Friday, December 19, 2014

My Mother's Lefse #ChristmasWeek


To Viola Ouren
By Dallas Ouren

We sat amazed as Mother worked the dough.
Could her palms sense when it became too warm?
Within those hands a shape began to grow.
Rolled out, it moved towards its proper form.

She sprinkled flour as she rolled them out.
The rolling pin moved lightly in her hands.
She turned each lefse over and about,
As swirling worlds take shape when God commands.

First rolled up on a stick, and then unrolled;
The cookstove added age-spots to each side.
Once done, they were removed for us to fold;
A simple task that we performed with pride.

Each bite one takes can recreate this mood;
What we call "lefse" is not merely food.

This poem appeared in the February, 1989 issue of the Sons of Norway Viking.

Welcome to the final day of Christmas Week. This event is hosted by Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic and Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. We hope to inspire you to break out those holiday sprinkles and get your bake on!

I'm sharing my mother's lefse recipe today because, more than any other food, lefse represents Norwegian Christmas to me. I want to leave a record of this recipe for my children in the technology available to me today.

If you know lefse, then you probably get it. Unlike other traditional Norwegian foods, [cough lutefisk cough] lefse doesn't seem to divide people. It is universally loved. Who doesn't like a tender flat potato bread, spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar? For me, only dark brown sugar will do but I'll bend enough to add a shaker of cinnamon sugar to my Christmas Eve smorgasbord for those weirdos who may prefer it.

The reason that I'm sharing my mom's lefse recipe and not just pointing you to Alanna's cousin LeAnne's excellent video tutorial (found here) is simple. My mom's method is different than what LeAnne does, and I want to be authentic to my mom's recipe.

It's a funny thing, the concept of authenticity. What makes a recipe authentic? Is it the way you or yours learned it or the way the most popular chef of the time chose to make it? In a FB food blogger group we recently had a lively discussion about authenticity and tradition as they relate to recipes. [Can a carbonara sauce be a carbonara sauce if you choose to use pig belly not pig cheek? I'm not going to touch that debate, but I'll happily eat a plate of whichever meat is used in the carbonara you prepare for me.]

My mother learned this method when she was a county extension agent in Minnesota in the 1950s. Her office was in the Pennington county courthouse, and she had a demo kitchen complete with multiple ovens and an overhead mirror. One of her functions was to prep the 4H kids who were doing demos at the fair. [The county fair was very early in the season before the produce was ripe for showing/preserving, so they did all sorts of demos instead.] 

Early one summer Doris Belanger won a blue ribbon making lefse at the county fair. That meant she'd be taking her lefse demo to the state fair at the end of the summer. In order to help polish her demo, my mom first had to learn from Doris how to make lefse. [I guess this isn't even my mom's lefse method, it's at least Doris's mom's mom's method.] Doris taught my mom, and all summer long the 4H leader and mom met with Doris while she practiced. They gave tips on how to improve her presentation. At the state fair, Doris won a blue ribbon. She was comfortable and relaxed while making lefse, and her picture even appeared in the Twin Cities paper! In thanks, Doris's grandpa made my mom a grooved rolling pin on his lathe, and Doris's mom took a slat from an apple crate and carved a lefse turning stick which we call a spuda [spoo-duh--I don't know how to spell this].

See one, do one, teach one. My mom demonstrated this method during Scandinavian Week at the 1976 Bicentennial Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife on the National Mall in Washington, DC. If you know lefse, you get it, and tourists in the crowd who knew lefse would crowd around after each session, enjoying samples. Mom has even appeared on Norwegian TV in a program about how Norwegian Americans celebrate Christmas. Now it's my turn to demo this method, this time using the internet. I'm still using my mom and her equipment, though.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Toffee Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies #ChristmasWeek

[the title pretty much says it all]
Welcome to Day Four of Christmas Week. This event is hosted by Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic and Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. We hope to inspire you to break out those holiday sprinkles and get your bake on!

There are times when I feel like an utter failure as a food blogger. It's not the recipes/writing/photography/technical computer stuff, you know, the business of blogging, that gets to me--it's the capital F Foodie part.

I may have 6 different vinegars in my pantry and 20 recipes for beets in my Beet Recipes Collection, but I am not a real Foodie. I have eaten at only one of the 20+ fancy schmancy restaurants in my town [and that was because my book group met there!]. In fact, I'm perfectly happy with a Five Guys burger and fries or a plate of Waffle House Chocolate Chip Waffles. The recipes I share on this blog are, for the most part, pretty basic stuff like these Toffee Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I'm sharing them today for #ChristmasWeek simply because I like to celebrate all that is simple and good--from a breakfast of beet greens or a side dish of Chinese cabbage from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share to a tasty and flavorful cookie like these.

