Date Bars

Grandma Olson used to make these a hundred years or so ago.  I loved them as a little girl.  I didn’t know that dates were an acquired taste.  I just thought if Grandma made them, they must be good.  And I was right.  Well, a caveat.  That didn’t hold true for lutefisk however.  Some things just never improve no matter who made them.

These are a very soft bar cookie.  The filling is cooked before baking, but remains tender.  I don’t find them very sweet, but I wouldn’t add any extra sugar or sweetener of any kind.  Dates are amazingly sweet if you allow them to filter through your taste buds.  I usually add a bit more salt than called for, which adds to the illusion of sweetness.  I like these a lot and hope you will enjoy them as well.

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Mix together thoroughly:

3/4 cup soft shortening (part butter)

1 cup brown sugar

Sift together and stir in:

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

Stir in:  1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Mix thoroughly. Place one-half of this crumb mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.  Press and flatten with hands to cover bottom of pan. Spread with cooled filling (see below).  Cover with remaining crumb mixture, patting lightly.  Bake until lightly browned, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.  While warm, cut into bars and remove from pan.


Mix together in saucepan:

3 cups cut-up dates

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 10 minutes).  Cool.

and remember this conversation between Mrs. Darling and Michael, in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: 

There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before ones self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.”

Where did he put them?”

“He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”

I was 11 when I first read this book up at Aunty Kay’s cabin at Warm Beach.  It had an amazing impact on me then and I treasure the memories to this day.  I don’t know if I still feel the same way about everything.  Time to read it again.  Big kiss, Lynn

Grandma Olson’s Bread Pudding

I do love bread pudding.  I know I’m constantly telling you how much I love sweets, but ultimately I’m not sure it’s true.  I love “sweetish”.  Not Swedish, but marginally sweet.  This is not a sweet dessert.  It’s more of a custard and you know how we Norwegians love custard.  I think my mom’s favorite pie was custard.  I’m not going that far, but I do love a good custard.

This is Grandma Olson’s bread pudding.  As you can see, it is totally unfancy.  With basically 6 ingredients, you can make this with ingredients on-hand.  I doubt if Grandma specifically called for an Italian boule, but it’s the closest thing I could find to the bread she would use.

The other thing you’ll notice is the lack of a sauce.  Grandma never made a sauce for the bread pudding when she served it.  So often you will see vanilla or rum sauce to serve alongside the pudding, but Grandma always served it with whip cream and a sprinkling of sugar.  Not whipped cream, but straight out of the milk jug cream.  She might froth is up with a fork, but truly this is a simple dessert.

3 cups cubed Italian boule, allowed to stale overnight in a bowl

2 cups granulated sugar

5 beaten eggs

2 cups whole milk or half and half

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins soaked in bourbon for 10 minutes or so

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Combine the sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half in a bowl.  Pour over the cubed bread and let it sit for 10 minutes, so the bread can absorb the liquid.  Add the raisins.

Pour into the greased 8 x 8 inch pan.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set.

There’s not much to this recipe.  I’ve even fancied it up a bit from the way Grandma did it.  I do not remember her soaking the raisins.  I’d eat it right after it comes out of the oven.  You’ll like it; I promise.

*  from the Recipe Box:

A boule is basically a round, fairly dense loaf of white bread.  It is much thicker than a French loaf or baguette.

You’re on your own if you want a sauce, but they are all over the Internet.

and remember:  Tell the truth or someone will tell it for you.  Big kiss, Lynn

Rhubarb Cobbler

You are in for a treat if you make Grandma Olson’s Rhubarb Cobbler.  If you love the Rhubarb Slump at Anthony’s, this is better.  I know what you’re thinking.  You think I’m over doing it on the bragging, but I’m not.

I’ve been making this recipe for years and years.  It’s not cobbler like you are expecting.  There are no biscuits on top, no crumbly topping.  This is a layer of flavorful rhubarb topped with a layer of moist cake.  It is not incredibly sweet.  See, here I go again with my minimally sweet desserts.  This is refreshing and tastes of spring.  And the color, wow, the color.

The cake gets crunchy edges, my favorite part.  You are in control of the quantity of the rhubarb.  If you want the ratio of fruit to cake different, you go for it.  The rhubarb does cook down considerably so keep that in mind.  It will not get juicy.  Rhubarb doesn’t have the moisture in it you might be expecting.

According to the Hunka-hunka, this tastes absolutely perfect with a scoop of ice cream on it and he could eat the whole pan, not that I would let him.  Enjoy.

Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish 2 inches deep with rhubarb, cut into approximately 1 inch slices.  Sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the rhubarb.  Cover with the batter.


1 cup sugar

½ cup softened butter

1 egg

¾ cup milk

1 ¾ cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg.  Add the milk alternately with the flour and baking powder.  Spread over rhubarb (it’s very thick) and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Best rhubarb recipe ever, even better than Anthony’s Slump!  Buttery, cake-like layer on top instead of the typical crispy cobbler topping.

This was Grandma Olson’s recipe.

Yes, I can eat the whole pan.

I don’t care how often you try and tell me it’s a vegetable,  I will always think of it as a fruit.  So there.

I like having a pan ready to go in the freezer when you can’t get rhubarb to save your soul, say for Thanksgiving.  My Hero!

