Salmon from Norway & Traditional Gravlax

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Norwegian Salmon for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Today we're taking a little culinary trip to beautiful Norway! No Norwegian lunch would be complete without one of Norway’s most distinctive dishes, gravlax. The name literally means “Grave-Salmon” and refers to the medieval practice of curing the raw fish by burying it in the sand above the high tide level.

Not only is this a fantastic dish, Norwegian Salmon provides the most amazing ocean-farmed salmon that you have ever tasted!! I absolutely love this salmon, not only because it's delicious but because it is produced in a safe environment with complete traceability.

Even though I'm a busy parent, I'm also a foodie and foodies know that when it comes to finding authentic, superior tasting foods, origin matters. As you know, Norwegians have a passion and love for the sea that began thousands of years ago. I think that because their culture is so tied to our oceans, they know how to responsibly provide the finest, freshest seafood. (In fact, Norway’s seafood industry pioneered the development of responsible ocean salmon-farming in the early 1970’s!).
Coastal Norwegian Village.jpeg (10 documents, 10 total pages)
“The analogy I would give is that farmers in Norway are treating their salmon the way our organic farmers in the U.S. treat their farms,” said Ashley Koff, R.D., M.S., on a Good Morning America Health Segment, May 5, 2011, after also participating in an educational trip to Norway in April of 2011.

The salmon are grown slowly, as nature intended. They spend the first year of their life in hatchery tanks on land until they are strong enough for life in the sea. Then after one year, the salmon are carefully transferred to spacious, protected pens in the ocean. These pens are very large and allow the salmon maximum freedom to grow. Norwegian law even dictates that these pens must be 97.5 percent water to allow maximum comfort for the salmon.Salmon Farm 2.jpg (10 documents, 10 total pages)

At every point of the salmon’s development, they are being monitored closely. Technologically advanced systems help farmers and vegetarians monitor every aspect of their life, including when they are hungry and full. The salmon are fed an all-natural diet, which consists of ½ marine raw materials like fish oil and fishmeal from wild fish and ½ vegetable raw, material, plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Did you know that the recent dietary guidelines from the USDA’s new “My Plate” recommend at least 2 servings of fish a week? The World Health Organization has also recommended increasing seafood intake as a way to improve the general health of the world’s population. These guidelines make incorporating protein-rich fish like salmon in our diets even more important than ever.

However, because of depleting fish populations in oceans worldwide, meeting this requirement could be difficult without farming. But with the help of responsible aquaculture, this goal is attainable. “Norway is one of the biggest exporters of Atlantic salmon. Our seafood is enjoyed in more than 150 countries worldwide,” says Grønbech. “The reason for this success is Norway’s long traditions of harvesting seafood in a sustainable manner to ensure safe, delicious seafood supplies are available for generations of fish lovers to come.”

Today gravlax is cured with sugar, salt and fresh dill to produce a fresh, delicate flavor that is traditionally eaten on open-faced sandwiches or with stewed potatoes. I hope your family loves it as much as mine does! I served up the thin slices on a platter and let people choose to eat it with crusty bread, crackers, or even just straight up with mustard-dill sauce. Norwegian Gravlax

1 approx 2-lb salmon fillet, skin on
3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
1 bunch dill, coarsely chopped

Gravlax sauce:

4 egg yolks
½ tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil or mild olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp white pepper
1 tbsp mustard
2-3 tbsp finely chopped dill

1. Trim salmon fillets. Scrape the skin well and remove all bones (if any).
2. Blend salt, sugar and pepper. Sprinkle half of the salt mixture in the bottom of a roasting pan, then sprinkle half of the dill over and place the fillet in the pan skin side down.
1_ Gravlax Preperation.jpg (10 documents, 10 total pages)

3. Press the remaining salt mixture and dill on the flesh side of the fillet, using light pressure.

4. Put fish in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Turn it every day. Scrape seasoning and dill from the fillets before serving.
5. Add salt to the egg yolks and stir until it reaches a thick consistency. Slowly pour in the oil while whisking quickly until the sauce is a consistency similar to mayonnaise.