I like to bake chocolate chip cookies because the whole process fits in with my schedule. Unlike brownies which need to be mixed and baked all at once [and when you're making 8 dozen Pecan Brownie Bites for a Cookie Drive that's a big chunk of time], chocolate chip cookies taste better when they are done in installments. When I expect to have 30 minutes free I'll set the butter out to soften ahead of time, then mix up the dough when I'm ready. I will chill this dough overnight or up to a couple of days. When I'm ready to bake I scoop up what I want to use, and I can re-chill or even freeze the rest until I need it. Making cookies this way--in small chunks of kitchen time--fits with my schedule best and leaves me more time to try and get a decent shot of the dogs in their thrift shop holiday finery. Here's an outtake:
Simon is patiently waiting to be allowed to leave while Robert Barker keeps trying to eat his hat  (it tastes yummy) and Vincent in his Santa Paws coat just wishes everyone would cooperate so he can have his turn to shine. Oh, and I went and got my hair done did. It's been a year--it was time.
Swing by all the #ChristmasWeek participants to see what they've been whipping up for the holidays:
Coconut Filled Sandwich Cookies by Cravings of a Lunatic
Peppermint Sugar Cookie Bars by Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
Cranberry Ginger Margaritas by Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
Rocky Road Chocolate Bark by Cooking In Stilettos
Apple Streusel Bars by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Rum Blondies with Cinnamon Chips by From Gate to Plate

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scandinavian Fruit Soup #ChristmasWeek

This chilled soup is an excellent counterpart to a cookie tray. It provides contrasting flavors and textures without refined sugars, while still being a sweet finish to the meal. It also makes an excellent bedtime snack after candlelight services and keeps for several days in the fridge. For my third recipe of #ChristmasWeek we're heading back to Scandinavia for Fruit Soup.

Growing up, Christmas Eve was the big meal of the holiday. My folks would round up strays (folks who didn't otherwise have plans for the evening) and serve a smorgasbord of fish, Swedish meatballs (link to my folks making a batch for the blog), boiled potatoes, more fish (did I mention the pickled herring?) and lefse--that recipe is coming on Friday to round out #ChristmasWeek. 
Wait, I didn't tell you about #ChristmasWeek? I'm slacking! 

Welcome to Day Three of Christmas Week. This event is hosted by Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic and Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. We hope to inspire you to break out those holiday sprinkles and get your bake on!

On Christmas Eve after piling on all of the fish smorgasbord delights, we'd push back from the table and go digest somewhere. Typically us kids would play Bobby Hull hockey in the basement while the adults visited upstairs. After a period of time, we'd reconvene at the table for dessert: cookies and fruit soup. And more lefse, because you can never have too much of a good thing like lefse.

Do you get a tangerine in the toe of your stocking? I grew up with tangerines in my stocking, reading about Almanzo Wilder getting an orange in his stocking in the Little House on the Prairie series, and now we've got the Band Fruit Fundraiser citrus piled up in the basement (link to my fruit round up featuring 156 recipes using fall and winter fruits). As much as I love dark chocolate peppermint bark-coated roast beast, fruit is also an integral part of my Christmas sweets spread.

If you like to eat locally, Scandinavian Fruit Soup is your excuse to pull out the packages of beets berries you put up while they were in season. [In my case, I came across way too many packages of roasted beets in my quest to find blueberries, so beet & orange smoothies are my current breakfast drink of choice necessity]. If you don't have local fruit put up, canned or frozen fruit works great.  I'm especially partial to canned cherries--terrific flavor--and I love how the grapes in fruit cocktail look in the dark juice.

My recipes for #ChristmasWeek have been a mixture of getting my ethnic on and classic sweets that I just love to eat any time of year, but make especially for the holidays. Monday I shared Finnish Pulla {Cardamom Coffee Braid}, yesterday I shared lessons learned from making Pecan Brownie Bites for a Cookie Drive, tomorrow I'll share Toffee Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Friday I'm bringing #ChristmasWeek home with Norwegian Lefse. For more of my traditional savory & farm share centric recipes, please see my Visual Recipe Index.

Swing by all the participants to see what they've been whipping up for the holidays:
Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies by Cravings of a Lunatic
Peppermint Spritz Cookies by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls by Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
Scandinavian Fruit Soup by Farm Fresh Feasts
Egg Nog Pound Cake by My Catholic Kitchen
Coquito Cheesecake Flan by Mind Over Batter
Mulled Wine Fruit Gums by Food Lust People Love
Soft Vanilla Caramels by That Skinny Chick Can Bake