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Have you ever made a dish that was so good, thinking “I am going to make this weekly from now on?” Well, that’s what happened after I made these taquitos this past weekend for Cinco de Mayo.   Deliciously crispy on the outside,  when biting into these taquitos you get an explosion of flavors that are perfectly paired with the lightly spicy chipotle crema and creamy, citrusy guacamole toppings.

Being married to a Mexican chef has its advantages; I have learned how to create authentic flavors and dishes that bring a smile to my face.  Simple food that reminds me of when I traveled around Mexico many years ago and tasted a homemade tortilla for the first time.   There are few things that delight me as much as Mexican cuisine.

This recipe is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and one that you too, will want to make again and again.   Nobody is going to miss meat in these, because the chipotle adds a nice smoky, umami flavor that is almost reminiscent of bacon. Coupled with the sweetness of the sweet potato, it’s a sure winner and you can use this filling recipe for burritos, tacos, empanadas and Mexican casseroles. It’s my go-to recipe for pretty much anything Mexican!

You will have bean mixture left over unless you decide to increase the amount of tortillas in the recipe, which I absolutely recommend – because these will fly off the plate! Otherwise, you can save the bean filling for a quick taco snack for the next day or two – nothing wrong with that, right?

Make sure you use corn tortillas, and not flour – and don’t crowd them on the sheet tray, but allow some space in between each to ensure that irresistible crunchy texture on the outside.  Serve these up with a margarita or two on the rocks, and you’ve got yourself a party!


2 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced small
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 small sweet onion, chopped fine
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
2 x 15 oz (425g) cans of organic black beans
Juice of 1 lime
1 large handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Vegan cheddar cheese or Mexican blend (I used Violife cheddar shreds)
10-12 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil for brushing tortillas

To make filling for taquitos:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

 In a medium to large sauce pot, heat up the oil over medium heat, then add in the sweet potatoes with a pinch of salt. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the sweet potatoes are starting to soften.  Scoop them out and place on a plate and set aside while you make the beans.

Wipe out the pan and add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil over medium-low heat and add in the garlic.  Toast for about a minute until lightly golden, then add in coriander and cumin seeds and toast while stirring for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Add in the onions with a pinch of kosher salt, and saute for another 4-5 minutes.   Throw in the black beans with its juices (this is my secret to making really flavorful and creamy black beans),  followed by the reserved sweet potatoes and let cook to blend the flavors, for about 20-25 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Finish the filling by adding the lime juice and coriander, adjust seasoning as needed.

If you have a gas stove, take the tortillas and lightly heat them up over the open flame on both sides so they become a bit more pliable (they should not be charred). If not, you can heat the tortillas up in the pre-heated oven for a minute or two.

Place about a quarter cup of the black bean filling in the middle, top with a little cheese and tighly roll the tortilla up like cigar and place seam down on the prepared baking sheet.  Continue and repeat with the remaining tortillas and brush the tops with a little oil.  Bake them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Top with Chipotle crema, guacamole and additional fresh cilantro and serve!

Chipotle Crema

½ cup (125ml) raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
1/3 (80ml) cup water
1 small chipotle in adobo sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp maple syrup
Pinch of sea or kosher salt

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until creamy and thick. Place in fridge for 1-2 hours to let crema thicken.

The Best Ever Guacamole

3 large avocados
½ sweet onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tomato chopped (optional)
Juice from 1 large lime
1-2 big handfuls of chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt to taste

Combine everything in a bowl and mash the avocados with a fork.  Taste for seasoning – don’t be shy about the amount of lime juice and salt you add, that brings out the flavors in the avocados!

The post Black Bean and Sweet Potato Taquitos with Chipotle Crema appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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One of my favorite memories from my childhood in Norway is when my mom would make a simple, creamy cauliflower soup for dinner. She would also buy a baguette (white bread – a luxury in my home) and we would slather it with butter and eat the soup with my mom’s homemade saft (a fruit concentrate blended with water) that were pressed from red and blackcurrants we grew in the garden. Nothing could be simpler, but yet it seemed like a really special meal to me.

I’m not sure why it was always during the summer we had cauliflower soup, because technically it’s not in season until the fall and through winter. But I’m guessing it was because my mom considered it a light meal that was more appropriate during the warmer summer days and she didn’t want to spend too long in the kitchen cooking.

True to Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisine, a classic cauliflower soup doesn’t have a lot of spices or other vegetables blended in. Rather, it lets the cauliflower shine. A touch of cream might be added with a little ground nutmeg (or not). Mild and filling, it feels healthy yet decadent. Some people today will add a little curry powder to it or add in a carrot or some garlic. I’ve added some sauted onions to mine and a potato to make the soup even creamier. I also feel that a little lemon juice brightens it up. Topping the soup with a few toasted seeds of your choice adds a nice, crunchy texture to the creamy soup. Use your imagination and add whatever you like, however be careful not to let the additional ingredients outshine the main star.

In Norway, cauliflower has been grown since the 17th century and is to date one of the most popular vegetables in the country. Norwegian cauliflower is so fresh and flavorful, it’s really in a class of its own. Some people call cauliflower “the queen of vegetables”, as it’s versatile, healthy and likable to the majority of people. I tend to agree; whether you roast a cauliflower whole (cauliflower steak, anyone?), add it to salads, tacos or in curries, or even just cook it and mash it up in place of potatoes or use as a dip, this vegetable is really magical and fun in so many ways.

