce with a fork. Drain away the water. Mash the vegetables with a fork or potato masher. Add butter, half of the milk and place over low heat, blending together the ingredients. Add the remaining milk, if needed and season with muscat, pepper and salt. Cover and keep warm.

Saute the garlic and zucchini in olive oil for 3-4  minutes on medium heat. The zucchini should not be too soft. Add the cooked beans, saute for a further 2 minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Assemble on individual plates. Spoon a large ball of the mashed root vegetables into the middle of the plate. Spoon the bean and zucchini mixture over and around the mashed vegetables and top with a sardine, preferably broken into two pieces.

Artistic, delicious, full of energy, divine! Remember to check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for more recipes!

May
11
2009
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Asparagus Time

Asparagus and Potatoes with Lemon Oil

Asparagus and Potatoes with Lemon Oil

If you want a real lift this May, I suggest you try the light lunch prepared in under 10 minutes that I enjoyed today. What was it that I prepared and ate? Asparagus. What is that doing in the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook, you might ask? Doesn’t that grow in a sandy, dry environment somewhere where it is much warmer? In actual fact, asparagus is a hardy plant that grows in a wide variety of climates and can even tolerate frosts. Asparagus from Gotland has become a delicacy in Sweden, for example. During the past decade asparagus has become a favorite of Nordic kitchens during the warmer, lighter season.

What’s so good about asparagus from a health point of view? Just a few of its many virtues include that it is a great source of vitamin C, B2 and one of the richest existing sources of B9 (folates) among other essential vitamins and minerals. If you’ve got diabetes, gout or fluid retention you’ll want to eat more of it. It’s also one of those foods that you don’t have to buy organic since it has relatively low pesticide residues. Since it doesn’t have a long shelf life, it’s one of those vegetables you’ll have to eat relatively fresh. There are, of course, also frozen options.

A more long-standing great favorite of the Nordic kitchen is the potato and these combine beautifully with asparagus for a delightful and satisfying meal. If you’ve got any of those boiled potatoes  left from last night’s meal, don’t throw them out! They will make a perfect lunch with asparagus.

Asparagus & Potatoes with Lemon Oil
Lunch for 2

Bunch of asparagus (green or white – up to you)
4 medium-sized boiled potatoes, room temperature (ecological please!)
1 lemon cut in half
Canola or extra virgin olive oil
Salt/Pepper

Wash the asparagus, cut off the hard ends of the stalks and place in a pan just covering with water. Sprinkle in a little salt. Bring to boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a sieve, draining out the hot water and rinse immediately with cold water so that the asparagus retains its crispness. If you’ve got an asparagus cooker (steams the asparagus upright so that it cooks more evenly and preserves more of the nutrients) it will take about 10 minutes.

Cut the potatoes into quarters and divide between two plates. Divide the asparagus into two quantities and pile next to the potatoes. Drizzle potatoes and asparagus with oil and serve with a half a lemon for squeezing over just before eating.

This dish is as divine as it is simple. P.S. Kids and adults alike love it.

Jan
03
2009
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Light-on-the-Butter Salmon Casserole

Hello Mr. Salmon

Hello Mr. Salmon

Laxpudding or Salmon Casserole is one of those absolute staples of the Swedish kitchen. If you don’t eat it once a week, things aren’t really ‘kosher’.This thinking heralds from a time when salmon was at one point in Swedish history the staple food of the peasantry. The servants ate it on most days.

One of my problems with Laxpudding is that it can become rather buttery and can feel heavy. That adoration of melting butter over everything might also be a little hangover from peasant culture where it was a luxurious food item to be eaten sparingly.

Here is my best shot at Laxpudding, maintaining its traditional ingredients, but lightening it up a bit and keeping an eye on the butter.

Laxpudding or Salmon Casserole

300 g or  11 oz. gravad lax or dill-cured salmon, sliced into strips
1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
10 medium cooked potatoes, thinly sliced
1 dl 1/2 cup chopped dill
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps butter or margarine
2 dl or 3/4 cup light creme fraiche
3.5 dl or 1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 C or 390 F. Gently saute the onion and zucchini in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Layer the potatoes, zucchini, onion, salmon and dill in a greased casserole dish, starting and finishing with a layer of potato. Blend the creme fraiche with a small quantity of the milk and then gradually add in all of the milk. Add eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until even and pour over the mixture in the casserole dish. Dot with butter or margarine. Bake for 45 minutes or until fully set. Serve with a green salad.

Just a little added note concerning new books out on Husmanskost (the food of the common man). If you read Swedish, I can very warmly recommend ICA’s new book Hela Sverige’s Husman (ICA AB, 2008) which is packed full of the best recipes for traditional Swedish food that I have tried so far (and that is a lot!). Why? Because it truly gathers together the best recipes of the common people FROM everyday people! If you do not read Swedish stick to our Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and you’ll find a treasure trove of new and old Nordic cuisine for your good health there!

Dec
03
2008
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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
Salt/Pepper
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.

Dec
03
2008
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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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