Ceramic Bowl, Used for Making Yorkshire Pudding

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I can hear the sound of fireworks as I type–my neighbours out celebrating Queen Victoria and our fossilized connection to the English crown–but to me, nothing says England like a dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Although I grew up with a Canadian passport, England was the country that most felt like home because it was where we went between countries, on most holidays, and to live for some stretches of time.  My grandmother was in Yorkshire, my aunt in Bristol, and my parents had a house in Surrey for a few spells.  In all three homes, come Sundays, you would smell the roast in the oven and feel the excitement of a special day.  And in all three homes, a Sunday roast meant Yorkshire pudding.  My grandmother scorned the use of an electrical beater and would beat the batter by hand, and the sound of her rapidly mixing the batter is on the soundtrack of my childhood.

We made it two different ways, either as one large rectangular pudding in a baking tray or as individual puddings in muffing tins, but whichever way it was made it was always the most popular part of the meal.  Yorkshire pudding does not keep, but we never had to worry about leftovers because it was always devoured.  My brother, a notoriously fussy eater, could have lived on it.

When my grandmother died and we went back for the funeral, one of the few things my mother chose from the contents of the house was the ceramic bowl my grandmother used for making Yorkshire pudding.  It was an object that held so many memoires of family gatherings and good times.  It had magic in its years of use.

The fact of my mother’s having singled out such an ordinary thing to cherish from my grandmother’s house speaks volumes about the combined power of food and memory, the power of these things to connect us through generations and over oceans.

I now include Yorkshire pudding on the menu for my special dinners.  They are not the weekly Sunday staple of my childhood, but a highlight of holiday meals, and my boys are proudly carrying on the tradition of leaving no leftovers.  I’m now vegetarian, so I like mine served with the mushroom gravy and lentil walnut loaf from Oh, She Glows, roasted potatoes and a mountain of green beans, but anyway you make it, it’s a crowd-pleaser.  This is a good recipe from The Guardian, and I would add that it’s very important not to open the oven door during the cooking time, otherwise the puddings will sink.

Sound of the batter being beaten and the sizzle when it hit the pan, the smell of the roast out resting while the puddings cooked, and the last-minute frenzy to gather all of us and get the meal on the table–all of those sense memories are captured in this simple bowl.

 

 

Super Easy, Crowd-Pleasing Hors d’Oeuvre

IMG_2668Did your week nights just suddenly open right up?  I’m kind of scared to say it out loud, but ours sure did.  We may have lost an hour on the weekend, but in the all-to-brief post-season, we gained four hockey-and activity-free nights this week!  Time to have friends over and see people again!!

Got plans to have friends over?  You can make this delicious and dead simple party platter in less than five minutes.

Ingredients

shallow, rectangular serving platter

1 small package of goat cheese

1/4 cup best green and black olives, pitted

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

five sprigs of fresh rosemary, one stripped and roughly chopped

baguette or crackers

Method

Smear the goat cheese over your serving platter.  A square or rectangular one works well for this so you can frame it with four sprigs of rosemary.  Sprinkle olives and chopped rosemary over the cheese and drizzle with olive oil.  Garnish with sprigs of rosemary.  Serve with fresh baguette or crackers.  That’s it, that’s all.  So simple, so delicious.

With thanks to my friend Valerie, who brought this to my house and I feasted on it and thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  Valerie got the recipe from Kirsten, of Palmerston Design, who decorated Meg’s house, who is one of our guests this month.  We’re keeping it all local!

Kid Craft: Make Your Own Natural Lip Balm

We discovered Pueblo Science during the Ontario Culture Days events in the fall.  They hosted a Painting with Science event, and the kids and I had so much fun making art and learning about the science behind the ways that colours were made and mixed.

Pueblo Science is all about getting kids interested in science through hands-on experimentation, and what could be more hands-on than making your own lip balm from scratch?  The facilitator I met in the fall told me that they had a recipe up on their blog, but I wasn’t able to find it.  Instead, I surfed around and got a sense of what goes into natural lip balms.  Then I started experimenting.