The key to a really tasty cauliflower soup I feel is to roast it first, as it caramelizes and develops more depth of flavor. If you don’t want to take this extra step, you can easily saute the florets in the same pan you’re cooking the soup in, and it will still work just fine. When cooking it in the vegetable broth and pureeing it in your blender, you get a creamy, yet dairy free soup. This way you can eat several bowls of this in good conscience. I add a few cashews to the soup for a nut based cream, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have them on hand.

I hope you will try out my soup! For those of you who are gluten free, this is a wonderful choice as well. This recipe makes a fairly big batch but you can easily freeze it if you by some chance have any leftovers.



1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for sauteing
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
5 cups vegetable broth
juice from 1 small lemon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for about 2 hours
kosher or sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)
Fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, chopped – garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (210 degrees Celsius). Place the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over them, season with a little salt and massage in the oil and salt well. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan, or the florets will steam instead or roast. Bake in the oven for about 3 minutes until golden and slightly charred. Remove from oven and set aside.

Reserve a few of your prettiest cauliflower florets as garnish for soup and set aside.

Heat up a little extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot, throw in the onion with a pinch of kosher salt and saute for about 4-5 minutes until soft and golden. Add in the cauliflower along with the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes until soft.

Ladle in the soup into your blender in batches and puree until creamy and smooth. Pour the soup back into the pot, add the fresh lemon juice, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste until you have achieved the flavor you want.

Serve warm, garnish with the reserved cauliflower florets and chopped, fresh parsley or chives. Some great artisan bread with some great vegan butter like Miyoko’s European artisan butter is wonderful – and maybe even a Norwegian beer or your favorite glass of wine!

The post Creamy Cauliflower Soup appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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Now that Easter is officially over, we’re at full speed ahead preparing for May 17th, Norway’s Constitution Day and easily one of the most celebrated days of the year for Norwegians. This made me think of potato salad, the most classic of dishes served no only on this day, but in the weeks and season ahead.

When I searched my blog, I was really surprised that I hadn’t included my ‘famous’ recipe for a Scandinavian-style potato salad.  Perhaps it’s because I included it in my popular e-book “A Collection of Recipes from Arctic Grub”, and thought I had posted it here as well.  Regardless, I do recommend picking up a copy of my e-book as it contains many of my favorite, still unpublished classic Norwegian recipes – and you will have one document where they’re all in one collective place.

But back to my potato salad: What I love about this recipe, is that it’s not heavy and fatty like so many versions I see out there; rather it’s bright, light and citrusy packed with nice, fresh herbs and crunch provided by pickled and celery.  It’s the perfect companion to barbecue during summers, or as a light spring meal with a nice loaf of bread.   

The potato is said to be the immigrant that really adapted and became Norwegian.  From the Andes to Europe, potatoes broke through as produce in Norway around the early 19th century. Today, potatoes are grown all over the country and is considered one of Norway’s most important foods. Many Norwegians still don’t think it’s a proper meal if they get one served without potatoes!

The season for new potatoes is short, only 2 months from about mid-June until August, and is almost a national sensation in Norway.  The arrival of new potatoes is the highlight of the summer for food lovers: the first new potatoes are delivered to the Royal Castle, that’s how special they are. Although we get potatoes all year round in Norway, there is something unique about new potatoes that is enjoyed and eaten shortly after they’re extracted from the earth: they are typically harvested and packaged on the same day.

New potatoes have a simple, summer flavor which is best featured in a simple dish where they can shine, such as a potato salad. Other ways to prepare them is to lightly boil or steam them and serve them with fresh herbs, a dab of vegan butter or vegan sour cream, and a little salt and pepper.  I also love making flatbread with thinly sliced potatoes, perhaps with a little pesto smeared on the bottom.  Other flavor combinations that are successful include horseradish, thyme and oregano.

I can tell you with some assurance that nobody will be disappointed at the flavor and addition of this potato salad on the table.  It’s always a hit when I serve it to my guests and beats the store-bought version 10 times over.   I tend to prefer adding sour cream instead of mayo to the salad, as it is lighter and tangier, but if you can’t find vegan sour cream, vegan mayo is a fine alternative. If using mayo, don’t skimp on the acid (lemon juice, pickle juice) as that is what brightens up the salad.

I can think of nothing else that resembles a Norwegian summer more than this dish.  It’s one that brings out sweet memories for me of sitting on the deck, overlooking the majestic mountains and fjord, and appreciating the fresh local produce.   Fruits and vegetables grown in Norway are simply the tastiest because of the extended day lights coupled with cooler temperatures. A small slice of heaven on earth!


Classic Norwegian Potato Salad

2 ½ lbs (about 1 kg) new potatoes, or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
½ cup (1.25dl) vegan mayo (I like Just mayo) or vegan sour cream
1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup (70ml) pickle juice
Juice of 1 large lemon, or more to taste
5-6 pickles, minced
2 celery sticks, chopped fine
½ small red onion, chopped fine
2 handfuls of fresh dill, chopped (and more for garnish)
or flat-leaf parsley if you prefer
Kosher or sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water until a fork or cake tester inserts easily, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool on a sheet tray while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together Mayo or sour cream, Dijon mustard, pickle juice and lemon juice.  Add the pickles, celery, red onion and dill, and combine well.   Dice the cooled potatoes into 1 -2 inch pieces, and add to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, add more lemon juice, pickle juice or mayo as you see fit.  Cover and place in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to let flavors blend. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh dill sprigs (or parsley), and let come to room temperature.

