Homemade Nutella for Norway

 

I really wish I had a Norwegian recipe to post today. I have been really saddened by the tragic events in Oslo on Friday. As many of my readers know, I spent a year in Norway as an exchange student, in between high school and college, and I have very fond and vivid memories of my life there. The people, culture and independent spirit of Norway all have a very special place in my heart. I formed many long lasting friendships that year and still have many good friends and loved ones that live there, and a lot of them currently reside in Oslo. So  Friday and Saturday were scary days waiting to hear from everyone.

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JEG ELSKER NORGE!

I have been comforted these past few days by these words by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg:

“You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world. We are a small country nation, but a proud nation. No one shall bomb us to silence, no one shall shoot us to silence, no one shall scare us out of being Norway. We must never stop standing up for our values. We must show that the Norwegian society can stand up to these testing times. We must show humanity, but not naivety.”

I keep reading this over and over and praying for the truth in those words. As an American, experiencing 9/11 and seeing the aftermath of such events and in many ways the loss of our many freedoms and our independent spirit, I can only hope that the Norwegians will keep that alive.

Although I know this does nothing, other than feebly lend support and love to my Norwegian friends and Norwegians all over the world, you can check out some of my Norwegian and Scandinavian inspired recipes from the past. Comfort food really is a comfort and can aid in feeding our spirit during trying times.

I spent all of Friday sweating over steamy vats of curds and whey and fluffing cheese curds at The Cellars at Jasper Hill – that is something for another post though…so when I got home that night, I hadn’t heard anything about what was going on in Norway. One of my best friends lives in Oslo, and so Roberto really was worried about telling me what had happened, but luckily she had posted on my facebook wall that everything was OK, and like a lot of other Norwegians, she and her husband were out of the country on holiday.

So in lieu of posting a Norwegian recipe, I am going to post about making homemade Nutella, because the first time I ever tasted Nutella it was in Norway. The first time I had it, I thought it was a Norwegian invention, and I was hooked! When I returned to the US, after my year in Norway, I was lucky to be able to find it in the grocery stores here, and so it has always been a staple in my house. Then I married an Italian (Italy is the actual birthplace of Nutella) and we just always had a jar in the pantry…until we noticed the ingredient profile had changed and it now included soy lecithin and vanillin – artificial vanilla …so we stopped buying it. We have found and tried several organic and more healthy versions, but they never really tasted that good, and were expensive.

In comes The Spunky Coconut blog. I am an avid fan of both the blog and the cookbook – The Spunky Coconut has really changed my life in a lot of ways, her baked goods are all gluten and grain free and don’t contain weird fillers and gums, like a lot of gluten-free baked goods do. I have tried several of her recipes, and they have all been fantastic – perfect taste and texture every time – and they don’t require any tweaking, which makes my life so easy!

So when she posted a recipe for homemade Nutella on her blog, I felt like our prayers had been answered – especially for Roberto.

The only thing I changed about the recipe was by adding a bit of maple syrup at the end to taste. Roberto, the official taste tester felt that it wasn’t sweet enough. I probably ended up adding a little shy of ¼ cup of it after all was said and done. The recipe makes 3-4 small mason jars full, and she says in the comments that she actually froze one jar of it – but I am not sure if it turned out OK.

Roberto’s tasting notes: Regular Nutella is now way too sweet for us (we have cut down on a lot of sugar and don’t use any refined sugar products), and it has more of a bitter dark chocolate taste than regular Nutella, however because it is less sweet, he says it is more versatile. He has been enjoying it spread on The Spunky Coconut’s Boulder Banana Bread (minus the walnuts, I usually add about 2 TBS of almond butter).

Breakfast(s) of Champions

FIRST BREAKFAST – “Breakfast of Champions”

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(My “Breakfast of Champions”)

Today I want to talk about Breakfast – the most important meal of the day. I have spent my whole life sort of at odds with it. I generally prefer something savory in the morning, but I also like something that is quick and easy to prepare, without a lot of cleanup. I like a breakfast that gives me good balanced energy – that keeps me feeling full and energetic until lunch time. I am not really a fan of typical breakfast foods like bagels, muffins or pancakes. I like eggs, but cleaning the pan deters me from cooking them everyday – and I don’t like to rely on the microwave for an everyday meal. I avoid the micro as much as possible. Until recently, I never really worried much about breakfast, but lately it has taken a place of importance.

