My 2017 Word of the Year: Hygge

For several years now, I have considered choosing a “word of the year”. A word to focus on throughout the year can at times be simpler and easier than a long list of resolutions. I started thinking about my word a couple of weeks ago.

The first word that came to mind was grace. I find that I can be easily frustrated – particularly with the shortcomings of others. This past year, I have been working on patience for others and also for myself – essentially extending grace. I hadn’t really adopted it as my “word of the year”, however. Even so, this wasn’t quite the word for which I was looking.

Hygge is Love | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netRecently, I’d liked a link shared on the Sons of Norway Facebook page, 20 Pictures that Explain ‘Hygge’, and a friend commented, “Gee, now I am hooked on “hygge!” I’ve known about hygge for a long time but as it happened to appear in my newsfeed simultaneously with posts about the new year, it struck me that this was my word.

Hygge is a lifestyle concept that comes from Scandinavia (specifically Norway and Denmark) and is not easily translated into English. It is about an atmosphere more than one thing in particular. The atmosphere is a combination of not just the place, but the companionship and the situation. It could be your own home, but also a cafe, a walk in nature, a casual meeting with a group of friends, or even by yourself.

Hygge has no real English translation, but essentially describes the feeling you get when you’re comfortable.

Hygge is something that happens in every season, but winter can be pictured as more hygge filled season with details like candlelight to brighten the dark evenings. In the summer, eating outside with friends is a great example of hygge. As I contemplated this word, I was very inspired to take the time to include more hygge in our life – both in homeschool and our daily routines.

Hygge is Adventure | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Adventure

When the kids were younger (elementary years), we had a very relaxed approach to homeschool. We completed our lessons early and had the rest of the day to play and explore passion projects. I would typically reserve one day a week for adventures – nature study outings, field trips, and leisurely days at the lake or up the river.

No matter where you go or what you do, you can bring the hygge. It’s a state of mind.

As they got older and more involved in outside activities, our leisure time began to erode. Lessons take longer and we have less time to freely explore. Not to mention, we’ve all gotten more distracted (do I dare say, addicted?) to our devices. It’s harder to motivate the kids to get outside.

I miss our adventures. I miss spending a leisurely afternoon on the beach watching them swim and dig in the sand. In 2016, we made it a family goal to get outside more – to go camping and to hike more frequently. We aimed to complete hike 52 different hikes in the calendar year. I’ll be writing a recap and reflection of this goal next week.

Hygge is Companionship | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Companionship

Spending quality time with family and friends has always been very important to me. I have very fond memories of large family gatherings for holidays and reunions – granted my mother does have six siblings so our extended family is very large. Click here for A Dozen or So Ideas for Family Time. 

When something is hygge, you say it’s hyggelig (“HOO-gah-lee”): “That was a hyggelig evening.”

We’ve moved twice in the past five years. As a result, it is easy to lose connections with friends. I often feel lonely and disconnected. While I realize that not all friendships are “life long”, I know I need to make extra effort to keep the friendships that are dear to me alive. I can also reach out more in an effort to create new friendships. As an introvert, this can be a challenge.

Hygge is Joy | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Joy

I love getting outdoors. I love watching my kids smile and delight in the wonders of nature. Spending time in nature is also rejuvenating for one’s soul. In 2016, I made it a personal goal to become a certified Oregon Master Naturalist. As a mother and homeschool parent, it is important to take care of me. Achieving Master Naturalist certification was rewarding both intellectually and personally.

The concept of hygge is very nostalgic: candlelight, anti-technology, and comforting traditions are all “hyggelig.”

This coming year, I look forward to renewing our weekly practice of nature journaling. Slowing down and reflecting upon our outings will be hyggelig. As will curling up with a book more regularly.

Hygge is Motivation | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Strength

One of the things that has brought me joy is strength and good health. I haven’t been consistent in my fitness these past few years. Exercise may not sound very hyggelig to most, but returning to a training program will bring comfort in knowing I am taking care of myself and in turn caring for my family.

“Hyg dig!” or “have hygge!” is a popular way to say goodbye.


❤️

How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is already a top-seller on Amazon even though it won’t be released until January 3rd. It promises to be a fresh, informative, lighthearted, fully illustrated how-to guide to hygge. How to Hygge is a combination of recipes and helpful tips for cozy living at home. Pre-order your copy today.

❤️

Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hangman will warm you up and teach you to embrace the art of hygge, no matter where you live. This is a beautiful book of Scandinavian comfort food and the recipes are absolutely delicious. The recipes are very modern and healthy.

We’re Rolling in the Dough! Lefse Dough, That Is and It’s Delicious

When I recall the holiday gatherings when I was a little girl, I always remember a large platter of freshly baked lefse on the table. Grandma Margaret spent days in the kitchen preparing all the wonderful dishes we would enjoy on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lefse has always been one of my favorites.