The post A Classic Norwegian Potato Salad appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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The best part about being in the food and wine business is that you’re always exposed to fun,  unique and high-quality products made by creative folks who are just as passionate about this business as I am.   

One of these products and companies is Royal Grapeseed, who makes grape seeds, skin, oil, extract and powder with the highest possible polyphenol content because they are 100% pure, U.S. grown Concord grape seeds that have come from family farms and have been fresh dried within 24 hours, with no sulfites.

Mivine, a 100% pure, unrefined, cold-pressed grapeseed oil made from grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this product through my client Vegan Wines, who brought it to me after attending the Natural Products Expo West in southern California last month.

I’m a huge fan of using local ingredients and supporting local businesses, and lucky for me, the Finger Lakes is only a short 3-4 hours north of where I live.  I chose to try this oil in my famous carrot cake, and I was happy enough with the results that I wanted to share it in this blog post.  I am very discerning with what oils I use, as there are a lot of crappy versions out on the market, whether it is from olives, coconut, or vegetables. Being in the wine industry, I get exposed to a ton of amazingly fruity, flavorful and well- made olive oils that are made by winemakers and olive tree growers around the world, but I had yet to taste such a unique oil from a local source.

I wanted to showcase the oil in a way that would honor the quality and thoughtfulness put into this product, and could think of nothing better than a festive cake.  I was inspired by Easter, which is a big deal in my home country of Norway.  I’m always home sick this time of year, so I wanted to make something that could transport me right back to the fjords and mountains of my home region of Sunnmøre.

Easter is a time when Norwegians take some extended time off work and spend time with family and friends.  Often they travel to the mountains to their cabins and enjoy skiing, sunbathing and reading crime novels (yes, it’s a thing) and doing crossword puzzles. Food plays a big part of the festivities of course, and being from northwestern Norway, we have a huge cake culture.    While I appreciate the tremendous diversity and creativity around all the different cakes Norwegians make, I’m not a massive cake eater, and neither is my husband, so there are only a few I make regularly. Carrot cake being one.  It is simply impossible not to love the juiciness of this cake with its depth of flavor coming from the various spices and the “health” aspect of the shredded carrots.

I used Violife’s vegan cream cheese in this frosting, if you can find that brand I highly recommend it, as it’s the best one on the market.  Kite Hill’s cream cheese is also decent.  Otherwise, it’s quite possible to make your own from soaked cashews and a little coconut oil and yogurt, you can find several recipes online.

Adding the Mivine grapeseed oil to the recipe definitely added richness to it, and I combined it with some regular canola oil, but you can add coconut or a mild olive oil too if you prefer.   Royal Grapeseed also makes a grape seed flour made from 100% premium grape seeds, rich in vitamins, antioxidants and minerals which can also be added into baked goods such as this cake.

Other uses for this wonderful grapeseed oil are in dressings, as a finishing oil or a nutrient boost in smoothies as well as using them in other baked goods such as brownies or sautéing pancakes with it.  The oil is super pure and quite pungent, so incorporating it into traditional recipes at 5-10% is recommended, but feel free to use your own judgement here!



2 ½ cups (12 1/2 oz or 350g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grate nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
1 lb (5-6 medium or 1/2 kg) carrots, peeled
½  (1.25dl) cups light-brown sugar
1 ½ cups (3.5dl) granulated organic sugar
3 tbsp ground flaxseeds mixed with 9 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup (1.25dl) Mivine grapeseed oil (or sub other neutral vegetable oil)
½ cup (1.25dl) other vegetable or coconut oil of your choice

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 x 7 oz (200g) container of vegan cream cheese (I used Violife)
5 tbsp vegan butter, softened but still cool
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 cups (5-7dl) confectioner’s sugar
Walnuts, toasted, for garnish (optional)
Lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.  Grease and line 2 x 7 inch cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix the ground flaxseed with the water in a small bowl and let sit and swell for about 10 minutes

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, shred the carrots (you should have about 3 cups), add the carrots to the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together add the oil, sugars, flax eggs and vanilla extract.  Pour into the dry ingredients with the carrots.  Let sit for about 5 minutes, allowing the carrots to seep out some of its juices.   If it seems too dry, you can add  couple of tbsp of plant-based milk, but only if you think it’s really dry.

Divide the batter evently between the two cake pans and bake in oven for about 35-40 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean/dry.   Rest the cakes on a cooling rack to room temperature, about 2 hours.

For the Frosting:

Add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and lemon juice in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and process until smooth. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar until you have a consistency you are happy with (the amount of sugar can vary). Carefully lift out the cakes from the pans and place the first cake on your serving tray with the flattest side up.  Using an offset spatula, spread half the frosting evenly on top, then carefully place the second cake on top, and spread the remaining frosting on.  Garnish with the optional toasted walnuts and lemon zest.

The post A Wine Lover’s Carrot Cake appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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Laksa is a spicy coconut noodle soup from Malaysia that is incredibly fragrant and rich in flavor. It’s without a doubt one of my favorite meals to make and eat.  Colorful, nutritious, super tasty and filling – what more can you want from a dish?

