FAITH-FILLED LIVING | SWEET TREASURES | SIMPLE PLEASURES

Dec 31, 2012

New Year's Blessing!

—Karen June Miller

My blessing for your 2013 is represented above. May everything in your life bear much fruit!


Dec 30, 2012

New Year's Eve-Eve

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There was minimal snow on the mountain before Brock (12) and I flew to California. After 16 days in SoCal, we returned to this winter vista.

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I immediately threw open the shades this morning and fixed a pot of French Press coffee. While making breakfast, I observed a group of icicles on the back porch eaves. The larger icicle was gracefully extended and pointing its toe.

My husband, Bear, cooked his first turkey for Christmas! He also whipped up homemade egg nog, created side dishes, and baked multiple desserts. (He has his priorities.) Our son, Bryce (18) spent Christmas Eve and all day Christmas with Bear, which made separation from us livable.

Bear has been working and lodging in Mountain Home this weekend in order to have New Year's Eve and Day off. He left us homemade cookies and taped a love note to the bathroom mirror! He will be home later this evening. In 28 years of marriage we have never been apart for this long. I am eager to see my man!

NOTE: Click on the images to view full size.

Winter Wishes!

Dec 22, 2012

The Element of Surprise

At the time of my last post, I knew that Brock (my 12-year old son) and I would be flying to California on the 13th of December. My mom had planned an elaborate surprise party for my dad's 80th birthday and we were part of the secret. I had taken an oath of silence.

Once in California, we stayed with Bret (my baby brother) until the December 16th party. We became busy birthday elves.

The surprise element had been compromised due to a longtime neighbor, Mr. B, who had called my parents directly to express regrets. He had also discussed the party with an uninvited neighbor who promptly wished Dad a happy 80th birthday. Dad became suspicious. Bret handled damage control, manufacturing major fibs and distractions.

On the day of the party, Bret drove Dad to church. A pastor invited them both to attend a Christmas celebration (which was really Dad's party) at the El Dorado Park Golf Course. Dad was open to going.

When Bret entered the golf course parking lot, who should they see but Mr. B! The neighbor who had spilled the beans was slowly approaching the coffee shop. We learned later that Mr. B was only delivering Dad's birthday card. Our father knew that Mr. B frequently ate breakfast at the restaurant so he suspected nothing.

Then Bret noticed my parent's van parked in front of the event tent! Quickly, he asked, "Dad, is your nose bleeding?" Dad became concerned about his nose, never seeing the van, and Bret was able to maneuver to another spot.

SURPRISE! The party was a wonderful success! Kent (my middle brother) MC'd our family's version of This Is Your Life. Even my Dad's 88 year old sister, Pat, whom he had not seen in 25 years, was in attendance. The Gaslight Chorus sang beautiful renditions of songs Dad grew up with, intermingled with Christmas selections. There were photos, special tributes, and more surprise guests. Mission accomplished.

Blessings!

Dec 8, 2012

Butter Bliss


I love Allison Glock's article, "Because We Praise the Lard," in the November 2012 Issue of Southern Living. Her one-page tribute to lard and butter made me realize that I have more in common with the South than I thought.

Recently, Butter-Queen Paula Deen has taken heat for her liberal use of butter and sugar — as if she is responsible for its role in the Southern soul. Paula just capitalized on a good thing. Allison wrote, "Shame has no place in the Southern diet. Agreeable gluttony is a cultural right."

My own connection with butter began in Kindergarten with a jar of heavy cream. We took turns shaking the contents until it reached a sweet, creamy consistency. I watched my teacher intently as she spread the freshly created butter onto saltine crackers. I knew I was about to taste something special. It was heavenly!

Allison shared, "We kept our butter on the table in a cornflower blue, Fiesta Ware keeper, so it stayed soft and, more critically, accessible." My own family used a Franciscan Ware, Desert Rose butter dish for special occasions. Our everyday butter was stored in a covered glass dish in the cupboard designated for sugar, cinnamon, jelly, and peanut butter. Divine design if you ask me. It was sad when it was later relegated to the refrigerator.

