Sunday, May 17, 2015

How an Arizona Transplant Figured Out Lefse-Making

Lefse-making was always a big deal in my house when I was growing up. My mom would invite a houseful of relatives over, and the kids would run wild as the adults riced twenty pounds of potatoes and made hundreds of batches of lefse. Sometimes we'd have two or three lefse grills going at once. As the kids got older, we were allowed to help rice the potatoes. Then, we were promoted to moving and turning the lefse, which was a BIG DEAL and took a lot of practice to get right.

After I moved to Arizona, I missed lefse so much. It's not something you can buy locally (and really, once you've been raised on the homemade stuff, the store-bought lefse is just no comparison). My mom would FedEx me some packages from time to time, but that was a tricky proposition given how perishable it is. She'd have to pay to overnight it, and that isn't cheap.

Last December, I read this NPR article about lefse, and it stirred up my longing all over again, and I bemoaned my lefse-less state on Facebook.

"Why don't you just make it yourself?" a friend asked me.

"I can't!" I replied. "I don't have a lefse stick or a lefse grill, not to mention a pastry board or a corrugated rolling pin."

But I was suddenly intrigued. Could I make it work, even without the "proper" equipment? Maybe... just maybe. I asked my mom for her lefse recipe and a few tips, and read a few pages on I took inventory of my kitchen utensils and made one purchase -- a decent potato-ricer (more on that below).

One evening, shortly after Christmas, I gave it a shot.

And it worked! I couldn't believe it!


It tasted as just as good as it looked, too.
Now you, too, can share in the joy of Norwegian-American cookery, because I'm detailing my process here, and explaining what substitutions I had to make in lieu of the proper equipment.

Basic Lefse
Recipe from my Great-Grandma Hazel Bjertness

3 cups russet potatoes (4-6 medium/large)
6 tbls shortening (I use vegetable oil)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus extra, to be used while rolling)
2 tbls sugar

Here is some of the equipment you'll need: a potato ricer, a rolling pin, a pastry board or similar surface, a lefse grill or pancake griddle, and a long, thin stick to use to move and turn the lefse. A Kitchen-Aid mixer is also very helpful to have.

Peel potatoes and cut them into equal-sized chunks.

Place potatoes into a large pot of salted water and boil until they are tender (usually about 20-25 minutes).

Drain potatoes into a large colander. (Drain them well -- you don't want any excess water hanging around; that will make your potatoes too mushy.)

Now you get to rice your potatoes. For this step, a potato ricer is essential. I bought this one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond:

I like that it has three settings, but no removable disks (because I tend to easily misplace loose parts). Plus it's sturdy and will last a long time. I used one of those 20% off coupons I always get in the mail so price-wise it wasn't too bad.

Now, the ricing. Get a fairly large bowl to hold the riced potatoes in -- I use the bowl from my Kitchen-Aid mixer, since it's what I use to mix the dough after this step.

I use the "fine" setting on my ricer, which is the smallest one (the other two settings are "medium," and "coarse"), but if you only have a one-setting potato ricer, that should work too.

Ricing is fairly straightforward -- point the bottom of the ricer towards your bowl, use tongs to put a couple of chunks of potato into the main barrel and (slowly! hot potato spatter can hurt!) squeeze the handles together with both hands.

According to my mother, Grandma Hazel always said to "rice 'em twice." So that's what I do too -- when all the potatoes have been riced, I do it all over again.

Once the potatoes are riced (twice!) add the 6 tablespoons of shortening. As stated, I use vegetable oil because that's what my mother told me to use. I've seen other recipes that use butter or Crisco solid shortening, and if you really want to go for the unhealthy factor, I imagine lard would work too.

Mix well (I use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer), making sure the potatoes and shortening are thoroughly combined.

Now you have to wait until the potatoes are completely cooled. If you have the time, you can leave the bowl sitting out at room temperature for a few hours, covered with a dishtowel. Or, you can use the fridge or freezer (just make sure you stir the dough every half hour or so to ensure even cooling).

Once the potato mixture is completely cool, add the salt, sugar, and flour. Knead well (I use the dough hook on my Kitchen-Aid mixer). Add more flour if necessary - you want a slightly sticky dough, but not too sticky.