Making your own laksa paste might be a little extra work, but I wouldn’t skimp here. The result will be so worth it and so much more authentic tasting.   Lemongrass, chilies, shallots, galangal or ginger, turmeric and spices are toasted with a little oil to deepen the flavor.

I find most spices grossly underestimate the amount of spices and flavor agent needed in a broth, so I tested this recipe a few times until I came up with an amount I found to have some punch.  The key is to have a balance between the spices and the coconut milk, and to get that great coloring of the broth that is reminiscent of a gorgeous flaming sunset.

A standard dish in Malaysia, laksa is also very popular in Singapore. It combines elements of indigenous Malay, which is a combination of Chinese and Indian.   There are so many different versions and combinations across the region, and while many of these include meat and fish, I think it’s wonderful with tofu.  You can omit that if you don’t want it – I love the simple combination of curry spices and noodles with some added vegetables in the broth – I could eat this all day long!

I paired my laksa with a nice IPA beer, but I’d say an off-dry Pinot Gris or Riesling, or even a rose or sparkling wine would be fantastic as well. 


World’s Best Laksa

Laksa Paste:

4 medium shallots, sliced roughly
6 garlic cloves
3 lemongrass stalks, white part chopped (reserve the rest)
3- inch (7cm) fresh turmeric (or 3 tsp ground turmeric)
4-inch (9cm) ginger or galangal, sliced roughly
5-6 fresh red chillis or dried Thai chilis soaked in boiling water

2 tbsp ground nori (seaweed) torn into bits
¼ cup (65ml) cashews, pre-soaked for about 30 minutes
Big handful of fresh cilantro w/stems
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil (grapeseed or canola are both good)
1 heaping tbsp toasted and ground coriander seeds
1 heaping tbsp toasted and ground cumin
2 tsp sweet ground paprika 


6 cups (1.4l) vegetable broth
1 tbsp sea or kosher salt
1 14 oz (400 grams) full fat coconut milk
Juice of 1 big lime (more to taste)
1 tbsp brown sugar or coconut sugar


Steamed broccoli florets, sliced carrots, baby bok choy
Sauted mushrooms of your choice
400 g flat rice noodles, cooked
1 x 14 oz pack of extra firm tofu, drained, dried, cubed and sautéed
Bean sprouts
Fresh cilantro, mint and/or basil, chopped
Raw cashews, chopped (optional)
Lime wedge


Place all the laksa paste ingredients into a food processor with the exception of the dry spices and the oil, and pulse into a paste.  Heat up the oil in a medium saute pan, and add the paste. Saute for 10-12 minutes on low heat while stirring regularly.  Add in the dry spices and saute for another 3-5 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth to the laksa paste along with the green leftover parts of the lemongrass, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30-35 minutes.  Add in the coconut milk and heat through.  Fish out the lemongrass stalk.  Taste for seasoning and add more acid/salt/sweetness as needed.

While the broth is simmering, steam your vegetables and cook the noodles according to the package direction.

Add your steamed vegetables to the broth and let them cook in the broth for about 5 minutes until well integrated.

In large serving bowl, add the cooked noodles, ladle in the broth with the vegetables, and top with sautéed tofu, fresh herbs, optional cashews and a squeeze of lime.

The post Best Ever Vegan Laksa appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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The time of the year has come yet again when Norwegians either flock to their cabins in the mountains or vacation homes by the sea, read crime novels, eat oranges and chocolates called kvikklunsj (think Kit Kat but 10 x better).  Many people take an entire week off from work and regular life to celebrate the return of longer days, the disappearance of the snow (yet we’d still like it on the mountains so we can ski), and the sight of the sun again.

When I think of Easter, there really is no specific, traditional meal that I remember growing up other than our big breakfast and brunch spreads known as påskefrokost (Easter Brunch).   Typically, this solid national tradition took place on Easter Sunday.  Today however, with many Norwegians taking extra time off past the public holidays of skjærtorsdag (Maundy Thursday) and langfredag (Good Friday) it could be any time during the Holy week.

Norwegians are world champions at “kose seg” (the Norwegian term for ‘hygge’), especially at the breakfast table.  As the bread and coffee lovers we are, I guess it’s no wonder we seek to extend both the options and the time spent on this meal.  Often we invite our friends, neighbors and other family members to this feast, which is enjoyed either inside or outside if the weather permits.

A påskefrokost is a true smorgasbord which can consist of a variety of spreads, such as rolls, breads and knekkebrød (crisp bread), pate, smoked salmon, cheeses, boiled or scrambled eggs, beet and potato salads and a variety of pickled herring jars.  Yes, I know – not many vegan options here, but luckily I’m creative and have veganized every single dish I just mentioned except pickled herring… until now.

So how on earth does one substitute herring successfully? As with any dish it’s never as much about the ‘main’ ingredient, as it’s about the assisting flavors and accompanying ingredients.  Eggplant when sliced thin and marinated mimics a similar texture to herring, as well as color – and is also neutral enough in flavor to soak in any flavor you may want to add to it.

When thinking of all the pickled herring salads I’ve eaten before going vegan, I always think of three flavors:  acid, salt and sweetness.  They should be in harmony and there should also be some crunch in form of onions and pickles.  The saltiness comes from the latter, as well as perhaps some capers, the sweetness either from ingredients such as beets and apples or the addition of sugar, and acid from vinegar and/or citrus juice.

