Elder-Flower Cordial

‘Tis the Season

The Elder-flower Cordial is a sweet, flavorful drink that can be made by just about anybody.  Elder-flowers are the prerequisite to the, you guessed it, elderberry.  Now is the season for the flower, and a delicious, sweet Spring/Summer time drink.  Once the berries form, the opportunity for a stronger, adult drink is available.

For now though, we will start with the recipe and process for the sweet drink that everybody can drink.  Elder-flower is in season roughly from late May through July and a medium sized plant can yield nearly a hundred large flower heads.  

Enough with the small talk, let’s get to the ingredients:

15 elder-flower heads (yields just over 1 gallon (4 liters) depending on dilution ratio)

4 cups (500g) white granulated sugar

4 tablespoons honey

2  large lemons

4 ⅓ cups (1 liter) water

1. Clip 15 elder-flower heads at the main stem, just below where all the smaller flower stems join together and above the leaves.  Take your time, to be sure to clear out any bugs or dead flower heads, but don’t rinse the heads in water or shake them upside down.  The pollen of the flowers is where most of the flavor is found.

2. Combine the sugar, honey and 1 liter of water in a large saucepan over a medium heat, as the sugar begins to dissolve increase the heat until it just begins to boil lightly.  Once it starts to boil, remove the syrup from the heat.

3. Grate in the lemon peel zest from the 2 large lemons. Then cut 1 lemon in half, and the other into slices.

4. Add the 15 elder-flower heads, stem up so that the flower heads are all submerged.

5. Squeeze the juice from the lemon you cut in half into the syrup. Place the slices from the other lemon on top of the flower heads.

Place a lid on the saucepan and let the mixture infuse for the next 24 hours.

Once 24 hours have passed, strain the liquid into a container by placing a tea towel or fine cloth inside of your strainer and pouring the mixture through it. (Bonus: The remaining flower heads and lemon slices are excellent for your compost.)

**Note** This will create a super sweet concentrated cordial, and should be diluted to taste.  I recommend 1 part cordial to 3 parts water, but everyone has different tastes.

Sit back on a warm evening and enjoy!  

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Pizza Night

A Simple Meal With Endless Possibilities

I would like to share with you a quick, easy and cheap meal that has become a staple in our household.  Pizza night has become a dinner that we all look forward to, with an eight and six year old this isn’t something that can be stated very often.

Three simple ingredients is all it takes to make a meal, but the additional topping options are endless.  At its core, pizza is a vegetarian meal, and depending on the toppings that you choose it could stay that way, or become a meat lovers dream.

A hot pizza, and a movie makes this meal more of a party, and creates great, non-corona memories.

Ingredients per pizza

1 package – Betty Crocker Pizza Crust Mix

5 to 8 oz. – Canned Pizza Sauce

5 to 8 oz, – Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Additional toppings of your choice

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the pizza crust mix in a medium bowl with ½ cup of Hot (not boiling) water, until it forms a solid dough ball.
  3. Cover the bowl with the dough and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Flour your prep station and hands; press the dough into a 12” circle.
  5. Spread sauce over the dough, followed by cheese and your desired toppings.
  6. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes, rotating halfway through.

The combined ingredients cost of each pizza, minus the endless topping combinations that you can add to this recipe is about $3 per pizza.  Two pizzas easily feed our family of four for less than $10 total. It’s hard to beat that!

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Stepping Up Our Coffee Game

The French Press

There is no time like the present, stuck in the house, highly discouraged to travel from within the confines of our humble abode.  Forced to take time and pleasure in the small daily activities that we more often than not take for granted.

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As I stand in my kitchen listening to the drip coffee maker grumble and groan about its one responsibility, I am in no hurry to fill up my bamboo travel mug and run out the door.  I am instead, deep in thought contemplating the status of my coffee brewing situation.

“You know what, I’ve had enough, I’m doing it.”  I say out loud. “I’m doing it!” I yell up the stairs to my wife.

“Doing what?” she yells back.

I don’t answer, how is it possible that she is not in the same train of thought that I am in?  Confounding.

I am a thorough researcher when it comes to purchases.  This is in part because I don’t really like to buy things…ever.  So when I do decide to purchase something, I want it to be the right thing.  I had previously debated our coffee brewing situation in the past, and had previously researched the perfect combination of french press, hand grinder and decanter.  So my decision to finally go for it and upgrade the quality of my morning cup of Joe is not without precedence.

Decanter not pictured.

