Swedish Cuisine Can Be Very IC Friendly! – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


Those of us in the central plains and northeastern United States can relate to the hardy Swedes this year. Recent record snowfall and a string of freezing winter blizzards have kept us indoors more than usual. But perhaps the Swedes can relate to us, too. One thing the U.S. and Sweden have in common is that quite a few people there have interstitial cystitis.

For a typical IC patient, cold weather may translate into becoming a bit dehydrated in the dry indoors (which can mean urine more concentrated in irritating histamine). Our cold feet don’t seem to warm up as fast as everyone else’s when we come inside. And the depressing effect of continual gray skies (known in medical circles as SAD– seasonal affective disorder) doesn’t help our mood either. As winter’s long awaited end begins to come into view this month, we’re more than ready for a break in the gray monotony– and for sure we’re ready for something different, but bladder friendly, for dinner.

Culinary innovation from the land of the northern lights

The short growing season close to the Arctic Circle limits what can be grown locally in Sweden. Perhaps that’s one reason Swedes have taken so avidly in recent years to cooking up their traditional dishes with a foreign-influenced twist. Lisa Winbladh, writing for the Swedish Institute’s website ) proudly boasts of the country’s culinary curiosity. She writes,

“The truth is that Swedes have a keen interest in food and an unusual openness for foreign flavours. This year 250 new cookery books were published in Sweden, a country with a mere nine million inhabitants– the highest number of new titles per capita in Europe.” Not surprisingly the Swedish national culinary team recently won the top prize at Expogast 2002 this last November in Luxembourg. (The honor is equivalent to soccer’s World Cup.)

Taking a cue from innovative chefs, the Swedes are expanding their diet far past the traditional foods our bladders can’t tolerate: smoked fish and meats, lingonberries, and pickled foods. Luckily for us, they’ve come up with some excellent (bladder friendly) versions of some old Swedish standbys. Some of these can be made entirely with ingredients found in the United States. Modern Swedish cuisine is anything but boring. Here are some of my personal bladder-friendly favorites:

The lady I got this recipe from said she thought it originated at a very old restaurant in Stockholm. Though she served the potatoes for breakfast at her house, I’ve served them as an unusual side dish for dinner. I’ve also added some variations to the original recipe.

Potatis (Swedish-style baked potatoes)

– serves 2

  • 2 medium-sized baking potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter or stick margarine
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese or
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Mozzarella cheese (see note)
  • 2 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs from wheat bread
  • extra butter or margarine
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel the potatoes. Carefully make slices across the potatoes, cutting only about three-quarters of the way through the potatoes. Leave the bottom half inch or so of the potato uncut. Make many thin cuts, one about every 1/8 inch. Place the potatoes uncut side down in a buttered baking dish. Pour the melted butter over the potatoes, allowing it to run between the slices. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. With a brush, brush the potatoes with the butter in the pan. Bake another 20 minutes and brush the potatoes again with butter. Sprinkle potatoes with crumbs and cheese. Bake another 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Finding a Cheese You Can Tolerate

The key to making this recipe bladder-friendly is using cheese your bladder can tolerate. Not everyone can have Parmesan cheese. The block kind that you buy and grate yourself is very well aged which means it’s pretty high in tyramine and other monoamines that could bother your bladder. The pre-grated kind in a cylindrical cardboard container is not so well aged and is cut with other ingredients including “cellulose”, a fancy name for what is essentially sawdust. Some IC people can get away with that kind of Parmesan cheese. But the canned kind too has drawbacks– preservatives that could bother some bladders.

A third alternative is the “gourmet” pre-grated Parmesan in plastic containers in the refrigerated section. Delia from Los Angeles says: “Theres one brand of grated Parmesan I can tolerate and maybe some of your readers can too… Maria Masconis brand. Its imported from Italy so maybe thats a difference?” That brand appears to have no preservatives.