For the past few months I have become a total work-out-a-holic. I hate the gym, and have never joined one, but I do work out a lot at home. So now, my breakfast needs to stand up to and fuel me for the intense workouts I do 5-6 days a week (whether it is Combat Hapkido at the dojo or heavy weight lifting, strength training and intense cardio at home). It has become an important part of my lifestyle – something I really enjoy, makes me feel good, and keeps me healthy and fit. Plus I am married to a Sardinian – the first “Barbarians” so I might as well start looking the part! :) But, anyway,  I am not into all the supplements, or weight machines at the gym. I want to do it myself, with real food, a balanced diet and my own body.

So I tried to work first with my tastes. Some mornings I get a craving for last night’s chili or even a hot dog (grass-fed that is). I have tried protein bars and shakes, smoothies, cereal, oatmeal, and toast with all the toppings you can imagine. But nothing ever really cut it. So I made it a goal of mine to re-think breakfast and come up with something I could rely on, and also change up without a lot of hassle. I want to share with you three different breakfasts that really work for me in terms of flavor, nutritional value and energy giving elements.

The first one I want to share with you is what we call my “Special Breakfast” here at home, but really it is my breakfast of choice. I like to call it my “Breakfast of Champions”. Not that I am a champion or anything, but it has a wonderful balance of all the ingredients that are very energy giving, protein, greens, some carbs and dairy.

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It starts by soaking a huge batch of barley and buckwheat for 24 hours in warm water with some whey. The soaking allows enzymes and other friendly organisms to break down the phytic acid, an organic acid found in all grains (and legumes) that may make the digestion of grains (and legumes) harder for some people, like me! Once the grains have been rinsed, I store them in a leftover container in the fridge. I make enough for about a month’s worth of breakfasts. I also hard boil 6 eggs (I do this about once a week).

When I wake up in the AM, while the espresso is brewing, I sautee a palmful of barley in some extra virgin coconut oil that I got as a sample from Tropical Traditions (if you are a food blogger, you can also get a sample from them!). Then I add a nice handful of chopped greens, swiss chard, arugula or kale, cook until starting to wilt. At that point I add a chopped hard boiled egg and another palmful of the buckwheat, and cook until it is heated up. I put it all in a bowl, add some fresh ground pepper, flax sprinkles and homemade goat cheese. Sometimes if I have leftover sausage from the night before, or an odd hotdog, I will add that into the beginning of the mix. The amount of the various ingredients can be tweaked based on your needs. But this is the base. It is nice, balanced, tasty and very filling. Gives you lots of fuel too, and cooks up in under 5 minutes.

SECOND BREAKFAST – Homemade plain yogurt with toppings

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The second breakfast I want to share is a sweeter one. On the rare occasions that I am in the mood for something sweet, I will take a half cup of homemade yogurt, and add to it either peanut butter and blueberries or pumpkin butter, peanut butter and a handful of nuts or seeds. But I usually prefer this as an after workout snack.

Sometimes I will cook up the buckwheat and barley, and eat it like a hot cereal with a nice liberal splash of homemade kefir and cinnamon. This is good with soaked steel cut oats too, but I prefer the buckwheat and barley to oats. This is also a good snack – and way better for you than pre-packaged cold cereal. You can enjoy it cold too – but you do have to cook the buckwheat ahead!


THIRD BREAKFAST (or maybe Elevensies for the Hobbits among us) – Buckwheat Pancakes

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On weekends, when we have a quiet morning, I like making buckwheat pancakes. In general I am not a fan of pancakes or waffles at all. But I do enjoy crepes, and I found that I really love buckwheat pancakes – they are not as sweet, and not as “bready”.

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To prepare the pancakes, I soak a mixture of buckwheat and whole wheat flour overnight in ½ cup of filtered water and ¼ cup of whey. In the morning, I mix it with ½ cup of almond milk, 1 egg and some cinnamon and nutmeg. These pancakes are good with pumpkin butter, peanut butter, butter and Vermont maple syrup, or even nutella (that is Roberto’s favorite way!).


Make sure to get in your fruits (and veggies)

I always accompany these breakfasts with a bowl of fruit. Generally whatever is in season – watermelon, papaya, cantaloupe, blueberries, orange segments, apple slices, pear slices, peach slices, etc.

These are just some ideas of how to make homemade breakfasts at home that are delicious, fast, easy and full of nutrition, perfect for athletes, or just active people. All you need is a little planning. I have been at battle with breakfast in years, but I think I finally have my bases covered.

What do you like to eat for breakfast that keeps you going?