When looking into a french press, I kept coming back to the classic, the original, Bodum 1.5L Chambord Coffee Press.  It’s hard to beat the original, it has kept the same design since birth over a hundred years ago. How can you even compare with that?  Plus, it is glass and metal for the most part, I was a little disappointed that plastic was integrated into the design, and this did dissuade me a little, but not enough to ignore the clearly unrivaled reputation of the device.  It is the boss of the french press coffee mafia, no doubt about it.

Next was the grinder.  I had a couple stipulations for this, for one, I get up earlier than everyone else on work days, and if I have to grind some fresh coffee beans I don’t want it to sound like a cave full of bears are growling at each other in the kitchen inducing nightmares for the rest of the family.  Second, glass and metal are the materials that I am more comfortable bringing into my household. I don’t want a big plastic obstrocity judging me every time I pick it up. Third, research convinced me that an adjustable, ceramic, conical shaped grinder results in the highest quality coffee.  So now I have my Triple Tree Manual Ceramic Hand Grinder. It unfortunately has a small amount of plastic on the end of the handle, and a rubberized lid, but it’ll do.

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Lastly, once again thorough research led me to understand the need for an insulated decanter.  Even after the coffee is “pressed”, letting the brew sit with the coffee beans will lead to a bitter taste after a little time.  One option is to scoop out the beans as well as you can, not ideal. The other option is to pour out the brew into a decanter, bonus, an insulated one will allow you to have hot coffee for hours past initial brewing.  Hey, all of a sudden I have plenty of time to enjoy another cup of coffee halfway to lunch. The decanter is also a place where you can dare bask in the aesthetic as well. So, a visually pleasing accessory is on the checklist alongside the usual, metal/glass only prerequisite.  Large enough to hold an entire freshly brewed 1.5 liters of coffee is the only other requirement. Decision made, Upkoch Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Carafe, it is.

Supplies in hand, a test run or two is required to attain the perfect cup of coffee.  Everyone’s tastes are different. Experimenting with coffee bean intensity, grind consistency, amount of grounds per brew and brewing time are all to be carefully considered. We have fine tuned our mix to our version of perfection.  We will continue to experiment with brands of coffee bean, but the basics are ironed out.  

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There is just something incredibly relaxing about that first steaming cup of coffee in the morning, mug in hand, looking out the sliding glass door into the world.  Even better yet, once the weather warms and the world returns to whatever its new version of normal is, sitting outside on the patio sipping a cup and listening to the birds chirp as the rest of the world wakes up before your eyes.

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Hygge 3-Bean Chili

Vegetarian Friendly

I would like to share with you one of our all time favorite recipes.  In true hygge fashion, enjoying the process of preparing the ingredients and having the wonderful aroma fill the house while you slowly cook this chili, is nearly as rewarding as sitting down as a family to enjoy it.

While this meal can be enjoyed at any time on any day, if you were to prepare this meal on a cold snowy Sunday morning after your morning coffee or tea listening to some relaxing music, you will have all the makings for a complete day of memorable hygge moments.

Ingredients: 

1 – Red Bell Pepper

1 – Green Bell Pepper

1 – Yellow Bell Pepper

3 Tablespoons – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup – Chopped Onion

2 Teaspoons – Ground Cumin

1 Teaspoon – Crushed Red Pepper

1 Teaspoon – Paprika

¼ Teaspoon – Salt

4 – Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced

2 cups – Organic Vegetable Broth

1 can (28 ounce) – No Salt Added Tomatoes, chopped and undrained

1 can (15 ounce) – Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 ounce) – Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 ounce) – Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup – Green Onions, thinly sliced

Process:

  1. Preheat Broiler.
  2. Cut the Bell Peppers in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and membranes. On a foil lined baking sheet, place the pepper halves skin side up.  Put the peppers in the broiler for 15 minutes or until the skin is blackened.
  3. Remove the peppers from the broiler and place the pepper halves in a zip lock bag for 15 minutes.  Afterwards, remove and discard the skin from the peppers. Dice the peppers.
  4. In a large pot, heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over Medium-Low heat.  Add the Chopped Onion; cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5. Add and Stir in; Cumin, Crushed Red Pepper; Paprika; Salt; Sliced Garlic Cloves.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add; Bell Peppers; Vegetable Broth; Tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add; Pinto, Cannellini and Red Kidney Beans.  Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Remove from heat and sprinkle with Green Onions.

Serve with a freshly sliced loaf of french bread or freshly baked corn bread.

