Food, drinks and cozy home tweaks help celebrate the joy of staying in this winter
Hygge (pronounced hue-ga) is a Nordic notion of cherishing the comfort of home and togetherness through the cold, dark months of winter. By nesting indoors and taking time to enjoy the simple things in life, the Danes use stormy weather as an opportunity to grow in closeness with loved ones and friends.
[WRITTEN FOR THE LOS ALTOS TOWN CRIER]
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I asked Los Altos resident and interior design consultant Joy Sheerer (Instagram: @joysheererdesign), for her top tips on hygge-ing the home.
WINTER’S LONG EMBRACE
The cold days and dark nights of the winter season call for wrapping one another in love. To encourage a state of hygge in your home, look to fill your nest with elements that compel loved ones to slow down and linger longer indoors.
Sheerer points out that many miss the greenery and twinkling lights of the holiday season. She advises bringing the outside back into the home in the months following December.
“Add greenery – store-bought or foraged from your yard – to mantels, bookshelves and dresser tops,” Sheerer said.
Sheerer emphasizes that lighting can create tranquility and set the perfect mood for intimate times together. A candlelit dinner or conversations around a glowing fire are two happily hygge lighting options for Valentine’s Day. In fact, candles throughout the home provide the golden glow of cozy romance. Beyond actual flames, Sheerer suggests stringing twinkly fairy lights around.
“Cordless strands of lights with discreet battery packs are widely available these days. I like to have a large bowl of shells or other gathered organic items such as oak galls, pine cones, small branches or rocks on display with a light strand woven in,” she said.
For the final comfy addition to your home, add pillows and blankets made of plush fabrics in natural shades. Sheerer considers a sheepskin rug (available at Ikea for less than $30) draped over a chair especially inviting.
SPOILING ALL THE SENSES
With your home aglow and layered in textured comfort, you’re ready to offer a meal that soothes. A laid-back menu, prepared collaboratively and on no particular schedule to keep, will nourish body and soul.
Cherish the process of cooking together with a special drink. I recently discovered a husband-and-wife duo producing high-quality, low-alcohol aperitifs that seem made for a hygge Valentine’s Day. Located in Sonoma County, Haus is sold direct to consumer from the company’s website (drink.haus). Citrus Flower ($35) is described as having crisp lemon and subtle elderflower flavors. Bitter Clove ($35) promises to appeal to the whiskey lover. Both offer beautifully balanced herbal and fruit flavors with less sugar than traditional pre-dinner cocktails. Serve Haus directly over ice or follow one of the recommended recipes from its website.
Fondue, the perfect dish for cold nights in, is made for romance. Serve the gooey goodness with classic sides: cubed bread, sliced pears or apples, poached shrimp, steamed broccoli, boiled baby potatoes and a green salad. Fill glasses with a perfectly pink Albrecht Cremant Brut Rose ($25) or white German wine Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Hundspoint ($18).
Swedish meatballs over noodles is a well-suited dish for fireside dining, too. The warming spices will fill your home with aromatic bliss. My recipe uses ground chicken and goes great with briny and crisp cucumber salad. A silky Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley or a ripe and off-dry Washington state Riesling would both be wonderful to sip with dinner. Some of my favorites include the 2015 Teac Mor Pinot Noir ($36), which my family makes, or the 2017 Poet’s Leap Riesling ($16).
Whether your Valentine is an old love, a new fling or a horde of family and friends, pairing Sheerer’s decor advice with a relaxed meal at home will have your love swooning in snuggly romance.
CHICKEN SWEDISH MEATBALLS
- 1 pound ground chicken thigh meat (can substitute ground turkey)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped – plus 1 tablespoon for garnish, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon gray sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 package egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 2-3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Gray sea salt or kosher salt to taste
To make meatballs, add all ingredients to bowl. Mix well using hands. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour. Form mixture into small, roughly 1-tablespoon size, meatballs. In large heavy-bottom skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium. When oil begins to shimmer, add meatballs to pan, being careful not to overcrowd. You may need to cook meatballs in batches. Allow meatballs to brown 3 minutes before turning to brown for another 3 minutes. Remove browned meatballs and set aside.
Note: Meatballs will be added to sauce where they will finish cooking.
Next, make sauce. Add butter to pan. When butter has melted, add flour and whisk to incorporate with melted butter. Slowly add chicken broth, roughly 1/4 cup at a time – stirring continuously until each addition of broth is incorporated (this will ensure no lumps). When all broth is added, whisk in Worcestershire sauce and creme fraiche. Bring mixture to low simmer. Add meatballs and simmer 10-15 minutes.
While meatballs simmer, cook noodles according to package directions. Serve meatballs over noodles on large platter with a sprinkling of parsley on top.
QUICK PICKLE CUCUMBER SALAD
- 1 large English cucumber, peeled on two sides and sliced thinly
- 1 medium shallot, diced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Add sugar and chopped shallot to vinegar and allow to marinate while you prepare the rest of the recipe. Slice cucumber and chop dill. Add cucumber slices to bowl, pour vinegar over, sprinkle with dill and toss. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes and up to 5 hours.