Parmesan is a tasty cheese to put on these potatoes and other recipes, but it can be a darned if you do and darned if you don’t choice for IC bladders. Because it’s so popular in so many recipes, I think it may be worth the risk of bladder pain to establish if and when you can have a little Parmesan cheese. If however you can’t have any Parmesan, then here are a couple of safer alternatives for this recipe: grated Mozzarella cheese is mild and not aged. It’s fairly easy for many IC bladders to tolerate, and melts well. If American cheese agrees with your bladder, try melting a strip of that on top. Or, just leave the cheese off altogether and perhaps try another approach…

If you like your potatoes a bit more zesty, sprinkle with powdered dried sage along with the salt. If your bladder can tolerate cooked bacon bits (real, not those soy-based things in jars), they are a great addition to top the potato and sprinkle in the butter (and especially good if you serve these potatoes at breakfast with eggs). Substituting onion salt for the regular salt is another interesting twist. Or, mix a teaspoon of dried thyme or Italian herbs with the butter before brushing on the potatoes.

Pear Sauce for Pork Roast

– serves 3

This is a bladder friendly version of applemos, Swedish stewed and mashed apples, a sweet sauce traditionally served with meat. It is quick to make and especially delicious served hot over slices of pork roast.

  • 2 med. pears (greenish pears, not ripened)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  1. Peel and core the pears and chop into small pieces. Place pears and water in a small covered saucepan over low heat and simmer for about 12 minutes until most of the pears are quite soft. Add the sugar. Bring to a boil while mashing and mixing the pears. Remove the pears from the heat and stir in the cardamom. Place in a serving bowl or spoon a few tablespoons over each slice of hot pork roast.

Note: Gala apples work ok too if your bladder can handle them. (Without an acid ingredient like lemon juice, the sauce may turn dark if you use apples. It won’t affect the flavor though). I’ve had good luck with freezing any unused portion for a month or two.

Swedish Meatballs

– serves 3

The Swedes love meatballs in any form. They serve them with and without sauce, made from every meat imaginable, and there are meat ball recipes for every meal and occasion. Most of the American versions of this recipe seem to require sour cream (a real bladder-burner). This authentic recipe uses (bladder-friendly) cream.


  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (15% fat)
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 medium onion, chopped very fine (see note)
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, for frying onion
  • 2 Tbsp. stick margarine, for frying meatballs


  • 1 14-oz. can Health Valley Fat Free Beef Broth
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  1. In a small dish whisk together the egg, nutmeg, allspice and salt for the meatballs. Add to the ground beef and quick oats. Mix well and set aside. In a large skillet, fry the onion in a little oil until all the bits are translucent and few are starting to brown. Remove the skillet from the heat. Mix the onion into the meat and form meatballs, about an inch to an inch-and-a-half across. Place on a plate and set aside for the moment.
  2. In a covered soup pot heat the beef broth, nutmeg, allspice, dill, salt(and wine if desired) to a simmer. Reheat the skillet and brown the meatballs in margarine. As they are browned, add to the simmering soup. Remove the skillet from heat, add 1/4 cup of the water and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Pour into the simmering liquid. Let the liquid and meatballs simmer covered for 8 minutes.
  3. In a small dish add the remaining 1/4 cup water to the cornstarch and blend until smooth. Stir in the cream. Add the cream mixture all at once to the simmering meatballs while carefully stirring. Over low heat allow the gravy to thicken and reheat (but don’t allow it to boil). Serve over hot cooked noodles.

Note: The one real change I made to this recipe is to fry the onions before using. That’s because IC bladders seem to handle cooked onions better than raw ones, and the higher the temperature they are cooked at, the better tolerated they are. If however, cooked onions still bother you, then try substituting 2 tsp. or more onion powder for the onions.

One other thing to notice. Most beef broth and bouillon contains MSG, yeast extract, or soy protein– all bladder-burners. The kind of beef broth used can be crucial to this recipe being bladder-friendly. I specified the Health Valley brand because they are one of a diminishing number of manufacturers who make beef broth products without these ingredients. Many natural foods stores and some regular grocery chains carry this brand. If your store doesn’t carry the it, you can ask the manager to stock it for you. Here’s the
manufacturer’s (Hain Celestial Group) number: 1-800-423-4846 (8am-4pm EST).