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Prairie Fare: Making Lefse Spurs Memories

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
My 11-year-old daughter quickly became a champion lefse flipper, and my two other kids were champion lefse eaters from the start.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Uff da!” I caught myself saying as I attempted to roll a mixture of flour, milk, margarine and mashed potatoes into paper-thin sheets.

I even sound like a Norwegian, I thought to myself.

Getting the hang of this process is going to take me awhile, I thought as I tore yet another lefse sheet in half and transferred it to the flat-topped grill.

I was making lefse for the first time, using the grill and rolling pin that had been my mother’s. Being primarily of Norwegian descent and enjoying lefse every Thanksgiving and Christmas since childhood, I’m amazed I didn’t learn how to make it.

I certainly ate my share of the tender tortillalike bread spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar and rolled into neat little bundles. I especially liked lefse warm from the grill with the butter melting and the sugar forming a sweet glaze.

Recently our friends and their two daughters came over to teach us how to make lefse. Ironically, I was the only Norwegian in the kitchen most of the day. My Scandinavian relatives would have been amused that people of German descent were teaching a Norwegian how to make lefse.

Their young daughters were more adept at rolling sheets of lefse than I. However, eventually I progressed from making a lefse the size of a pancake to one the size of a large plate.

My 11-year-old daughter quickly became a champion lefse flipper, and my two other kids were champion lefse eaters from the start. I was a little tired by the time we reached the bottoms of the bowls filled with 20 pounds of the mashed potato mixture. We all had enough lefse in our freezers for the holidays.

“This is worth its weight in gold,” my friend announced as he folded lefse and sealed freezer bags.

Whether you’re making lefse, cookies or another family favorite, making heritage foods often is part of holiday preparations. Sometimes I am asked about how to make changes to holiday recipes to make them “healthier.”

Yes, you can make most recipes a little healthier, but sometimes leaving recipes “as is” is the right thing to do. At this time of year, I encourage people to follow their heritage recipes closely, so the food tastes like the food they remember.

Any time you are thinking about giving your recipes a “makeover,” ask yourself some questions. Is the recipe high in fat, cholesterol, sugar or salt? For example, if the recipe serves 12 and has two eggs, the amount of cholesterol per serving is going to be low.

Do you make the food often? Is this a weekly menu staple or a once-a-year treat? If you are enjoying a special pie or cookies written on a faded recipe in your grandmother’s handwriting, enjoy it as is.

Do you eat a lot of the food? Instead of modifying the recipe, consider scaling down the amount that you make. Try making half a batch, or have a smaller piece and savor the flavor.

For everyday foods, simple swaps, such as substituting half of the white flour with whole-wheat flour, can make a difference nutritionally. You can substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour. However, when completely substituting whole-wheat flour for white flour, use 7/8 cup of whole-wheat flour for every 1 cup of white flour. In quick breads, cookies and fruit crisps, often you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-fourth.

For more information about recipe modification, visit the NDSU Extension Service Web site for “Now Serving: Recipe Makeovers!” (FN-1447) available with the “Now Serving” series of publications at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/now-serving.html.

Is lefse part of your heritage? Keep the tradition alive. Here’s the recipe we used to make our lefse.

Old Fashioned Lefse

6 c. mashed or riced potatoes (about 10 pounds of raw potatoes)

Peel and cook potatoes and mash, whip with a mixer or use a ricer.

Mix with:

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. melted margarine

1/2 c. evaporated milk

1 tsp. sugar

Cool mixture in refrigerator overnight. The next morning, or just before making lefse, add about 1 1/2 cups of flour to the cooled potato mixture. Roll into balls and put on a jelly roll pan. Start with small balls (the size of a golf ball) to practice rolling. Place in the refrigerator. Heat the lefse grill. Take out two or three balls to roll (only take out what you can roll in a short time). Flour your rolling board well. Roll and turn over pieces halfway through. Sprinkle flour on top and continue to roll. Use a lefse stick to transfer the lefse sheet to the grill and to turn the lefse. Place fried lefse between dampened towels until cool. Flip piles of lefse occasionally. Fold cooled lefse and place in zip-close freezer bags. Refrigerate or freeze.

A serving of lefse (about 1.5 ounces) has about 75 calories and 3 grams of fat, which is similar to the nutrition profile of a slice of bread. 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.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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