French Butter Dish
James Sloss Pottery
As an aside, I now keep my butter accessible in a French Butter Dish, sometimes referred to as a French butter keeper, butter crock or butter bell. The butter stays fresh and spreadable at room temperature. The top section stores the butter and is then lowered into a small amount of water that creates a seal. 

Allison continued, "My family ate butter on everything. Steak. Hard-boiled eggs. Bologna. Peanut butter sandwiches. Cake. As a toddler, I would eat butter plain, spooning it from the dish like ice cream." I plead guilty to all of that except the hard-boiled egg part and I am bound to try it!

I consider adding butter to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich an act of marriage. I also prefer butter frosting on cakes and swoon over herbs and butter on pasta.

Lastly, I memorized a tongue twister from a children's book while babysitting years ago. It was the "butter" theme that grabbed me and I can still recite the twister rapidly. There are a few variations out there, but here is the one I committed to heart.

Betty Botter

Betty Botter bought some butter,
"But," said she, "this butter's bitter;
If I put it in my batter,
It will make my batter bitter!"

So she bought a bit of butter,
Better than the bitter butter,
Put it in the bitter batter,
Made the bitter batter better.

So twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter!


Have a butter-full day!

Dec 4, 2012

Tea for Tuesday

I'm making a list, checking it twice, creating some goodies that ought to be nice! My workshop is keeping me busy. I am bursting to tell you but . . . shhh . . . this is secret stuff.

Creative pursuits call for a party. Any excuse, right? Last night, I whipped up some pumpkin bundt cake with cream cheese frosting. My Paris Tea is on standby. Me, myself, and I will be attending and I have the perfect poem... 


The Tea Party

I had a little tea party
This afternoon at three;
'Twas very small,
Three guests in all,
Just I, myself and me.

Myself ate all the sandwiches,
While I drank up the tea;
'Twas also I who ate the pie
And passed the cake to me.

-Anonymous Author



Smiles,

Dec 2, 2012

Soup Weather

IT'S SOUP WEATHER! We have had several days of rain. The temps are stubbornly clinging to the 40's, so as our mountain community pines for snowfall, we can only imagine...

Several ladies gathered at Jennifer's home on Thursday evening. It was our monthly Movie Night and the savory aroma of homemade soup enveloped us. We enjoyed 2 soups: Pumpkin and Sausage Soup and Potato Chowder. Our bowls did double duty.

I recently made a traditional African rice dish with golden raisins and ginger that is steeped in the cooking water. Delicious! Thus began my ginger journey. Tea Foodie [by Zanitea] is never at a loss for good recipes. I am intrigued by her inspiration and stra-tea-gic use of tea in her cooking. Here is a recipe that utilizes the amazing ginger root, as well as loose leaf ginger tea.

Ginger-Infused Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

(Adapted from the Sweet Potato Coconut Soup recipe served at One Ten Thai in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 pyramid bags of Teatulia’s Ginger Herbal Infusion (or 2 heaping teaspoons of your favorite loose leaf ginger tea blend)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon ground garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
4 medium sweet potatoes (or yams), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk
2 or 3 whole fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce

Preparation:
1. Boil the water, pour it over the ginger tea blend, and steep for 7 to 10 minutes. Strain, discard the tea leaves, and set aside the brewed tea.
2. While the tea is steeping, heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are very soft.
3. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, salt, and white pepper to the onions, and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Add the sweet potatoes to the pot, stirring to coat them with the spiced onion mixture. Pour in the brewed ginger tea and coconut milk, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to a visible simmer, then stir in the kaffir lime leaves, sweet chile sauce, and soy sauce, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft and falling apart when you put a fork through them. Taste the broth, and adjust any seasoning, if necessary.
5. Carefully, and in batches if necessary, add the soup to a blender, and puree until very smooth. Put the pureed soup back on the stove over low heat, and serve.