When I worked at Aquavit, the 3-star Scandinavian restaurant in Manhattan (which also happens to be where I met my chef-husband), I used to love their trio of herrings they served: sennepssild (an espresso mustard herring), rømmesild (sour cream herring, also known as ‘Matjes’ in Swedish) and curry herring.

Today what I’ve done is a combo of the sweet style mustard herring  I learned at Aquavit and added in a beet element to it because I simply love the color it adds to the dish.  I love eating it with freshly baked rundstykker (Norwegian for ‘rolls’, you can see them in the photos), for which I will dish out the recipe in a separate blog post later this week, so stay tuned!

This is a wonderful addition to any brunch or smorgasbord – and I promise your fish loving friends will love it too.  In fact, I think it’s a step up, because nobody really love that fishy taste (we’ve just been brainwashed to eat it from childhood).  And remember, fish are sentient beings who want to live, just like you and I – so why not leave our already devastated, ravaged oceans alone and pick up an eggplant instead? The fish, your body and the environment will thank you – plus your palate will be just as happy, believe me!

No matter what you decide to eat, I do hope you will try out my recipe for sild (herring)!

I store my pickled ‘herring’ salad in a mason jar and top it with lots of pickled red onion, capers and some fresh thyme.

Norwegian Beet and “Herring” Salad

About 9 oz (250 grams) beets, roasted, and peeled
About 9 oz (250 grams) eggplant
½ cup (1 dl) fresh orange juice
¼ cup (½ dl) fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 small red onion
Juice from ½ lime
1 medium green apple (like Granny Smith)
3-4 tbsp chopped cornichons or pickles
½ cup (1 dl) unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
¼ cup (½ dl) vegan cream*
1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Juice from ½ lime
Sea or kosher salt, pepper, sugar to taste
2 tbsp capers
A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Slice the onion into thin rings, place in a small bowl with the juice from ½ of your lime, season with kosher or sea salt, stir and let marinate for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, slice your eggplant into ¼ inch thick (1/2 cm) slices, then into thin strips.  In a medium shallow pot, add the fresh orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the eggplant and let simmer for about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool in the liquid.

Peel the roasted beets (I usually bake the beets for 1 hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit /200 degrees Celsius and I wrap them in foil with a little olive oil and kosher salt and maybe a sprig or two of thyme) and dice small.  Dice the apple and the cornichons/pickles into the same size and add all three items into a medium or large bowl.   Fold in the reserved eggplant (remove the cinnamon stick and cloves).

In a separate bowl whisk together the non-dairy yogurt, non-dairy cream (the easiest way to make your own cream is to add equal parts raw cashews and water into a high-speed blender and puree until creamy), Dijon mustard, juice from ½ a lemon, salt, pepper and a little sugar to taste.

Add the cream mixture to the beet-apple-eggplant, and carefully mix together.  Garnish with pickled red onions, capers and fresh thyme.   Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge, keeps for about 2 weeks.

The post Norwegian Beet and “Herring” Salad appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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When I saw it was National Empanada Day today, my mind instantly went to a few years back when I had my own catering company. The company was called Fork and Glass, and I co-owned it with my chef-husband, and we would have a stand at different farmers markets every week around New York. From Brooklyn to Chappaqua, Irvington and my now home town of Beacon, we would travel around with our portable table, induction burners, pots and pans and serve up tacos, pancakes, breakfast burritos and… empanadas!

This was admittedly when I was a meat eater, but once I made the best decision I’ve ever made and went vegan, I still would recall this delicious street food and the smile it brought to our customers’ faces. Luckily it’s super easy to make any foods and dishes vegan, so I set out to create plant-based versions that would be both authentic and taste flavorful.

What I haven’t changed as I became vegan, is my love for seasonal, local produce – and using it when in season ensures that it is at its most flavorful, nutritious and also least expensive. Supporting my local farmers is incredibly important to me, as it connects us to where we live, the earth and of course… people. When we were caterers and sold our food at the farmer markets, we used to purchase produce from the farmers next to us, and we would cook a dish right then and there using tomatoes, greens, corn, herbs and more. Such a wonderful feeling!

Here’s Mark picking out some vegetables for us at the market:

Beets, corn, radishes… there’s really nothing better than shopping for food at the farmer’s market!

But let’s get back to empanadas!

Empanadas are thought to have originated in Spain, but today are also very popular throughout Latin and South America. In Italy, they have their own version called ‘calzone’, and here in the United States we have our turnovers or ‘hot pockets’. Very similar really- but the filling is what varies.

Making your own dough can make a huge difference as to how fresh and tasty they are. I realize not everybody wants to take that extra step, so you can absolutely buy pre-made dough, which most often you’ll find in the freezer section of international or gourmet markets.

If making your own dough, you’ll need a tortilla press to flatten out the dough to thin circles,. These presses are usually very inexpensive and they will last a lifetime if you take good care of them. And of course, you can make your own homemade tortillas with it too, which is incredibly gratifying and will taste ten times better than any store-bought tortillas!

Play around with fillings, but I like to stick to authentic Spanish flavors. I chose to fill mine with a ‘rajas’ filling of roasted poblanos and corn, and the second one with black beans, potatoes and cilantro. Both versions are packed with flavor and if you’re a meat eater, wont’ make you miss meat at all!