Yogi Quotes

I don’t know if you have ever tried it but I have been drinking Yogi tea lately. They print motivational phrases on the little paper squares at the end of the tea string.  Every night I get to read a new one, now you can too:

-Give happiness and you will end up happy.

-Let us be kind and compassionate to remove the sadness of the world.

-Forgiveness is an act of consciousness.

-This life is a gift.

-Let your energy be used to build, not destroy.

-May this day be the day to lead us to peace, to happiness and to joy.

-Think seriously and think honestly.

-Love is the ultimate law of life.

Kindness is the light of life.

The essence of life is to communicate love.

-People who love are forgiving.

-What belongs to you shall come to you.

-In every moment of life, you should be what you ought to be.

-Spread the light; be the lighthouse.

-If we are happy, everybody looks up and shares our happiness.

-Love is to live for somebody, love is not to live with somebody.

-You must have self-respect; only then can you respect somebody.

-Be kind to others, but always be compassionate to yourself.

-Happiness is actually an art of living, which is in us.

-Our creative consciousness is not limited.

-Give love, get love.

-Let your heart speak to others hearts.

-Your strength is your own knowledge.

-We are born wise, we are born compete.

-The purpose of life is to know yourself and love yourself and trust yourself and be yourself.

-When the dawn of simplicity comes in life, complications leave.

-If you let yourself be successful, you shall be successful.

-Your potential self is infinite.

-Every beat of your heart is a rhythm of your soul.

I will add more quotes as I get them so be sure to check back. In the meantime, sit back with a cup of warm tea, relax and enjoy the moment.

The embedded link will bring you to the tea that I am referencing on Amazon.com – I am in no way endorsing any products or suggesting that you or anyone should buy anything…ever.

A Sunday Morning Tradition

Lazy Sundays are probably my favorite days, that is especially true here in Germany.  Unlike the States, most businesses still close on Sundays here. They also really enjoy their quiet, noise restrictions are in effect all day every day on Sundays.  Seriously, it is enforced by law if you get carried away. You are not allowed to mow your lawn, you shouldn’t be washing your car and be careful if you go for a drive, finding an open gas station could be a problem.

So plan on not making plans.

Enforced relaxation is something that can get down with.  So I start my Sundays with a tradition that will hopefully be passed down from my children to their own children one day.

PANCAKE SUNDAY!!

Pancakes are so simple, so quick, filling and a big time hygge food.  Plus they are so customizable, we have experimented with all kinds of combinations of add in ingredients like chocolate chips, blueberries, M&Ms, bananas, bacon, you name it.  Toppings, sauces, creams, jimmy’s (or sprinkles, whatever you call them), and don’t forget shapes. I typically mix my pancakes in a glass measuring cup, so that I can make all sorts of shapes with the batter.  We have done geometric shapes, letters, people, superheros, big and tiny circles, there are just so many options.

Hygge-lism has really taught us to enjoy these mornings even more, which I didn’t think was possible.  Our small minimal kitchen is easy to cook in, and that makes enjoying the process just as nice as the final product.  The smell of freshly brewing coffee, and the sound of pancake batter lightly sizzling on the skillet are both relaxing sensations.  I crack open the window behind the sink and a brisk fall air with all the smells of outdoors mingles with the kitchen aromas. Between flipping pancakes and mixing sugar into my cup of coffee, I check to see if the plants on our window sill need another splash of water.

A big plate of pancakes with syrup, a big glass of orange juice or a hot mug of steaming coffee and sometimes bacon, though we are trying to cut back.  Is there a better way to start a lazy Sunday?

The embedded link will bring you to the skillet that we have used for years – We are in no way endorsing any products or suggesting that you or anyone should buy anything…ever.

Flavors

Flavors and aromas are powerful.  They have the ability to instantly transport you back in time and immerse you into a memory that you thought was long forgotten.  Just thinking of one of those moments now I bet you can almost smell whatever was cooking in the oven at the time.

Hygge-lism has taught us to really enjoy the process of cooking, baking and just preparing food in general.  Filling our cozy home with the warm aromas of freshly baking chocolate chip cookies, or the sounds and smells of a stew bubbling in a crock pot is a universally Hygge sensation.  Sitting in a comfortable chair with a throw blanket, cradling a hot cup of coffee watching the snow fall outside is a moment that we could live in forever.

We are creating the memories that these aromas bring back to us for our children now, and along the way creating some new memories of our own.  

This page will be a collection of all our favorite flavors, perhaps they will turn out to be some of your favorites as well.