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Body By Basic Homemade Goodness :)

Recipe: Skoleboller or Norwegian Cardamom and Custard Buns

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As many readers of my blog know, I lived in Norway for a time. I don’t read many blogs where Norwegian culinary achievements are discussed, but I think that is kind of sad, because Norwegian food is very good, and quite varied. There is of course a lot of seafood and a meal wouldn’t be a meal without potatoes. But there are also a lot of lovely fresh tasting meals, and I usually cook up something with Scandinavian flair for Midsummer.

Of course, one of the shining glories of Norwegian fare are the baked goods.

Skoleboller is one of those pastries that you can get at any bakery in Norway – even the grocery store, convenience stores, train and ferry kiosks and of course coffee shops. The name literally means “School Buns” and are a very popular snack for school children, but because of its portability you often take them cross country skiing or on hikes. Sometimes you will just enjoy them with coffee. I ate them a lot when I lived in Norway because I am a huge sucker for custard and coconut, which are the flavors that go into these buns. Oh yeah, and cardamom, which is one of my all time favorite spices – and cardamom is a favorite spice among Norwegian baked goods. Basically Skoleboller are cardamom infused sweet buns (sort of like a Danish, but not exactly) and filled with vanilla custard, topped with coconut and a confectioner’s sugar glaze.

Despite the fact that I enjoyed Skoleboller very often when I lived in Norway, 15 years later, I had almost forgotten about them, that is until I came across the blog Transplanted Baker. *note* Unfortunately, since I wrote this post, Siri’s blog was mistakenly removed from the net :-( She is currently working on a new site that will be up soon!

Now Transplanted Baker is written by Siri who is a native of Minnesota, but lives in Norway with her Norwegian husband and children who cooks up Norwegian favorites as well as developing some of her own original baked goods. This is an awesome blog and I love reading it because it makes me very nostalgic, even though she lives in a different part of Norway than I did, and here are two official forms of written Norwegian…and writes in Nynorsk on her blog, a different official written language than the one I learned when I lived there.

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So onto the Skoleboller. I decided to take a Saturday and make these buns. There are several steps, but please do not let that discourage you – they are all fairly easy to accomplish and believe me, these buns are well worth it. I made the dough for the buns first and while it was rising I made the custard.

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Here is a note on the custard. I am kind of an egg freak – I eat a lot of eggs, and because of this it is important to me that they are of good quality. This means that the hens live a life a hen should live. I am not going to get into it more than that, but the quality of these eggs are clear. I mean look at the color of the yolks here, beautiful, sunny, deep yellow – and the taste is far superior to your run of the mill (quite literally) eggs. So if you are going to make a dish where the cornerstone is eggs, you might as well use the best available to make your dish all the better tasting.

Anyway, back to Skoleboller. Siri had good advice, she said you can make 12 regular sized Skoleboller or 24 smaller, weight watchers sized buns. So I decided to make the latter. I followed her recipe exactly, except that I embellished a little.

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Instead of using a confectioner’s sugar glaze, I decided to use some of the creamed honeys that I had from Honey Ridge Farms.

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I also added some nutella (as well as the custard) to a few, and on some I placed a fresh blackberry in the center before popping them in the oven to bake. All varieties turned out really good and by making 24, I had enough to eat, freeze and give out. So I would suggest making them that way – plus less guilt! :)
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Apricot-Nutella Breakfast Cake

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Lately I have been trying to make breakfast more interesting. We seem to be always on the move lately and so I have been experimenting with portable breakfasts that taste good and use up what I already have on hand. I found a recipe for apricot-almond Dutch babies – a kind of muffin with a soft center. You use a lot of whipped egg whites and it has a wonderfully creamy batter. I decided to turn the muffins into a cake that I would fill with the rest of a jar of apricot preserves and the rest of the Nutella from World Nutella Day. We have given up Nutella for a while because they now have switched to palm kernel oil in their recipe – and we are definitely off of that! If you missed my rant on the subject, click here. But I did make an exception for World Nutella Day.

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So anyway, this little cake was born. The photos didn’t turn out too great, but it was very satisfying for breakfast and lasted about a week, which was perfect. Hope you enjoy it!
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World Nutella Day: Dishing up Silky Nutella Pudding

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Well it is another year, which means another wave of chocolate-hazelnut love to hit the blogosphere with World Nutella Day!

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This is a worldwide food holiday created by Michelle from Bleeding Espresso, Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Shelley from At Home in Rome and something that all lovers of this wonderful spread celebrate in pure joy around the world due to the amazing sugar high this event produces!