6. Stir sugar, vinegar, pepper and mustard into the sauce. Just before use add the dill. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.2_ Gravlax Preperation sauce.jpg (10 documents, 10 total pages)
7. Cut the salmon into thin slices and serve with gravy, stewed potatoes or bread and salad.
Are you as fascinated as I am with the love and care that goes into Norwegian salmon farming? Meet one of the intriguing people that puts all her effort and heart into providing the best salmon possible: Aino Olaisen...
Aino Olaisen.jpeg (10 documents, 10 total pages)
Growing up in Lovund, an island on Norway’s ragged coast dotted with steep mountains rising from the Norwegian sea, Aino Olaisen’s childhood memories are deeply connected to the seafaring traditions that continue to sustain this small fishing village of just 423 residents.

Now the owner of Nova Sea AS, a 35-year-old salmon farming company started by her father Steinar in 1972, Aino takes great pride in carrying on her family’s business and devotion to providing the freshest salmon available through the basic principles of integrity, honesty and unsurpassed quality. In fact, the farmers in Lovund provide more than 425 million meals every year for the global salmon market directly from their cold, clear coastal waters.

Describing her company as a high-technology global business that’s highly regulated for traceability and safety, Aino says the business provides a simple way of living and harvesting from the ocean that makes food production a pleasure shared by everyone in this vital Norwegian industry.

“It’s amazing to be able to every day play an important part in people’s lives,” explains Aino. “Food is such a basic, simple part of people’s survival but at the same time, it’s indispensable. That’s why we take so much pride in providing the highest quality salmon to add taste and enjoyment to the lives of the people who eat it.”

Since the first batch of 1,200 juvenile salmon, or smolt, were shipped in plastic bags to Lovund to start farming in the early 1970’s, Aino watched her father struggle to establish salmon farming as a means to reverse the trend of depopulation and depression in Lovund’s local trade and industry at that time.

After years of research, experiments and round-the-clock work to ensure the salmon’s survival, the first salmon farms began growing. Since then, Lovund has flourished as a natural source of fresh salmon and cod, slowly grown as nature intended in the cold, clear Norwegian waters.

Born just a few years after the company was started, food production has been a natural and important part of Aino’s life ever since. She started contributing to the family business at an early age, spending her summer vacations working on the farm. At age 16, Aino left Lovund to continue her education and later attended the Norwegian College of Fishery Science in Tromso. After 15 years of study and travel in Denmark, Ecuador and France, Aino returned home to start a family and continue with the business in the hopes of passing down these traditions to her own family.

When asked why Americans should choose Norwegian salmon, Aino says simply, “Norway has a long history of harvesting from the ocean and the Norwegian culture is strongly connected to the sea. Our salmon is healthy, delicious and produced in safe environments with complete traceability. Plus, Norwegian salmon contains important marine proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that are so important for the human body. That’s why Norwegians are so healthy.”

In fact, salmon is a regular part of her family’s diet, according to Aino. “We eat salmon for dinner at least once a week, and we often enjoy smoked salmon for breakfast and lunch,” she says. “My favorite way to serve it is to oven bake a salmon fillet in aluminum foil after sprinkling it with soy sauce, herbs, fresh chili, fresh ginger and a few drops of freshly squeezed lime. My family loves it served with fresh vegetables.”

Today, Norway is one of the world’s largest suppliers of seafood, including wild and farmed fish, with more than 27 million meals including Norwegian Seafood consumed worldwide every day. Ocean-farmed Norwegian salmon is available fresh year-round, is easy to prepare and is a good investment in your family’s health. For more information about ocean-farmed salmon from Norway, visit salmon from Norway. It's a possibility that I might get to go to Norway this spring and I would like nothing better than seeing firsthand their love and dedication to responsible fishing. I will definitely bring you on the adventure (virtually:)) if it happens!
This sponsored post is written by myself on behalf of Norwegian Salmonfor SocialSpark. All opinions, as always, are my own.
Visit Sponsor's Site