Tips:

  • You can make the soup as spicy as you like by adding additional ginger, pepper or chili sauce while it’s simmering.
  • Serve with chopped cilantro or parsley and some spicy condiments on the side to season the soup by the bowlful.
  • This soup freezes really well.
Soup-cerely yours,

Nov 28, 2012

Striking a Balance



Do we live to eat or eat to live? Given a choice between obsession/preoccupation or thriving/surviving, common sense swings to the right. Any time we live exclusively for temporal things, we risk imbalance. Yet anticipating a good meal is exhilarating!  And who wants nutrition to be joyless? Can we strike a balance here?

LIVE TO EAT?
The Food Network and Cooking Channel both spotlight experts who have made preoccupation an occupation! Recently, I watched Giada De Laurentiis sample her Grilled Chicken and Avocado Napoleons. Giada aired approving moans as she crunched into a double-decked, puff pastry sandwich layered with grilled chicken, avocado, fresh spinach, and cayenne mayonnaise. She was the master juggler of food and thought as she dabbed drips from her chin.

There is no way Giada and her comrades simply eat to live. They embrace mealtime as a celebration of texture, flavor, aroma, visual appeal, and good company.

EAT TO LIVE?
The Bible lays a foundation for healthy eating: whole foods, consuming animals that graze, and avoiding all creatures classified as scavengers. The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets most resemble this guideline and their food is far from boring. 

Eating is so sensory and full of surprises. It's no wonder that some people get carried away with their passion for it. For instance...
Q: The New Yorker described you as someone who eats "slowly" in "small, tidy bites." What should we infer from that?
A: That I want my meals to last forever.
—Maureen Down interviewing Nora Ephron; New York Times, August 2009 
I worked my way through all the food on the platter, all the samosas, then finally, completely abandoning myself, licked the platter itself, and even that had a complex nutty flavor, the flakes of crust melting in my mouth.
—Daniyal Mueenuddin on returning to the family farm in Pakistan; in The New Yorker, December 3, 2012
Buon appetito!

Nov 25, 2012

Feast Your Ears!

Hopefully, you are not feeling as stuffed as Thursday's turkey. Since it was just Barry, Brock (12), and me up here on the mountain, our menu was modest and nontraditional. We were satisfied but definitely not stuffed.

I listened to my favorite food podcasts today. Much of my blogging inspiration is derived from this resource. Yet, I mention podcasts to others and often receive a blank look. Some acknowledge being familiar with sermon podcasts, but nothing beyond that.

pod·cast • /ˈpädˌkast/
Noun: A multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.

My most favorite podcasts had their beginnings on local radio. The hosts eventually made replays available via podcasts. Fans could then listen at their leisure and as many times as they wanted. Stitcher and iTunes are my preferred apps for listening, and many websites offer streaming and/or audio links.

I enjoy a variety of themes, particularly food. However, I am not just interested in recipes and restaurants. I love the culture and science of food. I am curious about chef's and their cooking philosophy; organic and local food; as well as sustainable agriculture. 

A FEW FAVORITES:
Evan's program is local to Los Angeles. Jonathan Gold's food reviews are focused on the LA and Orange counties. Good Food's website states: 
Your weekly treat from Evan Kleiman. By tuning in to Good Food, you can discover great restaurants that you've never heard of, the politics of consumption, explorations of cultures through their food customs, and some of the most interesting people who devote their lives to various elements of the food supply.
Lynne began, years ago, as an early morning talk show host on Minnesota Public Radio. Since then, she has received 2 James Beard Foundation awards and her broadcast is in syndication. Lynne's bio shares: 
The late Julia Child was a steadfast advocate of The Splendid Table and appeared on the program numerous times. Among the parade of outstanding guests are food activist Michael Pollan, author of such books as The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules; film director and writer Nora Ephron; famed Spanish chef José Andrés; the late director Ismail Merchant; food writer Anthony Bourdain; chef Mario Batali; Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex Kapranos, who is also a food critic; and classical violinist extraordinaire Joshua Bell, who enjoyed an in-home cooking lesson from Lynne.
Food reviewers Jane and Michael Stern "find the special, unique and idiosyncratic diners and eateries in cities and towns across America..."

