Celebrating “Barnas Dag” with ice cream

For many, Syttende Mai is synonymous with icy desserts like these non-dairy options

Photo: Sunny Gandara Even trolls love chocolate “ice cream” with the kick of avocado.

Photo: Sunny Gandara
Even trolls love chocolate “ice cream” with the kick of avocado.

Sunny Gandara
Arctic Grub

The 17th of May is undoubtedly the most emotional day of the year for Norwegians, when we feel the most proud and grateful for our country, when we celebrate our heritage, our beautiful nature, and our fellow countrymen. A sense of solidarity emerges, as we look back on history—for so many years we were not independent (from 1536 to 1814 we were in a union with Denmark, and after that with Sweden until 1905), and for years were not allowed to celebrate this day, but still had a strong sense of belonging and commitment to our nation. During World War II, participating in a 17th of May parade was forbidden, as was wearing the country’s colors on your clothes. As a result, I can think of no other country in the world that has such a strong and special tradition of celebrating their Constitution Day. The day is very special to all Norwegians, as we reflect on our history and feel gratitude for the beautiful country we finally can call our own.

As opposed to other countries’ national days, the 17th of May is not celebrated with military parades, but rather with local children’s parades in which musical bands and school children march together. It is customary to arrange games for kids at the local schools around the country and offer them ice cream, hot dogs, and other goodies. This is why many people call our Constitution Day the “Children’s Day.” It is estimated that over 27,000 children under the age of 15 play in musical bands, and it’s the second largest activity for kids, after soccer.

For kids and grown ups alike, the 17th of May is synonymous with ice cream, and ice cream is pretty much mandatory. You simply do not celebrate “Syttende Mai” without it. It’s the day Norwegians eat the most ice cream all year—in fact, our consumption is five to 10 times the average of a normal spring day. And if the sun is shining on our Constitution Day, you know ice cream makers are smiling, because that means extra-big sales. To accompany ice cream comes “brus,” the Norwegian word for soda. Of course, in Norway we have much better sodas that come in a wide variety of flavors, such as orange (think about the famous “Solo” brand), pear, raspberry, and pineapple…

As for the ice cream, well, the quality is a tad superior as well, but now that I’ve given up dairy the question is: Can you still celebrate the day in the same fashion? Will the taste and experience be the same? The answer is: of course! It is possible to veganize everything, and sometimes the vegan version is even better in taste, and most definitely for your health. Dairy products, such as ice cream, contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease and other serious health problems.

Instead of buying pre-packaged ice cream, why not make your own? I can think of many reasons why you should. For one, it’s exciting to experiment with different flavors. Secondly, you can pick clean, wholesome ingredients. Finally, you’ll get magical flavor experiences without the unnecessary additives often found in processed foods. Many people are intolerant to the additional sugar, milk, eggs, or unnatural additives that store-bought ice cream contains, so learning to make your own will not only please your taste buds, but your overall health and well being as well.

You can make vegan ice cream from either frozen bananas or full fat coconut milk, very easily. I’ve included three recipes below that showcase how easy and versatile dairy-free ice cream can be to make. Now all we have to do is beg the weather gods to cooperate—I can think of many years when it was snowing in the mountains on this day, raining cats and dogs, and the temperature begged for the cape of our bunad to come along on the parade. Here is to a wonderful day filled with sunshine, laughter, family, and friends—and of course, lots of ice cream!

Chocolate-avocado vegan “ice cream”
Recipe from Connoisseurus Veg: www.connoisseurusveg.com

Photo: Sunny Gandara The perfect "ice cream" for those who love a strong coconut flavor.

Photo: Sunny Gandara
The perfect “ice cream” for those who love a strong coconut flavor.

• 1-14 oz. can coconut cream or coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (the longer, the better)
• 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
• 1 ripe banana
• 1/2 cup cacao powder
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• pinch salt

If you like a stronger coconut flavor, this recipe is perfect. Not too sweet either, this is truly the taste of a wholesome, natural, and homemade “ice cream”!

Open the can of coconut milk or cream and scoop the cream into blender, discarding the water. Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of pitcher as needed.

Transfer to sealed freezer safe container and freeze until solid, about 4-6 hours.

Festive banana “ice cream”
Adapted from the kitchn: thekitchn.com

Photo: Sunny Gandara One-ingredient banana “ice cream” dressed up as a festive flag.

Photo: Sunny Gandara
One-ingredient banana “ice cream” dressed up as a festive flag.

large ripe bananas
your choice of mix-ins such as chocolate chips
strawberries & blueberries, for garnish

Peel and slice the bananas, then freeze until solid. You can easily do this in bulk so you’re always ready for a fresh batch.

Transfer to a small food processor or powerful blender and whirl until it’s smooth and the texture of soft-serve ice cream. Add your choice of mix-ins and combine until incorporated, then freeze. Decorate with strawberries and blueberries.

Visit thekitchn.com (www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-creamy-ice-cream-with-just-one-ingredient-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-93414) for more ideas for mix-ins.

Chocolate-coconut vegan “ice cream”
Adapted from Minimalist Baker: minimalistbaker.com/no-churn-vegan-chocolate-ice-cream

Photo: Sunny Gandara Ice cream doesn’t need cream to be delicious.

Photo: Sunny Gandara
Ice cream doesn’t need cream to be delicious.

• 2 14-ounce cans coconut cream OR full-fat coconut milk, chilled
• 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 14 ounces pitted dates (make sure they’re moist and soft)
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
• 1 oz chilled, strong brewed coffee

Before you get started, chill a large mixing bowl in the freezer and line a freezer-safe container with parchment paper.

Whirl dates in a food processor, adding a few droplets of water if necessary, to form a paste.

Scoop the coconut cream from the cans into the mixing bowl, discarding the clear liquid. Whip until creamy, then mix in the remaining ingredients.

Transfer the “ice cream” to the prepared container, cover, and freeze for at least a couple of hours, or overnight if you want it firmer.

Serve with berries.

Sunny Gandara has over 15 years experience in marketing and PR, both in the music and beverage industry. In 2008 she founded her own company, Fork and Glass, a food and wine event and consulting company, located in the Hudson Valley of New York. She now focuses on education, giving seminars and classes to private and corporate groups. Sunny, a native of Norway, is a professionally trained cook and holds a diploma in Wines & Spirits from the WSET.

This article originally appeared in the May 8, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.