NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
November 22, 2000
By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist
NDSU Extension Service
We of Norwegian descent get teased a lot about our accents, our expressions and our white and brown food. Yah, sure, meat, potatoes, and gravy were menu mainstays in many Scandinavian homes. And, you bet, the vegetables were usually creamed. Even the colorful gelatin salads were topped with whipped cream or marshmallows. It could be worse.
My family looked forward to the holidays when traditional Scandinavian foods made an appearance. There was fruit soup made with dried fruit, tapioca and cinnamon sticks; "rommegrot," a thick porridge made with cream and flour; and flat bread, a cracker-like bread. It took hours to press sandbakkels, small delicate tarts, into tiny pans, but only seconds to eat them. Golden brown rosettes were made with a thin batter, deep-fried crisp and dipped in sugar. I never quite mastered making the elaborately twisted kringle cookies, but I was the family spritz cookie maker.
And, uff da, there was lutefisk, cod fish soaked in an alkaline brine. Lutefisk wasn't welcome on my plate. I did eat my share of the companion to lutefisk, lefse, a potato-based bread. Lefse is available in many grocery stores, but making it at home is worth a try. Making lefse is somewhat of an art. The trick is to keep the dough very cold and to avoid adding too much flour or kneading the dough too much. The first, and only, time my aunt made lefse, it was compared to shoe leather.
Here's a lefse recipe from a Hawley, Minn, cookbook. It might start a tradition in your family, regardless of your heritage.
Old Fashioned Lefse
4 cups mashed or riced white potatoes
1/3 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups flour
Mix first five ingredients. Refrigerate until thoroughly cool. Add flour gradually and knead smooth. Depending on the size of your pan or lefse grill, take a small handful (about 1/3 cup) and roll paper thin on a floured surface. Bake on hot griddle until golden spots form. Turn and bake on second side. Place flat on clean towel and cover with another towel. Place several sheets of lefse on top of each other. When cool, cut into quarters and place in plastic bags to preserve freshness. Note: be sure dough remains cold until you are ready to roll it out. Makes 15 large lefse.
A serving of lefse (about half a large round or 1.5 ounces or about 1/30 of this recipe) contains about 75 calories and 3 grams of fat, which is similar to the nutrition profile of a slice of bread.
Lefse, which is usually buttered, sugared and rolled, is often served with a meal or as a dessert. The amount of calories and fat it contains also depends on how much butter and sugar you add. A teaspoon of butter adds about 35 calories and 4 grams of fat. A teaspoon of sugar adds about 15 calories. Eating extra treats without doing extra physical activity could add an extra layer of permanent insulation to your frame.
Holiday nibbling is often blamed for weight gain but we may not be gaining quite as much as we think. According to previous research, many people reported gaining at least five pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. A study reported in the March 2000 issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine" showed that actual weight gain is less than self-reported weight gain. The net weight gain of 195 adults ranging in age from 19 to 82 and monitored between September and March was slightly more than one pound. Holiday eating appeared to play a major role in overall weight gain, with about three-fourths of the weight gain occurring from mid-November to mid-January.
When 165 of the original subjects returned for a weigh-in about a year after the study began, the researchers noted an overall average weight gain of 1.36 pounds. Those who had the largest weight gain (at least five pounds) were more likely to already be overweight or obese. While less than a pound and a half weight gain a year may not seem like much, that's like going to your 20th high school class reunion weighing close to 30 pounds more than on graduation day.
Does maintaining your weight mean skipping all the tempting treats, like lefse and other traditional goodies that make holidays special? No, all foods can fit into a healthful diet. But enjoy the special treats in moderation. Balance the holiday goodies with extra physical activity like shoveling snow, walking around a shopping mall, going dancing, skiing or playing with children or grandchildren.
Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187
Editor: Tom Jirik, (701) 231-9629