This is one of my newer favorites. Once a month, Jessica leads listeners on a sojourn into the heart of food culture. She is articulate and the pitch of her voice is deep and resonating. Her website says this about her:
A culinary historian, Dr. Jessica B. Harris has lectured on African-American foodways at numerous institutions and colleges throughout the United States and Abroad and has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, particularly the foodways. An award winning journalist, Dr. Harris has also written in numerous publications ranging from Essence to Saveur to German Vogue.
There are additional podcasts on the Heritage Radio Network (located on the East Coast) — some more liberal than others. Be sure to check it out.

Bon appétit,

Nov 24, 2012

Words

Mary, from Visits With Mary, posted a thoughtful blog piece today concerning the power of words. I was inspired to visit my poetry archives and post something I penned 16 years ago. I still recall how intensely this poem came to me. It is a sobering reminder of how we must diligently manage our words.
W O R D S

By spoken words we shape our world,
Confessions – good or bad – unfurled;
With life and death in the power of the tongue,
By simple words, we’re sprung or hung.

God’s Word provides the “soul” solution
To cleanse and filter thought pollution;
For ultimately the words we speak
Are fashioned by the words we seek.

~Karen June Miller, October 1996
[Proverbs 18:21]

I am joining

Blessings,

Nov 21, 2012

Way Back When-esday


My blog debut was in June of 2007. It was like claiming my own little piece of cyberspace! Even so, it was not new territory for me. It was more like an upgrade to something I already loved.

As teenagers, my girlfriends and I used to exchange homemade newsletters. I called mine Kare-Pages. My press room was a bedroom closet with sliding wood panels to quiet the world. I sat cross-legged in front of my makeshift desk: an old record player with a Smith Corona typewriter perched on the lid. I recall how muffled the typewriter keys sounded in clothed quarters.

I had ambiance, too! I burned strawberry oil in a miniature lamp, drank generously-sugared Lipton Orange Pekoe Tea, and my cassette player had Vic Damone crooning, "On the Street Where You Live." (I bet Vic never new I was in the closet.)

I cherish these memories and I still have the photocopied newsletters. It's amazing that we came up with such good material without Googling! 

Nowadays, I enjoy my real desk, my Mac, and the Internet. And my clothing no longer smells like burnt strawberries.

Thankfully,

Nov 18, 2012

Simple

Quaker Girl (1915) — Grace Cossington Smith

 SIMPLE GIFTS

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free',
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

~Lyrics by Elder Joseph of Alfred, Maine:
Tune by Joseph Brackett (1797–1882)

This song has been mistakenly identified as a hymn, often without attribution. In fact, it was intended to be a Quaker "Dancing Song" or "Quick Dance," with obvious dance instructions. Yet, the message is clear.

I love singing Simple Gifts and God has made it a theme for me. These last few years have been about paring down, learning to do more with less, and abiding "in the valley of love and delight." I sense that it has a great deal to do with what lies ahead.

Last year's Christmas was a borrowed one. Our own decorations were in storage. Truth be told, it became one of the most relaxed and appreciated celebrations I have experienced in my own home. I had a list of want-to's that I willingly surrendered to basics and a few personal touches.

My concept of "simple" is expressed in this acronym:
                          Scaling
                          Importance:
                          More
                          Peace,
                          Less
                          Encumbrance

A new development will be rewriting this Christmas as well. Again, I choose the simple path.

"A simple life in the Fear-of-God 
is better than a rich life
with a ton of headaches."
~Proverbs 15:16 (MSG)

I am joining Spiritual Sundays!

Nov 14, 2012

Pennsylvania Dutch Coleslaw

Yesterday's post was decidedly Dutch. Later that evening, I found this sweet, vintage Dutch girl (The Graphics Fairy) whose white skirt seemed to beg for a recipe. My husband grew up with Dutch cooking, so I make it a point to have some of his favorite recipes on hand.

