Greetings, Farmgirl friends! I hope this blog post finds you all doing well! In my part of the country, the first months of the year are the most difficult part of the winter season. It’s dark, it’s cold, and this year, it’s been R-A-I-N-Y and S-N-O-W-Y! It also seems like everyone we know has had a cold or cough at some point, and the days are long. If anyone knows how to get through endless dreary winter days, it’s all of us in New England!
While we haven’t gotten endless days of snow (just a bunch at once) or the horrible, below-zero temps we had a year ago at this time, the entire year has been so wet and this past month it has been so dark out much of the day!
With being inside so much, and with so many viruses and respiratory infections that plague this time of year, it’s important to do as much as we can to stay healthy. Eating superfoods is important. One of my favorite superfoods are organic blueberries, chock full of antioxidants. We throw them on cereal and oatmeal, eat them as a snack, throw them in green salads (delicious with a balsamic vinaigrette), and bake them into quick breads and muffins. I eat them all year round, but I especially love it when summer comes and the blueberry bushes I planted in the front of my house many moons ago grace us with a bounty of berries! Until then, I have to buy them at the grocery store.
Since groceries these days are so expensive, (especially fresh produce), I don’t want to waste anything! For berries, I keep them fresher longer by using this trick when storing them. I wash them, letting them drain in a colander. I then transfer them to a glass bowl with a tight-fitting plastic lid (I love the modern Pyrex for this). Before I close the lid, I take a quarter or half sheet of paper towel, and place it on top. I then seal the berries, but turn them upside down in the refrigerator before storing. The paper towel absorbs excess moisture, keeping the berries from molding or going bad too quickly. I replace the towel every other day or so, when it becomes damp.
Staying hydrated this time of year is also so important, but many of us forget to drink much in winter because we don’t always feel as thirsty as in warmer months. Indoor air is dry and warm. Still, I get tired of water, even with lemon, and while they don’t have sugar, I try to limit seltzers because too much carbonation isn’t good for us, either.
Decaffeinated and herbal teas are a good choice. One of my favorite thirst-quenchers is iced tea! Teas, especially black and green, are a great source of antioxidents. Lately, I’ve also been enjoying herbal Hibiscus tea. Hibiscus tea can be enjoyed hot, but it is especially refreshing served cold! Hibiscus tea hosts a tremendous amount of antioxidants, as well as is reported to host other benefits. Some studies show it may also lower blood pressure (so I drink it sparingly, and it should not be consumed by those on blood pressure medicine). It’s also thought that it may possibly help improve blood fat levels, may improve liver health, help prevent cancer, decrease the growth of bacteria that cause various infections such as UTI’s, and ward off bronchial infections and stomach infections. I love it because it has such a delicious zing, without caffeine. To make any of my iced teas, I pour boiling water over two tea bags in a pitcher, allowing them to steep until the color is nice and deep, adding cold water to top off before storing in the fridge. In addition to decaf black tea and hibiscus tea, I also enjoy making pomegranate iced tea, and other similar herbal flavors such as blueberry (just make sure that the tea is organic, using only natural and not artificial ingredients).
On freezing cold days off, we often love to hurkle-durkle in winter! The term hurkle-durkle (my new favorite word) refers to lounging in bed long after it is really time to get up, a 200-year-old Scottish phrase. Winter is the only time here that we really watch much television. On days off, we will turn off the news, catch up on our reading (or my knitting), perhaps while streaming an episode or two of a good show. We hurkle-durkle while we drink our morning coffee! Two of my favorite series that we have recently binge-watched are Masterpiece Theater’s Poldark series, running from 2015 to 2019 (beyond fabulous),and Only Murders in the Building, currently streaming on Hulu and starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. I’ve really enjoyed this series; it’s something “different”, and the “surprise” guests that show up in season 3 also make it a fun watch. Although, I have never been one to lounge around too long, so after a second cup of joe or so, I have GOT to get up! It’s hard to get going on a cold, wet day when you have warm, snuggling pets with you!
Eating out has gotten quite pricey, and many restaurants have unfortunately closed in our area. Also, it gets dark here early in the winter, and then temperatures drop. I’d rather stay home and be cozy! A dear friend and I have been making dinners for each other, instead of going out. We take turns going to one another’s home in the early evening. We dine, catch up, and end the evening by 8:30 or so. Recently, she made me the most delicious Italian dinner, served on her beautiful antique china.
When it was my turn, I made a complete Danish dinner of meatballs in curry sauce, and for dessert, aebleskiver, served with homemade strawberry jam from strawberries picked fresh last summer. Simple, inexpensive meals are not complicated to make, and having dinner made for you, while spending time with a dear friend is such a winter pick-me-up.
During the winter, my family also tries to strive for hygge, the Danish term that means coziness, comfort…happiness. Sharing a platter of aebleskiver together, the wood burning stove burning warm with our dogs by our sides, is a treat on a cold day. While there are many variations for aebleskiver, my favorite recipe is a classic, very old Danish recipe that uses just a few simple pantry ingredients always on hand.
Classic Danish Aebleskiver
- 1 cup flour,
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup milk (I use oat milk due to a family member’s allergy).
Whip egg whites until frothy with peaks. Sift dry ingredients together. Add the milk and egg yolks to the dry ingredients, mix until smooth. Fold in the egg whites. Add oil to each well of an æbleskiver pan. Add dough halfway to each well. Flip, using a fork or skewer when they start to bubble. Dust with powder sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it).
*I love my well-seasoned, cast iron aebleskiver pan; nowadays aebleskiver pans are widely available at many stores and online, at a variety of prices. You can now even find them on Amazon. *
We have jumped at being outside a bit on days where we’ve had dry weather and sunshine, taking walks. Getting outside, anytime of the year, in the sunshine and fresh air is so important for good health, body and soul (something farmgirls all know very well). We even recently had an afternoon here that reached 53 degrees!
One “warm” afternoon, we were even able to walk on the beach. The water was so still, there were no waves at all. Though in the 40’s, the wind was still cold, reminding us that winter still has a hold. Yet, being by the sea was so good for the soul!
However, by mid-week, we had the largest blizzard seen in the area in several years! There will be no “porch sitting” for a while!
Schools and businesses are closed. When that happens, however, everything is back to “normal” by the very next day. Winter teaches us to “go with the flow”, to handle change, and to be prepared.
While shoveling snow is a workout, winter gives us a chance to slow down a bit before the busy seasons, spring through fall, arrive again. Before the snow hit, there were little signs that winter would eventually end…the rhododendrons have little buds at the tips, snowdrops have bloomed beneath the snow and ice…little signs of brighter days ahead!
I hope your days are bright and your winter is going well! Remember to leave me a comment so I know you dropped by!