I wanted to also make a variety of different dipping sauces (that’s half of the fun!) to add some variety for my guests when I serve them during cocktail hours. From a lighter, herbaceous chimichurri and a sightly spicy pico de gallo to a richer chipotle sour cream, you’ll have something for every palate.

Buen provecho!



Make the chimicurri first:

Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 cup (125 ml) red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 cup (125ml) fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup or a big handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup (180 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Remove 1/2 cup (125 ml) chimichurri to a small bowl, season with salt to taste, and reserve as sauce. Put meat in a glass, stainless-steel, or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining marinade. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.


Empanada Dough Recipe (use for both fillings)

3 cups (roughly 400 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) solid vegetable shortening at room temperature (You can also used cold vegan butter)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cups (240 ml) water

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the shortening (or cold butter if using), using two knives or to cut it into the flour until small pebbles form. Alternatively use your own hands and massage the butter into the flour. Then add the apple cider vinegar and water, and use your hands to knead until you get a smooth, firm dough.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least half an hour, ideally an hour or more. When ready to make into empanadas, divide the dough into 2 oz balls, then using a tortilla press, place the ball in the center of the press, and push down until you have a flat, thin disc.

For Filling #1:

3 cobs of corn, shucked
3 poblanos, roasted , cut into thin strips
1 large onion, caramelized
Vegan cheese of your choice (I used a Mexican mix – combination of cheddar and mozzarella)
A little fresh oregano, chopped

Combine everything in a bowl except the cheese.
When ready to assemble, add a heaping tbsp of the filling in the center, dab a little water on the edges of the dough, fold the dough over in half to enclose the filling. Use a fork to press and seal the edges.

Place the empanadas on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Brush the empanadas with a little melted vegan butter or plant-based milk, and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through to ensure even baking.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (15.oz/225 grams) organic black beans, with juices
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ yellow onion, diced
1 chile in adobo sauce, chopped finely
Juice of 1 lime
3 large potatoes, scrubbed, diced small
1 cup (250 ml) cherry tomatoes (I used both red and yellow)
Handful of fresh, chopped cilantro

To prepare beans:

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add in the garlic cloves, cumin and coriander and saute for a few minutes until fragrant. Add in the onion with a pinch of salt and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add in the chile in adobo sauce, combine well then add in the can of beans. Cook on medium-low for 15-20 minutes until it starts to thicken, be careful to stir every so often. Finish off beans with the lime juice and chopped cilantro.

To prepare potatoes:

Add the cubed potatoes in a pot of water with a little salt and boil for 10-15 minutes until they start to soften. Drain and cool/dry on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Heat up a little olive oil in a large saute pan and saute potatoes until golden on both sides, make sure not to crowd the pan or they will steam, not crisp up. Drizzle salt over and set aside.

Combine the beans with the potatoes, cherry tomatoes and a little extra cilantro in a bowl and reserve until ready to fill empanadas.

Follow the same procedure as in the descriptions for the corn and poblano empanadas.


1 small Onion, diced small
2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small jalapenos, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Couple of handfuls of cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste

Combine everything in a bowl and adjust for seasoning (lime/salt).


1 cup (250ml) Cashews, soaked
½ cup (125 ml) water + 4 tbsp water
1 tsp chipotle chili in adobe sauce
2 small cloves of garlic
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp Salt
Juice of 1 lime

Blend everything together and taste for seasonings.

Serve your empanadas hot, with the dipping sauces and a glass of rose or if you want… some margaritas!

Roasted poblanos, corn and caramelized onion empanadas with chipotle sour cream, pico de gallo and chimichurri sauce. Black bean and potato empanadas with chimichurri.

The post Empanadas Two Ways With Three Sauces appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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Ever since I left the corporate world and my day job, I have gotten into the habit of asking myself the question “why do I do what I do?” on a regular basis.  The reason I finally started working for myself was, after all, that I felt I needed a bigger purpose for working and living, that was also aligned with my values and interests.

The other day I came to ponder if wine really was all that meaningful and if I was wasting my time sharing my experiences of this drink I so love. After all, I’m not saving mother Earth or helping feed starving children around the world.  How and who does it help, if any?

We are often asked what makes us happy, and my answer is always food and wine (besides animals of course).  Ever since I was a child, I remember always looking forward to coming home from school to see what my mom, an avid home cook, had made that day.  There was always something cooking, whether it was homemade jam, pate, cakes or breads.  Years (and I mean years!) later, I eventually decided to go to culinary school and become a chef, and when I decided to go vegan my mission became to show people that you can still eat deliciously even if you give up meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

While it’s easy to see a purpose in teaching people how to cook healthy, nutritious and tasty plant-based meals, where does wine fit in, exactly?

Wine to me represents a philosophy, a way of life and a vessel for uniting people. 

In a world that often times seems so hurried, disconnected and lost, wine becomes a reason to slow down. To remember what life is about. To appreciate the small, wondrous things that makes us feel grateful. To pay attention to your senses.  To learn about other cultures, lifestyles and be inspired to listen to, and to tell stories.  In just a sip I can be transported back to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to the markets in Beaune or to a seaside taverna in Greece.  I can taste the love, hard work and dreams of the winemaker who risked everything to put this wine out.  There is no other beverage that does this for me.