I sadly never had the opportunity to learn how to make lefse with my grandmother but as members of Sons of Norway, my children and I have learned this culinary tradition. We delight in spending an afternoon or two each year rolling out the lefse dough, enjoying a few warm samples throughout the day, and ultimately covering every surface of the kitchen in flour.

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.net

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Our lodge families recently gathered for their annual lefse baking day and while we were unable to join them in person as we now live several hours away, we joined in the festivities and baked a batch for ourselves.

We really got into the spirit of things and even sang along with Alexander Rybak, a Belarusian–Norwegian musician and actor. Her favorite album, pictured here, is Fairytales.

His music is upbeat and vibrant. I love that he plays the violin and has inspired Geneva to work harder at developing her skills as a violinist.

We had a lot of fun and developed a system that was efficient and quick. Follow along with me as I will walk you through the process of making lefse, step by step. I have included photographs and will soon be creating a video.

Lefse Tools & Materials

To make lefse, there are several tools you’ll need. You can purchase these in a starter kit like the one pictured at left or purchase items individually.

The items I feel are critically important are a corrugated rolling pin, turning stick, and pastry board and cloth.

Having the right tool for the job makes the work so much easier.

Optional items include the lefse griddle (you can use a pancake grill but it limits your size), potato ricer (helps eliminate lumps), rolling pin sock (helps prevent sticking).

Lefse Recipe & Instructions

Ingredients

1-10lb bag of Russet potatoes
2 sticks of butter
All-purpose flour
Makes approximately 54-60 depending on how thin you roll and the diameter of each

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Prepare Potatoes for Lefse

For 10lbs. of potatoes – Peel, cut and boil in a large pot of water until done but not mushy. Drain well. Mash or rice until all lumps are gone. Add 2 sticks of butter, BUT NO MILK OR CREAM!  Cool and store in a loosely covered dish. I generally drape a clean dish towel over the bowl. Plastic-ware can sweat, adding unwanted moisture.

You’ll find that every lodge or family has their own version of this timeless recipe. Some add a little whipping cream to the dough. Play around and find what version you like best.

Add flour, one cup at a time, and blend by hand. Continue to add flour until the mixture “feels right”. You’ll develop a sense of this with more experience but essentially you want the mixture to be moist but dry enough to roll out without sticking to the pastry board or turning stick.

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Roll the Lefse Dough

When the dough is ready, we like to portion it out into small balls (pictured above). Each ball is approximately 1/4 cup in quantity. I generally do this as Geneva begins to roll.

She sprinkles flour onto the pastry board surface and first flattens the ball with her hand. She then begins to roll the dough, turning it several times so it doesn’t stick. She aims for a diameter of 12″ or more. Presently, we do not have a lefse grill and are thus limited by the size of our pancake griddle. Not perfect but it works.

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Cook Lefse

Cook each lefse on a flat grill (pictured below) until lightly golden brown. Flip with the turning stick and repeat. Lay upon a towel to cool.

Once the lefse are cool, depending on the diameter, you should be able to store 6 lefse in a gallon size zippy bag. They freeze well so don’t worry if you have extra. 

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Serve Lefse

Everyone of course has their favorite ways to enjoy this Norwegian delicacy. We generally spread a little butter and then either sprinkle cinnamon sugar or lingonberry jelly and then roll. Delicious!

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes: Finnish Christmas Stars

It is a tradition in Finland, I understand, to not serve holiday baked goods until Christmas Eve. When these preserve filled stars or Joulutortut come out, it signals the beginning the høytiden.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure statement for more information.

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Finnish Christmas Stars @EvaVarga.net

Finnish Christmas Stars

I read in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book (from where I found this recipe) that the day after Christmas is a day for visiting and comparing the quality of stars from one household to the next! Well, we certainly have not perfected this recipe yet but it is one of our favorites.

Pastry

2 cups pitted prunes
water to cover
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 cup softened butter

Glaze
1 slightly beaten egg
2 tablespoons milk
Pearl Sugar or crushed sugar cubes for garnish
Cover the prunes with water in a saucepan and simmer slowly until very soft. Puree and add the lemon juice and sugar. Cool.

For the pastry, mix the flour and baking powder. Stir into the whipped cream and knead in the softened butter. Shape dough into a ball and chill 1 hour.

On a floured board, roll out pastry to 1/4 inch thickness. Fold dough into thirds, folding first one third over the center, then the opposite third over the center. Roll out to seal the layers. Turn dough and fold again into thirds, making the dough into a perfect square. Roll out, retaining the square shape to make an 18″ square.