Figgy Pudding

You can find tons of great Holiday Treat ideas here and on my Christmas Pinterest board...
Soooo, I thought for the last few weeks of this month I'd feature some traditional Holiday Foods from around the world!
Last week, Little C's teacher mentioned to me that she's like the class to try Figgy Pudding. My first thought was "Rum? Figs? Suet? Spices? Hours of baking?! This NOT a kid-friendly recipe!" However, we put together our own from many of the recipes out there and I sent it off to school...Little C came home happily reporting that the class LOVED it and she wondered if there was any more at home....!
So, here's our "kid-friendly" Figgy Pudding recipe. If your kids haven't tried Figgy Pudding yet, make a batch together, download Bing Crosby's version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and enjoy!

Figgy Pudding
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dried figs
1/2 cup dried currants (can substitute dates)

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees F. Whip butter until creamy then add molasses and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add buttermilk and mix well. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. Mix well. Add flour and mix well. Remove any stems from figs and chop figs and currants into fine pieces (I used the food processor!). Add figs and currants to batter mixture.
Bake in ramekins (25 minutes at 325 degrees), mini muffin tins (15 minutes at 325 degrees), or a large tube pan (1 hour at 325 degrees). You will know the cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with Ginger-Rum Whipped Cream (optional).

NOTE: We found that this actually tasted better the second day! The flavors had some time to combine/mellow and the cake had a nice texture.

Ginger-Rum Whipped Cream
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
4 Tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped

Beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in rum extract and ginger. Serve on top of Figgy Puddings.
A few fun facts: Figgy Pudding dates back to the 15th century but was most popular during the 1800s. It's traditionally made with suet (an animal fat found near their kidneys) but butter works for us. :) Steaming was the traditional way of cooking and would take 3-4 hours!


Cookie Swap Ideas!

It’s the Holiday season and time for COOKIES!
Hosting a Cookie Exchange can be stressful but no need to worry...I'm sharing my top ten tips and tricks to make sure your event is fabulous and fun for everyone. Plus, these ideas will help you “multi-task” by earning Box Tops for Education for your school!
1) Grab Ziploc® Brand Snap ‘n Seal Containers so you have plenty on hand to pack up cookies. They make it so easy with all the cute Holiday prints available! You can even stack them in a basket for a fun centerpiece and easy packaging.

2) If you have a lot of people participating, have Ziploc® Brand Freezer Bags on hand so guests can freeze their cookies for later use during the Holidays.

3) Print out recipe cards and place them on the table with festive pens so people can swap their favorite recipes.

4) Grab a package of Avery® Adhesive Name Badges. You can use them as name tags if your guests don’t know each other AND on your packages as easy cookie labels.

5) For easy Winter Scene cookies, dip Bugles® snacks in green candy melts and set aside to harden. Frost sugar cookies with Betty Crocker® White Frosting (snow) and add a few Bugles (trees) along with your favorite festive sprinkles.

6) Start with Betty Crocker® Sugar Cookie Mix. Make the dough as directed then use food coloring to tint one half red and one half green (you can also leave some of the dough white if desired). Roll out each into a rectangle, place on top of each other and roll into a log. Slice and bake for beautiful Christmas Pinwheel cookies!
7) Skip the expensive and hard-to-find sprinkles! Bake Christmas Tree-shaped cookies and decorate with Betty Crocker® Frosting and Trix® Cereal “ornaments”. (The leftover cereal can be used to feed your family breakfast the day of your cookie swap for a stress-free day!)

8) If you want to serve savory snacks along with cookies to your guests, make up a veggie tray and grab some packages of Chex Mix® Snack Mix. Everyone can munch and chat while exchanging cookies and recipes.

9) Don’t forget the music! Download some of your favorite Holiday songs and have them playing in the background for a festive touch to your party.

10) To help earn Box Tops for your kids’ schools and for some extra fun, bake a few dozen extra cookies. Let everyone take an extra cookie for each Box Top they bring to the party!

Do you have a cookie swap tip or a great cookie recipe to share?
If so, leave it in the comments!

Holiday Playlist

My grandmother hasn't been doing well...to cheer her up, I rounded up a few of my musical friends and made an album of Holiday songs fo...