Do not ever, I repeat never ever, put strawberries with the rhubarb.  I will hurt you!

and remember what Ferris Bueller said:  Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.  Big kiss, Lynn

The Tale of 2 Cranberry Relishes

This is a tale of woe as well as a cranberry tale.  I used to own my Grandma Olson’s meat grinder.  When my brother and I were little, it was the outboard motor on the end of my bed or whatever adventure we were playing that day.  It was just the perfect implement for imagination.  Every holiday it became a kitchen tool.  Mom would let us take turns grinding the cranberries.  Cranberries went in the top, juice went out the bottom and ground cranberries came out the front.  This is a close likeness, but not quite.

After owning it for years and years, it was misplaced some where between our old house and our new house.  I’m verklempt.  Nothing works quite as well.  This year, I bought a new food processor thinking that might do the trick, but no.  Since there is no bottom drainage, the relish stays too juicy.  I also like my relish a little coarser and that is so hard to control with a machine.  This is how my grandma and mom made relish:

  • Rinse and sort 1 or 2 bags of fresh cranberries
  • Grind to a pickle relish consistency
  • Grind 1 or 2 oranges depending on size to a matching consistency
  • Grind a tart apple if available, like a Jonathan
  • Combine in a bowl
  • Add sugar to taste

I can’t even see the orange pieces due to the lack of coarseness in my processed relish.  Sigh.  Even this way, it is still so much fresher tasting than canned.  But, not everyone likes cranberries.  I know, WTF!  So for them, let’s address canned sauce.  If you were told to bring cranberry sauce to the party and didn’t want the mess, I have a solution for you.  Open your can of sauce, place it in a bowl, get out your microplaner, wash off an orange, grate the zest of that orange into the sauce and add a squeeze or 2 of orange juice.  You will not believe it’s not fresh.  Magic!  People will ask for your recipe and you will modestly look away and say it’s an old family recipe and you aren’t allowed to share it.  Everyone is happy and you are a hero.

and remember:  Just because today might be a terrible day does not mean tomorrow won’t be the best day of your like.  You just gotta get there.  Big kiss, Lynn

Lefse and the Norwegian love of white food

This is the very first entry of my very first blog.  I’ve been writing in journals forever.  They are a mixture of my daily routine, a monthly news round-up, the excitement of Christmas, trip plans and the occasional recipe.  I decided the recipes needed to be released and the perfect one to start with was lefse.  It brings us together and keeps us family.  I do have a theory about white food and Norwegians.  I think it’s the snow.  We love potatoes, bread, almond paste, pickled herring (well, that’s not true of us all), and on, and on.  Remind me soon and I’ll tell you the story of getting a bowl of rommegrot for my mom when she was sick.  So the recipe for lefse……

Once a year, the cousins get together at Paul and Linda’s house to make lefse.  We aim for the last Saturday of October.  It’s an incredible amount of work made fun by the company, the champagne and the nibbles.  Paul, Linda, Greg and I get together on the Thursday night before to cook and rice the potatoes.  We usually do about 40 pounds.  The potatoes need to be thoroughly cooled before we can proceed.  We start the process at 10 a.m.  Saturday morning.  Everyone brings a bottle of champagne, a nibble and an apron.  We roll until the potatoes are gone, usually making about 12 dozen pieces.  Everyone takes lefse home, but I don’t think anyone enjoys eating it more than Hillary.

Everyone must pass the lefse test before marrying into the family.

Lefse Recipe

6 cups riced potatoes

1 ¼ cups flour

1/3 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Place the riced potatoes into a large bowl.  Thoroughly rub the dry ingredients into the potatoes. Add the milk.  Combine.  Place dough on a well-floured pastry cloth and form into a log.  Cut into 16 slices.  Roll out into an approximately 12 to 14 inch circle.  Bake on lefse grill heated to max.  Flip once.  Cool between several layers of towels to allow it to cool as slowly as possible and avoid crisping up.  As it cools, fold in fourths and overlap edges to keep soft.  Freezes well with waxed paper between each slice.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Typically, we boil 30 to 40 pounds of potatoes.  A few years ago I had an epiphany and decided to try baking them to keep them dryer and fluffier.  Eureka!  It worked like a dream.  Millions of Norwegians are rolling in their graves.  We also quit ricing and started using the Kitchen Aid shredder.  Easy squeezy.  As a purist, I prefer the ricer but this gets the job done so fast.  Paul, Linda, Greg and I do potatoes on a Thursday so they are well chilled by Saturday, Lefse Day.

The key to properly made lefse lies in tradition.  You must have lots of Champagne, hors d’ouevres, and your favorite cousins to help.

One year, a friend of Chris’ asked to participate.  We don’t normally allow outsiders, but she was a fun friend.  We told her the rules:  bring Champagne, an apron and an hors d’ouevre and that’s all.  She arrives wearing this beautiful long, red wool coat and we’re all going WTF!  She looks around, asks if there are any guys here and then drops her coat.  All she’s wearing is an apron and she’s holding a bottle of Champagne.  What a hoot!  The amount of Champagne consumed is directly related to the quality of the lefse.  40 pounds of potatoes makes approximately 12 dozen pieces of lefse.

And remember:  From quiet homes and first beginnings out to undiscovered ends, there’s nothing worth the wear of winning but laughter and the love of friends.  Big Kiss, Lynn