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I have to say that even though I have this date marked on the calendar, this year I wasn’t quite prepared. I meant to get the Trader Joe’s brand of Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread when we were visiting relatives up north, but totally spaced it. I wanted to get that brand because in the USA, Nutella now has Palm Oil in it. Bleech. But what is a girl to do? Sometimes sacrifices need to be made in the name of Nutella goodness.

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Lately I have been having a massive craving for pudding. My mom used to make pudding a lot when I was younger – tapioca was one of my favorites, but I also loved her chocolate pudding – with the pudding skin, thank you very much! So I was going to make a lovely combination pudding – chocolate nutella tapioca, but could not find non-instant tapioca at the grocery store. So I decided to ditch the tapioca idea for now, and go for full on silky nutella bliss.

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I recently got an awesome box of spices from my friend Tony, who with his partner Jonathan travel all over the world. On their trips, they collect spices. He realized he had too much, so he sent me a huge box full of delicious spices. One was cinnamon from Thailand, which is much lighter in color than what I usually get, and tastes like heaven. So I decided to garnish the tops of the pudding with a dash of this cinnamon.

This is a good pudding people. Make it. Make double so you can enjoy it longer or give some to your friends in celebration of this fantastic holiday! Happy World Nutella Day to you all!

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World Nutella Day 2008: Nutella-Date Pudding Cupcakes

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The reason we are all gathered here today- at least in my corner of the universe, is because February 5th is
World Nutella Day 2008. This is the day that my buddies, American expats in Italy, Sara, Michelle and Shelley decided we should all sit back, relax and enjoy the Nutella.
This is a day to celebrate this delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread that puts smiles on faces young and old all across the world.

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My first encounter with Nutella was when I lived in Norway, in 1994. Bread is a big thing in Norwegian cuisine. You eat it for breakfast and lunch with a wide variety of meats cheeses and spreads. My favorite was always Brunost (Brown Cheese) – I had it for breakfast and lunch, every single day. Of course, I was a foodie back then, too, I just didn’t know it yet, so I was addicted to going to the grocery stores there and seeing what kinds of products I could find that were unique to Norway. When I came across Nutella and realized you could eat it on toast for breakfast, I thought it was pure genius. I mean who doesn’t love the combination of Chocolate and Hazelnut? But for breakfast!? I thought this was a Norwegian invention and I was forever indebted, until I found out it was an Italian creation! Gotta love Italy. Anyway, I fell in love with the stuff. I discovered how good it went with waffles, another big treat in Norway. Well by that point I was hooked. When a Dutch friend of mine told me they eat chocolate sprinkles on their toast for breakfast, I began thinking we Americans are totally depraved.

Anyway, I digress. You are wondering about these wonderful pudding cakes I made. Well there is a story behind them too- I will try to be quick about it. Remember the Dolce Italiano Event back in November, where I, along with the geniuses behind World Nutella Day made recipes from Gina DePalma’s newest cookbook: Dolce Italiano: Desserts From the Babbo Kitchen? I made this and this.Well we were only allowed to make 2 desserts for that event (as if I was in any capacity with the impending holidays to make MORE than 2), but there was a third I was really wanting to try, her Chocolate and Date Pudding Cakes. I love dates and chocolate and pudding, so for me it was another match made in heaven. When I was thinking of a recipe to make for World Nutella Day, I immediately went to Gina’s cookbook to look for inspiration. I rediscovered these pudding cakes and decided to alter them to fit the bill for this fabulous celebration that I am sure Ms. DePalma would certainly sanction.

So what I did was instead of using the bittersweet chocolate and butter mixture, I decided to use Nutella. And in place of walnuts, I went for Hazelnuts, much more my liking and a much better match for the Nutella.

The verdict? These cakes are succulent. Yes, that is the word.

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As Gina puts it : “The Medjool dates…contribute a deep caramel flavor that holds hands with the chocolate like a smitten teenager.”

Oh boy, does it. That with the warm taste of the hazelnuts underneath they are just pure heaven. I baked mine for 20 minutes and not minute longer. This made the centers perfectly moist and delicious. Bet you can’t have just one!
Happy World Nutella Day to everyone – get out there and get your Nutella on!

World Nutella Day: How you can participate.

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Recipe: Easy Nutella Cake

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This cake recipe will make people think you bought it at a European Bakery. The best thing about is that it is adapted from a store bought cake mix, making it almost effortless!
It is beautiful, fresh, festive and delicious.

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