[Click on the picture to enlarge. You are welcome to download.]

Enjoy,

Nov 13, 2012

Tea for Tuesday


It is wintry here in Idaho City. Although yesterday's snow is mostly a memory, the thermostat is calling for fleece blankets and hot tea. I thought this charming tea poem was apropos and, after all, my hubby is Pennsylvania Dutch. [Note: Greitje is Dutch for Gretel.]

A CUP OF TEA
From St. Nicholas, December, 1899.

Now Grietje from her window sees the leafless poplars lean
Against a windy sunset sky with streaks of golden green;
The still canal is touched with light from that wild, wintry sky,
And, dark and gaunt, the windmill flings its bony arms on high.
"It's growing late; it's growing cold; I'm all alone," says she;
"I'll put the little kettle on, to make a cup of tea!"

Mild radiance from the porcelain stove reflects on shining tiles;
The kettle beams, so red and bright that Grietje thinks it smiles;
The kettle sings—so soft and low it seems as in a dream—
The song that's like a lullaby, the pleasant song of steam:
"The summer's gone; the storks are flown; I'm always here, you see,
To sing and sing, and shine, and shine, and make a cup of tea!"

The blue delft plates and dishes gleam, all ranged upon the shelf;
The tall Dutch clock tick-ticks away, just talking to itself;
The brindled pussy cuddles down, and basks and blinks and purrs;
And rosy, sleepy Grietje droops that snow-white cap of hers.
"I do like winter after all; I'm very glad," says she,
"I put-my-little-kettle-on-to-make-a cup-of-tea!"

~Helen Gray Cone

Tea-fully,

Nov 12, 2012

Pioneer or Settler?

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Looking Eastward on the Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail serves as a tribute to the 400,000 people who followed its wheel-rutted course. I have long admired the courage of those who consolidated their lives and dreams into vulnerable covered wagons.

Pioneers did the ground work. They conducted explorations, forged and cleared trails, created maps, documented dangers, promoted the positives... Settlers took leaps of faith — usually with much prayer — and always with the intent of putting down roots.

Have you ever thought about what best describes you? We are all pioneers and/or settlers to some degree.


Three Sundays ago, Barry and I visited the East Boise section of the the Oregon Trail. When each wagon train reached this point, they had just endured the hardships of the Idaho desert. It was on this ridge that they caught their first glimpse of hope: the fertile Treasure Valley.

As I walked along the trail, I replayed an earlier conversation. Barry and I had acknowledged an openness in our spirits. We love mountain life, yet we were suddenly entertaining a move to the valley. Practically speaking, Barry's workplace and our church are situated on the western edge of Boise. We would save a bundle on gas and I would have more use of our one vehicle. Spiritually, we see ministry opportunities.

A week and a half later, we received a phone call from our landlords. Despite the fact that our rented home is not on the market, it appears that our neighbor's family would like to purchase it. I will admit that my being open to something rarely means that I am in a rush.

Our current home is our 3rd residence since moving to this old mining town. We have felt more like pioneers than settlers — physically and spiritually. We have also acclimated to rural living, something Idaho has no shortage of. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

Happy trails,

Oct 26, 2012

German Tour in Idaho City

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The Boardwalk — Historic District of Idaho City
Germans were well represented during the gold rush days of Idaho City. In fact, they were the 3rd largest foreign-born people group. Their food, brewing skills, music, and quality craftsmanship made substantial contributions to early Idaho City life. So, it is always fun to welcome German visitors!

Officially, the Boise Basin Museum is closed until Memorial Day. However, Cassie, a teacher at Mountain View High School in Meridian, requested a tour for her German exchange students as well as American students who are learning the German language.

It was a nippy morning. Our brick and mortar museum mimicked an ice box; nevertheless, the tour group arrived with winter coats, scarfs, mittens, and warm smiles that made the chill bearable.