Now is a good time to preheat your grill to 500 degrees. My mother has a special Bethany Lefse Grill (as an aside: my little sister's name is Bethany, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence... then again, my mother really likes making lefse).

However, these fancy lefse grills run for about $100 a pop, so... needless to say, I don't have one. Instead, I use a pancake griddle - this one - which was a gift from my father-in-law:

A good-sized pancake griddle is a must for large-family cooking.

I have to be careful not to make the lefse too big to fit the griddle, but as long as I keep the rounds small enough, it does the job.

Next, you get to make lefse balls! 

Literally, flour your hands well and roll the dough into balls. Make sure your lefse balls are nice and smooth, no cracks, because cracks can cause problems when you roll them out. Size depends on how big you want your lefse rounds to be. The bigger the ball, the bigger the round. I make mine about the size of the bulb on those nose suckers they give you at the hospital whenever you have a baby (and then you never use them again because you can never find one of the darn things, and you just buy a NoseFrida instead because it works so much better).


Put your lefse rounds on a glass or ceramic plate or pan. Now you're ready to roll them out. My mother always used a special pastry board with a cloth cover - this one, in fact:

See how it has markings for different sizes of lefse or pie crust or whatever? Fancy.
but sadly I don't have one of those. I used my large Pampered Chef pizza stone instead (except mine doesn't have handles, because I got it as a wedding gift 13 years ago). I tied a dishcloth over it and doused it liberally with flour.

My mother also used a corrugated rolling pin with a cloth cover, but again, I don't have one. I just use a regular wooden rolling pin.

Rub flour allllllllllll over your rolling pin. (If using a corrugated pin, make sure flour gets into all the grooves.) Plop a lefse ball into the middle of your well-floured surface, flatten it slightly with your palm, like you're shaping a hamburger patty, and roll away. If you've ever rolled out a pie crust, you'll want to roll it like that -- start in the middle and work your way out, working your dough into a nice, thin, round circle.

If you've never rolled out a pie crust and/or you need to see an example, start at 13:23 of this video (the entire video is worth watching if you're a more visual learner).

Now comes the tricky part. You need to transfer this paper-thin lefse round onto the griddle.

The absolute best tool to use is a lefse stick:

But (big surprise!) I don't have one. So, I used a Pampered Chef frosting spreader:

Not quite the same but it worked surprisingly well. It would have been easier if it were longer, but I had to make my lefse rounds on the small side anyway, owing to the size of my grill, so I made it work.

Slowly and carefully slip the end of your stick or spreader under bottom part of the lefse (i.e., the side closest to you), and s l o w l y slide it forward until it reaches the other end. If you rip a hole in your lefse, stop and re-roll. If you made it to the other side with no rips, lift the stick/spreader (your lefse will be dangling from it, with each side hanging down and the middle supported on the stick) and transfer the lefse to the grill. Lay it down flat and slip the stick/spreader out. Use your fingertips (quickly, because it's hot!) to straighten or smooth the lefse on the grill surface.

This is one of the hardest parts, and it can take a lot of practice. I really recommend watching the video above, because it helps to actually see someone do it.

You cook the lefse on one side for about 30-45 seconds. Watch for bubbles in the dough, and peek under the edge to see if brown spots have formed. 

If so, flip it over using the same method you used to transfer it to the grill. The second side will cook faster. Lift the lefse off once it's done and transfer it to a cooling rack. Per the advice of my mother, I used wax paper between the layers and covered the cooling rounds with a dishtowel so they didn't try out. You can also buy lefse cozies, and I imagine tortilla warmers might work as well, although I've never tried this.

Wipe off any excess flour from the griddle and start the whole process over again.

Once your lefse rounds have cooled, store them in Ziploc freezer bags and keep refrigerated, or frozen if you aren't going to eat them right away. (But be sure to eat a few fresh off the griddle; they're best that way!)

Warm in the microwave for 15 seconds prior to eating, if they've been refrigerated. I like mine spread with butter, sprinkled with white sugar, and rolled up. My grandfather used to eat his with butter only, and they can be eaten with no topping at all. I've even heard of some who wrap it around meatballs.

If you've read this far, kudos to you! Hope you enjoyed my long-winded tutorial. Happy Syttende Mai!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Why I Love My OB

I had my first prenatal visit this morning, and I got a sneak peek at "Sprout"! S/he was measuring spot on and had a beautiful heartbeat (although I forgot to ask what the heart rate was). 