Wine should be a personal experience.  Yet there are so many opinionated people out there, and wine snobs are everywhere. Telling you what you should smell, taste, act and drink based on the latest and the greatest.  Don’t pay any mind to them.  If a wine brings out a special feeling in you, the wine has done its job.

Wine inspires me to create. Particularly in the kitchen.  It pleases me to no end to see the smiles on people’s faces when they taste my food.  I feel like I’m contributing to someone’s day, and when I pull out a special bottle of wine to pair my meals with, there is no place I’d rather be than just right then and there. 

Through food and wine I have gained many new friends and learned so much about others and myself.  I continue to want to learn and absorb new information each and every day.   My curious nature matches perfectly with the world of wine, because you can quite literally not ever know all there is to know about this mysterious beverage.  It’s constantly evolving, and as you go through life and gain new experiences, your impressions of wine will change and continue to enrich your senses. Doesn’t that sound just magical?

I often think it’s a lost art to just fall in love with something just because it gives you an unexplained sense of gratitude.  To have no hidden agenda, but to want to experience what it feels like to really enjoy life.  No deadlines, no budgets to be met or people to please. Just you and the wine.  

So what does wine have to do with it? Everything. Finding meaning behind living.  Sharing your joys and pleasures with others and inspiring them to go search for what makes them love and laugh too.  Wine can do that. Wine brings people together, and when enjoyed the way it’s meant to be enjoyed – without pretense, with people you love and with food that makes you happy… well is this question even a question anymore?

If you’re interested in learning more how you can enhance your dining experience by pairing wines with plant-based dishes, you can download my free guide HERE.

The post What’s Wine Got to Do With It? appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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With the first day of spring officially here, I start thinking about foods that resembles sunshine.  In Norway, we celebrate the return of the sun after a long, dark winter and the northern lights are replaced by the midnight sun.  That doesn’t mean we switch out our drinks though, as coffee is just as popular in the summer as it is in the winter.

Norway is a small country with a big coffee culture.  I love that about my country. The quality of coffee is high nationwide, and Norwegians like to drink it black.  Coffee is our “social drink”, and for most Norwegians, a day without coffee is unthinkable.  It’s estimated every Norwegian drinks about 160 liters (about 42 gallons) per year which makes us one of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world, only beaten by the Finns.

I will be writing more about the coffee culture in Norway in a separate post but can never avoid mentioning this important “national” drink when I write about delectable sweets!

With our coffee we love serving all types of baked goods, particularly yeasty, doughy sweet breads, preferably those with a hint of cardamom, either complemented with cinnamon or a vanilla custard.

One of my favorite pastries are “hvetestang”, which is literally translated as “wheat rod”. It is reminiscent of skolebrød or skoleboller, with its center being a vanilla custard and glazed with confectioner’s sugar (and sometimes coconut flakes), only this version is shaped into a long rectangular shape instead of buns.

I remember seeing these in bakeries but also in chapels known as “bedehus”, where as a child I used to go for various things such as choir practice,  youth activities and holiday parties.

For hvetestang, I use a similar recipe for my usual cardamom buns, and I’ve been experimenting with different types of vegan vanilla custard recipes. If you’re lazy you can of course buy a ready-made vegan version or use JELL-O powder (which is in fact vegan), just make sure your plant-based milk is chilled and that you use an un-sweetened milk. It’s also important to note that you need to use less milk than what it calls for on the package, otherwise it won’t thicken up.  I find that 1 ¼ cup (300ml) instead of the 2 cups (500ml) on the recipe, works well.

Or you could make my recipe for vanilla custard, which is super simple, just adding cornstarch, a little sweetener and vanilla extract to your favorite plant-based milk, and I add a tiny pinch of turmeric to color it a little yellow.  I always prefer making things from scratch so this is what I did.

Should you not be a fan of vanilla custard, you can make this pastry with cinnamon, sautéed apples and raisins too, for example – super delicious and commonly seen as well.   Other versions are filled with marzipan and raspberry jelly.  In other words, there are no limits to what you can fill these pillowy, soft and mouthwatering doughy “rods” with!

I hope you will be tempted to invite some friends or family over, brew a strong pot of black coffee and bake a hvetestang – all in celebration of spring!


For dough:
1 1/2 cups (3.5 dl) plant-based milk
4 cups or 21 oz (600) grams all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (115 grams) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 stick or 8 tbsp (113 grams) vegan butter, melted
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

For Vanilla Custard:
2 cups non-dairy milk
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp potato starch (or sub 1 more tbsp cornstarch)
4 tbsp granulated sugar or maple syrup
1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract

For Confectioner’s glaze:
2 cups (250 grams) confectioner’s sugar
4-5 tbsp water (approximately)

To make dough:

Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Heat up the milk in a small pot until it’s about 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celcius), and sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for a couple of minutes. Pour it into the dry ingredients and add the flax egg and melted butter. Knead on low-medium for 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes on high speed. The dough should be smooth and elastic when done.
Let the dough rest under a clean towel in a warm spot for about 1 hour until double in size. Prepare two baking sheet by lining them with silpats or parchment paper.

After an hour, divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll out onto a sausage the length of your baking sheets. Using a rolling pin, roll them until they flatten into rectangles. Place on baking sheet, and make a ditch in the middle and fill with the vanilla custard. Let rest again for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 440 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celcius). Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and let rest on a cooling rack while you make the confectioner’s glaze.