My husband put a lovely pot of pure shea butter from Little House in the City into my stocking for Christmas, and I’ve been wanting to make lip balm for months, and with the deadline for this post AND Valentine’s Day looming, I finally got it together to make some with Youngest last week.  We decided that pots of lip balm would make great Valentine’s Day favours, so that’s our plan for this year for the Grade 1 and Grade 4 classes my sons are in.  Youngest asked if they could be flavoured like Skittles.  (I have not bought the necessaries for that yet, but I’m thinking that essential oil of orange or lemon would work well.  If you have done this, and you have ideas, let me know!)  For three nights, while his brothers were at hockey, we experimented with different recipes to find the perfect consistency and aroma for our product, and I’m now happy with what we’ve got.

Here’s what we did and what we learned:

Our first attempt taught us how to deal with failure gracefully and with no swear words.  We did pretty well on that front, actually, when our double boiler capsized spilling molten wax into the boiling pot of water.  We did not swear even a tiny bit while we cleaned that sh*t up.  Melting waxes and butters is messy.

Our second attempt taught us that there is a good reason for experimenting in small batches before beginning mass production.  Our first batch was too waxy and hard to apply.  It also did not smell and taste all that great–not bad, but not great– making us realize that there’s a good reason for the scents that get added to beauty products.

Three is the magic number, and we got the recipe almost there with our third attempt.  I used too much honey, making the batch a bit too soft, so the recipe below, from our fourth and final batch, has the perfect proportions.  I also used vanilla extract for flavouring the third time.  That’s not the way to go.  Vanilla extract is suspended in alcohol, which is not only drying, it does not incorporate well with the wax and oils.  If you want to scent your balm, I recommend using an oil.  The fourth trial, I used vanilla oil in a jojoba suspension, and our final product is as delicious as it is nourishing.  I wiped up the spills and rubbed it into my hands and cuticles, and it works wonderfully for those applications, too.

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Nathalie’s Lip Balm Recipe

Ingredients (the amounts in parentheses yielded enough to fill six lip balm tubes)

one part grated beeswax (one teaspoon)

one part honey (one teaspoon)

two parts shea butter (two teaspoons)

two parts jojoba oil (two teaspoons)

a few drops of your favourite edible essential oil (two drops per teaspoon of mixture)

a mother’s patience

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That is one teaspoon of melted beeswax. Almost invisible, but oh so fragrant. My first double boiler capsized while I was looking for a popsicle stick, so this one is over-sized. That is a long toothpick in Youngest’s hand.

 

Materials

You will need a double boiler (after my little glass jam jar capsized, I put a big mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water), a popsicle stick for stirring, and pots or tubes for the balm.  I got my tubes at my local health food store for $o.69 each, and glass pots from Little House in the City for $1.30.  I also washed out some small pots I had half-filled with cosmetic samples for my experimental batches.  I just used a steady hand to pour, but you might also want a glass eye-dropper to fill the lip balm tubes.

Method

Melt the grated beeswax in a (very firmly anchored) double boiler.  Turn off the heat, but keep the beeswax in the double boiler to keep everything warm.  Add the shea butter and jojoba oil.  Once those ingredients are melted and well incorporated, mix in the honey.  Mix well.  Add scented oil last if desired.  Pour into lip balm pots or lip balm tubes.   Allow to set, then put on lids and you’re ready to go!

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The balm setting in the tubes.

 

Some Science

  • beeswax is a solid at room temperature, but becomes liquid when it is warmed
  • oil and water do not mix
  • wax and water do not mix
  • beeswax is occlusive, it seals in moisture and protects lips from becoming dried out by environmental factors (dry air, cold and wind)
  • honey is a humectant, it helps to retain moisture by attracting and absorbing the moisture in the air, and drawing the water vapor beneath the surface
  • jojoba’s chemical structure is similar to human sebum, the oil our bodies produce to waterproof and lubricate the skin
  • shea butter has been in use for thousands of years as a cosmetic for hair and skin, references date back to Ancient Egypt

 

The Best Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s the new year and my desire to live a more healthy and mindful life has hit a snag.  More specifically, we’ve been hit with the flu.  So far it’s only claimed one of us (here’s to hoping our flu shots do their job!) but I’ve seen this movie before . . . it’s only a matter of time before it starts picking us off one by one.  And with three kids, that’s a whole lotta sickness waiting in the wings.