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls @EvaVarga.netCut into 3″ squares with a sharp knife. Make cuts (approx. 1″ – 1 1/2″ long) from the corners toward the center of each square. Place a spoonful of the prune filling onto the center of each square. Shape into pinwheel stars by lifting every other corner toward the center onto the filling.

Cover baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place filled stars on the prepared baking sheets. Mix the egg and milk and brush stars with the glaze. Sprinkle with pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes.

Bake 7 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

~ ~ ~

Thank you so much for joining me this week. I hope you have enjoyed the recipes I have shared – our favorites for the Christmas season and all year!

Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls
Nordic Almond Bars
Lefse
Norwegian Heart-Shaped Waffles

Looking for more inspiration for a Nordic høytiden (Norwegian Holiday Season) … read my earlier posts here and here.

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes @EvaVarga.net

It’s a holiday hopscotch! Join the iHomeschool Network bloggers for more Christmas themed posts all week!

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes: Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls

As you may have guessed from my post yesterday featuring Norwegian Heart-Shaped Waffles with Lingonberries, I absolutely LOVE lingonberries. Abundant in Scandinavia, they are a vibrant red fruit known for their tart juiciness. They are similar to cranberries though much smaller – and in my opinion, much sweeter!

Lingonberries are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Magnesium.

The recipe I share today is relatively new to us as it was published in the March 2015 edition of Sons of Norway’s Viking magazine. When it arrived in our mailbox and we caught a glimpse of these mouth watering rolls gracing the cover – we immediately went to the kitchen to try our hand at baking them. We were not disappointed!! So yummy!

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls @EvaVarga.net

Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls

Dough

3 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons fresh ground cardamon
1 packet instant yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Filling

3/4 cup lingonberry jam

Glaze

3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls @EvaVarga.netMix the flour, sugar, cardamon, lemon zest and yeast together in a large bowl. Combine the water, melted butter, salt, and eggs together and then add to the bowl of flour. Stir until a soft dough forms and then turn out onto a well floured board and knead dough for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, butter a 9″ x 9″ baking pan and set aside. After the dough has rested, place onto a well floured board and roll into a 8″ x 14″ rectangle. Spread the lingonberry preserves evenly on the dough and roll up jelly-roll style, pressing the edges to seal. Cut the roll into 9 equal pieces and place the slices cut side facing up in the pan. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double in size, about 1 hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the rolls have risen, place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the rolls to cool for 15 minutes while you prepare the glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with the butter and then stir in the milk and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle the rolls with the glaze.

~ ~ ~

In case you missed my earlier posts this week, you will love this easy recipe for Nordic Almond Bars. If you feeling up to a challenge, I encourage you to try the popular Norwegian flatbread, Lefse.

Join us tomorrow as we highlight another Christmas favorite – Joulutortut or Finnish Christmas Stars.

Looking for more inspiration for a Nordic høytiden (Norwegian Holiday Season) … read my earlier posts here and here.

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes @EvaVarga.net

It’s a holiday hopscotch! Join the iHomeschool Network bloggers for more Christmas themed posts all week!

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes: Norwegian Waffles

Have your tastebuds been watering? Mine sure have. I love the smells of sweet breads and cookies baking that mingle through the house – especially during the cold months of the holiday season.

Today, I share a favorite recipe that is traditionally for breakfast but also makes a wonderful treat to enjoy with coffee or tea any time of the day, vaffler or Heart-Shaped Norwegian Waffles.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure statement for more information.

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Våfflor @EvaVarga.net

A traditional Scandinavian waffle iron makes individual heart-shaped waffles. You can certainly use a standard waffle iron, though they may be slightly thicker and not quite so light. If you want to stay traditional, I recommend the Chef’s Choice 830 WafflePro Heart Waffle Iron. It is well constructed and takes a beating (my son actually knocked it off the counter once).

Våfflor

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons melted butter
butter for brushing the iron or non-stick spray
powdered sugar
lingonberry jam or fresh berries to serve with the waffles
whipped cream to serve with the waffles (optional)
Gjetost Goat Cheese (optional)

Stir flour and cardamon together and set aside. In a small bowl or electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together at high speed for 10 minutes until mixture forms ribbons when beaters are lifted.

Sprinkle flour mixture over eggs; stir the sour cream until smooth and add to the mixture, folding until batter is smooth. Fold in the melted butter.

Place the waffle iron over medium heat and heat until a drop of water sizzles on the griddle. Brush the griddle with butter or spray with non-stick spray. Spoon in the batter. Bake according to waffle iron instructions or until golden brown.

Remove from iron and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with lingonberry or other jam, fresh berries and whipped cream, or thin slices of gjetost goat cheese.