It's a picture-of-a-picture since I'm too lazy to go upstairs and use the scanner.

I saw my OB for this particular visit (there are also two certified nurse-midwives in his practice, and I see all of them for visits depending on who has an opening). As per usual, he was awesome.

1. He was very congratulatory, and made no derogatory references to the fact that this was baby #6 (not that I'd expected him to, but I've heard horror stories from other women with other OBs). He is neither Catholic nor NFP-only.

2. He told me the baby was measuring 8 weeks, 2 days. I said, "Yes, that corresponds exactly to what's on my NFP chart." His response? "Oh, that's right, you're very knowledgeable about your fertility. That's great." 

3. He mentioned that by his calculations the due date was actually 12/13, not 12/12. I said I'd like to keep it at 12/12, and he asked why. I told him it was because that December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn. His response? "Well, we can't go against the saints. December 12 it is." 

4. We talked a bit about the fact that I'm technically advanced maternal age now, since I'll be turning 35 during this pregnancy (at around 34 weeks, for crying out loud). We got on the topic of how some people look older or younger than the really are, and he said, "If I didn't know you, I'd guess you were around 26." 

5. I mentioned my concerns about Zofran possibly causing Peter's clubfoot, and he said that he's much more hesitant about prescribing it now, and will recommend Diclegis (which I'm currently taking) first. 

6. He asked about Peter's treatment and prognosis, and we talked a bit about the chances of this baby having clubfoot too. He'd actually read up on it prior to our appointment, and knew that the risk of this baby having clubfoot was only 4%

7. He didn't blink an eye when I declined the NT scan, but mentioned that he'd be sending me directly for a Level II ultrasound this time around, as opposed to the standard anatomy scan, due to the AMA factor as well as Peter's diagnosis (both factors deem it "medically necessary"). That's fine with me as it'll make that much easier to see if this baby has clubfoot or not. 

I love my OB! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Visit My New Blog!

Today is the launch of my new blog,! To celebrate, I'm doing a giveaway of a book about St. Gianna!

Check it out!

St. Gianna, pray for us!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why I've Been Quiet Lately

It's not just the typical busy life of working full time plus five kids... it's not just the post-vacation scrambling to catch up... it's not even working on my new blog, set to launch on Tuesday (feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla!).

Nope, there's another reason entirely that blogging has had to take a backseat...

Yes, that's right... as those of you who are my FB friends already know, Wahlund Baby #6 is due December 12, 2015. We haven't come up with a nickname for him/her yet. (I suggested Lupe or Guadalupe, since Baby is due on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but Collin nixed it.) 

I've been struggling with pregnancy-induced nausea for the past several weeks (I refuse to call it "morning sickness" because for me it's 24/7), especially since I won't take Zofran this time around. 

Last week was really bad... I threw up twice (once at work) and felt horrible the rest of the time. I guess that's better than non-stop vomiting and a trip to the ER (as experienced with pregnancies #1 and #3), but still, it was pretty hard to function. I decided to try several different solutions in hopes that something would help. 

Although I still have some bad days, I think I mostly have a handle on it. Part of me is scared that it means imminent miscarriage, but it could also be the changes I've made. In hopes that it is the latter and not the former, here is what I've done:
  1. My doctor gave me a perscription for Diclegis (unisom + vitamin b6), which is the only category A drug that is FDA-approved for pregnancy nausea, and I've been taking two at bedtime for the last two weeks.
  2. I'm getting more magnesium. I tried soaking in a tub of warm water + 2 cups Epsom salts (aka magnesium sulfate) for over 45 minutes, and the next day I felt so much better. I picked up some magnesium supplements in pill form and am taking those every evening before bed (and soaking in the tub whenever I can, too!).
  3. I have started following this diet, as recommended by Jen Fulwiler: no processed food, no sugar, no grains or vegetable oils. It's been a struggle but I'm mostly sticking with it. 

I don't know what it is that is working, but SOMETHING is. I can manage the nausea without Zofran, which I wasn't sure would be possible. Praise God.

My first prenatal appointment is May 4. Please join me in praying that the ultrasound will show a living, thriving baby!

Friday, March 27, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday - March 27, 2015

Whew, what a busy month it's been! I can't believe Lent is almost over.