To make vanilla custard:
Pour about 200 ml of the milk into a small bowl and add the cornstarch, potato starch and turmeric, Whisk it together well and set aside.
In a shallow, medium pot, add the remainder of the milk with the sugar or other sweetener of choice, along with the cornstarch mixture. The heat should be on low-medium and make sure to constantly whisk until the mixture starts to thicken. Add in the vanilla extract and cook for another few mixture. The custard should now be thick. Remove from heat and pour into a non-reactive bowl and let cool while you wait for the dough to be ready.

To make confectioner’s glaze:
Combine the water with the confectioner’s sugar and whisk until smooth. I like to add the glaze into a piping bag and line the hvetestenger, but you can also smear it on using a knife or offset spatula.

The post Norwegian Hvetestang with Vanilla Custard appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, I started thinking about all the green food I truly enjoy and my mind came to kålruletter, or stuffed cabbage leaves which is a classic Norwegian dish.   Typically they are stuffed with ground pork, but since pigs are my friends, not food, I choose to stuff the cabbage with delicious lentils, rice, shallots, walnuts and spices instead.  The result is amazing!  All the different flavors and textures makes every bite of these cabbage rolls exciting, while knowing what you are eating is also nutritious, packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Cabbage has been widely planted all over Norway or centuries. Cabbage gardens were mentioned in Bergen and Stavanger in the mid 16th century. In a seed order from around 1660 cauliflower, red, white and savoy cabbage are mentioned.

Today, cabbage is served in many different classic meals in Norway, among others stewed cabbage which is served with kjøttkaker (meatballs) and one of two main ingredients in Norway’s national dish, fårikål (still trying to veganize this dish as it is made with mutton). Cabbage are also often added to soups and stews such as brennsnut and lapskaus,   Sauerkraut (surkål) is another staple in the Norwegian diet, much like in Germany and is present on the majority of dinner plates on Christmas Eve.

There are also similarities between Norwegian and Irish cuisine; we both love potatoes, and of course: cabbage! Hence there was nothing more fitting than posting my recipe for kålruletter this week. Not only are the delicious but quite pretty to look at as well, and you will look like a real pro serving these for your friends and/or family. Since they are the main attraction, all they really need is some boiled potatoes, and if you’d like, a creamy white sauce to pull the flavors and textures all together.

I’ve served these to non-vegan Norwegian friends who weren’t crazy about the traditional version and they have gobbled up every last bite of these! While it may seem a bit of work, they are absolutely worth it!  You can delete the wihte sauce if you don’t want to bother with that, and just serve with melted (vegan) butter and boiled potatoes and it’s just as tasty!

I paired my kålruletter with a nice glass of German Riesling, but I won’t blame you if you pull out the Guinness and embrace the Irish in you – maybe with a schnapps of aquavit??

Norwegian Kålruletter  (Stuffed Cabbage Leaves)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ (1.25 dl)  cup brown rice, picked over and rinsed
1/2 (1.25 dl) cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
3-4 shallots, sliced thin
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable stock
1/2 (1.25 dl) cup rolled oats
1/2 cup (1.25dl) toasted walnuts, chopped
1 head of Savoy cabbage, whole leaves picked apart
1 cup (2.5 dl) vegetable broth

Oil an ovenproof dish that will fit 8 to 10 rolled up cabbage leaves and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).
Rinse the rice and the lentils separately. In two different small pots, cook the rice/lentils with 1 1/2 cups (3.75dl) of water each for about 15-20 minutes until done.  Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, add shallots, garlic and bell peppers and season with salt. Saute for 5-7 minutes, then add nutmeg and paprika, saute for another 30-40 seconds until fragrant. Add the rolled oats and toasted walnuts, and saute for another minute.

Add the lentils, rice, and onion mixture in a food processor along with the 1/3 cup (80ml) of veg stock and pulse a few times until a rough farce is formed.  Place in a bowl and place in fridge while you prepare the cabbage leaves.

In a large pot, bring a generous amount of salted water to a bowl, and place the separated cabbage leaves in the water, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until just starting to soften. Be careful not to overcook, as you want the vibrant color of the cabbage to remain.  Scoop the leaves out of the water and place on clean dish towels so the water dries off.
Place one big spoon of the lentil rice filling into each cabbage leaf, and roll up like a spring roll.

Place the stuffed roll with the seam down into the prepared ovenproof dish. Fill with the vegetable broth, it should only cover the bottom of the pan.

Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes, the cabbage rolls should be golden brown on top.

Bechamel Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 tbsp) vegan butter
1/3 cup (43g) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1.25dl) nutritional yeast
3 cups (7.5dl) plant based milk (I used almond milk)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the vegan butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until melted. Add the all purpose flour and whisk.  Allow to cook, whisking frequently, for a few minutes until a roux is formed. Make sure it does not darken, as we are making a white, not brown gravy!

Add the milk, nutritional yeast, salt, Dijon mustard and garlic powder and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes until sauce is nicely thickened to the consistency of cheese sauce.  add the lemon juice and and stir. If too thick, add some more non dairy milk.

Serve the baked kålruletter with the baked potatoes and drizzle over some of the béchamel sauce. 

The post Stuffed Cabbage Rolls for St. Patrick’s Day appeared first on Sunny Gandara.

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