~ ~ ~

Earlier this week, I shared a recipe for our favorite Norwegian cookies .. Nordic Almond Bars .. as well as a traditional flatbread that is popular in many Norwegian American homes .. Lefse.

Tomorrow, I bring you yet another recipe featuring Lingonberries .. Lingonberry Cardamon Rolls. Mmmmm .. I can smell them baking already.

Looking for more inspiration for a Nordic høytiden … read my earlier posts here and here.

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes @EvaVarga.net

It’s a holiday hopscotch! Join the iHomeschool Network bloggers for more Christmas themed posts all week!

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes: Lefse

Each day this week, I will be sharing one of our favorite Scandinavian recipes for the holiday season or høytiden. Yesterday, I shared our favorite cookie recipe, Nordic Almond Bars. Today, we try something a little more complicated.

For many Norwegian-American families, the biggest Christmas treat isn’t foil-wrapped chocolate or sugar-dusted cookies. It’s lefse, a simple flatbread. It is made with potatoes, flour, butter, and milk or cream. It is cooked on a griddle.

Lefse are sort of like soft tortillas, made mostly out of mashed potatoes (with a little fat and flour mixed in to form a tender dough). They’re usually spread with butter and sugar, or rolled up with a bit of lingonberry jam.

When we make them, we make them by the dozens. They freeze well and are the perfect way to eat up leftovers at Thanksgiving and Christmas – we simply roll em up.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure statement for more information.

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Lefse @EvaVarga.netLefse

The following recipe comes from the Sons of Norway website; lodges across North America utilize a variation of this basic recipe each year for their annual lefse and bake sales.

Ingredients

10 Lbs. Russet Potatoes, peeled
1 Lb. Unsalted Sweetcream Butter (room temperature)
Salt
2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour

Materials Suggested

Electric Lefse Griddle by Bethany Housewares
Pastry Board and Cloth Set
Corrugated Wood Rolling Pin and 3-4 Rolling Pin Covers
Lefse Stick
Potato Ricer

Recipe

Step 1

Bring a large stock pot full of water to a boil. Cut your peeled potatoes 2-3 pieces depending on size and cook until they are tender. You may need to do multiple batches if you are using a smaller pot.

Step 2

Rice the cooked potatoes into a large bowl with your potato ricer. Once you have riced all of the potatoes cover and let them cool overnight in your refrigerator.

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Lefse @EvaVarga.netStep 3

Remove your potatoes from the refrigerator and let them warm slightly. Move approximately half of the riced potatoes to a smaller bowl. Add the flour in 1/4 cup increments, along with 1/2 stick of butter in chunks and 1 Tsp. salt. Knead the mixture until everything is well mixed. Test the consistency of your dough, you are looking for a texture similar to light pie dough. It should form into a ball without sicking to your hands and hold its shape without cracking if you press the dough ball lightly with your thumb.

If the dough feels too sticky add a little more flour, if it is too dry or is cracking when pressed add another couple pats of butter. Taste the Lefse dough as you go, it should taste like potatoes not flour. The dough should be slightly salty and buttery, but be careful not to over-do-it on the salt.

Warm your griddle to 400°F/200°C. If you are using a traditional lefse griddle remember to place it on a surface that will not be damaged by the high level of ambient heat. The heat from your lefse griddle could cause your stone counter top to crack or your laminate counter tops to delaminate. It is recommended that you use something to cover your countertop to help dissipate the heat.

5 Favorite Christmas Recipes: Lefse @EvaVarga.netStep 4

Form the finished potato mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball. Flour a pastry board covered with a pastry cloth and rub the flour into the cloth. You want enough flour so that your lefse will not stick, but not so much that your lefse is completely covered in flour. Roll out your lefse on your pastry board until it is 1/8 inch thick. Using your lefse stick transfer the lefse to your griddle. Cook on the griddle until bubbles form and each side has browned. Place the lefse on a damp towel to cool slightly and then cover with a damp towel until ready to serve.

If you are storing the lefse, after it has cooled fold it in quarters and place 8-10 sheets into a 1 gallon freezer bag. Store in your freezer for upto 3 months. To thaw – remove from freezer, place on a plate covered with paper towels and allow to come to room temperature.

Tips

Making lefse takes practice. It may be helpful to watch a video tutorial or two. I have also written a Hub Page describing the process, How to Make Lefse. Better yet – contact your local Sons of Norway lodge. They may offer classes. 🙂

~ ~ ~

Join me tomorrow when I share our annual tradition of making Norwegian Heart-Shaped Waffles!

Looking for more inspiration for a Nordic høytiden … read my earlier posts here and here.

5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes @EvaVarga.net

It’s a holiday hopscotch! Join the iHomeschool Network bloggers for more Christmas themed posts all week!