As I mentioned in my QT two weeks ago, we decided to spend a few days in California during the kids' (and Collin's) spring break. The reason we went to California? Well, we had to see a mouse about a car.

Yes, that's right, we went to DISNEYLAND! Collin was able to get some discounted two-day Park Hopper tickets through his job, and I sold some stock shares that had vested last November (I get an annual stock award from my company if we meet certain goals during the year). We decided to use half of the proceeds of the sale for a fun family vacation.

Our last trip was three years ago, while I was pregnant with Gabriel, so there were a lot of new rides to experience and new sights to see. The remodeled California Adventure park is beautiful, and Cars Land was fantastic! As you can see above, we very much enjoyed the Radiator Springs Racers ride. I finally was able to go on the revamped Star Tours ride, and it was fabulous.

Elanor was chosen for the Jedi Training Academy, and William was chosen by Thor to try and heft Mjölnir (they had a "Meet the Avengers" attraction inside Innoventions). The pictures are fantastic! We're going to order a digital CD, and I'll probably share the photos on Facebook this weekend. (One more week of no Facebook... I'll be honest, I can't wait to get back on.)

Once we returned from Disneyland, we had one day at home to do laundry and some yardwork, and the next day we went to my aunt and uncle's new home outside of Maricopa, AZ. We stayed there until Saturday evening. My mother and stepfather had flown in the previous day, and my cousin Kelsey was there too, along with some friends of my aunt's. Their ranch has several horses and Elly was in the seventh heaven of delight.

Peter met his stepgrandpa Rod for the first time. They hit it off.


This weekend my grandmother Violet flies into town for her annual visit, and I'm excited to see her again. Busy busy!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!

Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday - March 6, 2015

Thanks to Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for hosting!

1. We had a joint birthday celebration/extended family dinner for William and Violet last Saturday at Golden Corral (their choice of venue; they both love the chocolate fountain), so last night we celebrated Violet's birthday with a dinner of hamburgers with cake for dessert. Violet requested "an Elsa cake" and the local Safeway was able to oblige:

As I mentioned yesterday, our birthday season is finally over. We're almost entirely in odd number territory now; the kids are 10, 7, 5, 3, and 1. Ellie is the "even" man out (instead of the odd man out, haha). 

2. The rest of our month is crazy busy. Tomorrow, Kara, our friend Mary, and I are going to see (and hear!) Abby Johnson speak, and we'll probably do lunch afterwards. I've met Abby before and can't wait to see her again and hear what she has to say. I may try to get another autograph. :) 

3. The kids have spring break March 16-20 (as does Collin - I love that he gets spring break off too, now that he works for a school district! Luckily, his spring break coincided with the kids'). I took the week off of work. We're going to California for a few days (we haven't been there for three years), and the day after we get back my mother and stepfather are flying down. My aunt Sheri (my mother's older sister) and her husband recently purchased a ranch near Maricopa, AZ and we're all going to spend a few days out there. 

4. My grandma Violet flies in for her annual visit the weekend after that, on March 29. I was afraid her health wouldn't allow her to come this year, but she says she's feeling better and wants to come. 

And then it's Holy Week! Whew! 

5. My latest post for Catholic Stand is up: There Is No Pope in Islam

6. Please pray for a special intention! St. Francis de Sales, pray for us. St. Joseph the worker, pray for us. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

7. Did you hear the wonderful news?? Kara and her family have committed to adopting baby Truman! Please consider donating to one of their current fundraisers -- they have a very short time to raise a large amount of money. One of her fundraisers is a raffle for an American Girl doll, so please check that out!! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Violet is Five!

Five years ago today it was a Friday in Lent, and I had a baby girl. Father Hans came to see us in the hospital, and was very impressed that we had named her after that day's liturgical color. 

I even remembered to have a meatless meal (a tuna sandwich) for lunch!

Violet is exuberant about life and fascinated with everything around her. She's probably going to be reading before kindergarten (which she starts in August!), given her insatiable curiosity with letters and words that has recently developed. She's also a fantastic big sister to Gabriel and Peter.

Happy birthday, Violet Elizabeth!

After today, "birthday season" (in which we have at least one family birthday every month from October to March) is officially over until Peter turns 2 (gulp!) in October.