Rhonda divided the group into 2 units. She gave each group a walking tour. I handled the museum and the wooden boardwalk leading to our oldest homes, a blacksmith shop, and a pest house.

I tried to snap group photos with my iPhone. The bright light made that challenging. The photo below was the best I could manage, but you can see that they brought their own sunshine to Idaho City! 


[Click on photo to enlarge.]

Auf Wiedersehen,

Oct 23, 2012

Tea for Tuesday

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My previous post captured this same view on a no-snow, foggy Saturday morning just 3 days ago! We didn't even have a white Christmas in 2011, let alone a snowy Fall. This snow will be short-lived since our high daytime temp will be around 50˚, but... ♫ "Dah Dah Dah Dah Dah, I'm Lovin' It!"

I am home alone. Later, I will be donning a warmer jacket to walk down the slushy road to my afternoon job. In an aha moment, I decided to steep into a recent gift from Marsha Schewe, proprietor of the HopeChest. She sent me an ample replacement of Sunday Parlor, a blend of white chocolate, vanilla cream, and caramel. I don't have scones to celebrate with. (I think Joyce Mahan devoured them during the final Presidential Debate.) However, I do have time.

You can meet Marsha and peruse her tea-licous beverages HERE.


Teafully yours,

Oct 20, 2012

Shades of Fall

Boise is not located in Boise County. Go figure. This could be akin to French fries not really being French, especially in a potato state with a French-named capital. I digress. Actually, Boise is situated in Idaho's Treasure Valley. The word Boise stems from the phrase le bois, which means wood or the woods. Canadian French explorers felt that the name best described the area. I agree.

My hubby and I attend church outside of Boise in the city of Eagle. We enjoyed Fall last Sunday from the patio of the Wild West Bakery and Espresso. The old downtown area was radiant with color.

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Our mountain range can be seen down this tree-lined street. We share some of the same foliage as the valley, but the color dwindles the higher one travels. Fall foliage is most spectacular along Highway 21 in the canyons. 

The photo below was snapped this foggy morning outside of our home. Rain has been in the forecast, although we have seen little of it. Days are chillier and nights below freezing. What a contrast between the 2 photos!

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If precipitation does make an appearance, we could even have snow as the temps drop. This would not be the first year that mountain trick-or-treaters have traipsed through snow.

Blessings galore,

Oct 19, 2012

Neutralizing with Swedish Coffee


We had to ask our 18-year old son to move out. This decision was made after a 5-year roller coaster ride prompted by our son's unfruitful choices. The details need no belaboring. We thought we understood tough love prior to this. Obviously, there are more layers to peel.

In this bittersweet season and given the breadth of my maternal emotions, I could use a little neutralizing. I was reminded of a style of coffee that seems apropos. As both a coffee and tea lover, I am continually curious. The website, Talk About Coffee, shared a recipe for Swedish Egg Coffee. They wrote... 
According to chemists, the egg is the reason that Swedish egg coffee is so smooth – the proteins in the egg bind with the acid in the coffee to neutralize it. That could make Swedish egg coffee ideal for someone who loves coffee but can’t drink it because they have a sensitive stomach. Here’s one recipe for Swedish coffee that you can try for yourself and see if it doesn’t make the smoothest cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted.
SWEDISH EGG COFFEE
talkaboutcoffee.com

You need:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 crushed eggshell
  • 1 cup ground coffee
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 8 cups boiling water
In a small bowl, mix the ground coffee with the beaten egg until the coffee grounds are well coated. Stir in the crushed eggshell, then add in the cold water. Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large saucepan. Add coffee mixture to the boiling water and stir for about four minutes, or until the foam subsides. Remove from the heat and cover the pan. Let stand for 7-10 minutes, until the grounds and eggshell have settled to the bottom of the pot. Strain the coffee through a wire or cloth strainer into coffee cups or into a serving carafe. 

Add sugar and milk to taste if desired.

Have an egg-ceptional day!