In the meantime, I will remain positive, keep exercising, disinfect the house to levels of surgical integrity and have a pot of chicken noodle soup at the ready.

Baba’s Chicken Noodle Soup

1 Chicken 2 to 3 lb. or about 2 lbs. deboned and skinless chicken (this is easier and Baba swears by Costco’s chicken).

Wash and place chicken in large pot (about 8 litres) and cover with cold water.

IMG_3875Bring to boil, remove scum, add a tablespoon salt, and boil for about 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove chicken from pot and remove bones and skin if chicken is whole.

Put aside.

Into the water used to boil the chicken, put aromatics:
a large handful of parsley with stems, a few stalks of celery with leaves, large onion peeled and quartered, green leaves of a few leeks, a few cabbage leaves or broccoli stalks or cauliflower stalks.

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Side note: If Baba knows that she is planning to make soup, she saves these in a baggie in the fridge.
Boil these aromatics in the soup for 20 minutes then remove and drain them. Taste soup for salt and adjust seasoning.

If you want, add 2 packets or 1 cube of chicken bouillon. Add
additional water if necessary.

Bring soup to boil and add spaghetti or fine noodles or any shaped pasta. The amount is contingent on the amount of soup there is and how much pasta you want in it.

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My boys like it both noodley and with spaghetti – all the better for slurping!
Boil for about 2 to 3 minutes, taste for salt and adjust if necessary, then add the chicken and more water if necessary, and boil until pasta is done.

Remove from heat immediately and serve.

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Guilty Kitchen’s Kale and Bison Roll-ups

Today, Elizabeth Nyland from Guilty Kitchen will be sharing one of her go-to healthy recipes. Elizabeth is a self-proclaimed fitness and foodie bad-ass who knows a thing or two about over-coming adversity. She makes no excuses and has forged her own path to wellness, weight-loss and feeling great! Need some fit-spiration? Check out Guilty Kitchen the blog or follow Elizabeth on Instagram.

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Ever wonder what to do with all of that kale besides boring old kale chips?

Are you a member of a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture? CSAs are springing up all over North America as convenient ways to eat locally produced foods. Farmers produce a crop (be it vegetable, animal, fruit, fish or eggs) and people buy shares. The product is delivered to your door or picked up at farm stands in your neighbourhood. CSAs provide a great way for anyone and everyone to participate in supporting local farmers. The farmer is assured his crop will be sold, and you, the buyer get to enjoy fresh, local food at better then market value (most of the time).

But what happens when you receive a lot of the same vegetable? Worse, you keep getting a vegetable that you have no idea what to do with or have very little use for? I often see kale as a popular CSA vegetable as it is as easy as weeds to grow and makes for a great addition to any CSA box. The problem is, most people don’t know what to do with it beyond sautéing, green smoothies, making it into the ever popular kale “chip” or throwing it chopped up into their salads or mashed potatoes. But kale has many uses indeed.

Kale is a wonderful vegetable filled with vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber, copper, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, omega-3 fats, vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, folate, phosphorus and vitamin B3. It’s a super vegetable!

It’s also delicious and for anyone following low carb, paleo, gluten free or grain free diets, it’s a miracle in the wrap department! Lettuce makes a convenient wrap, but kale is far superior in the health department.

So if your CSA box is filling your fridge with kale leaves and you’ve had just about enough of green smoothies and kale chips, then try this great wrap for dinner. It also saves well for leftovers the next day, a self contained lunch for anyone on the go.

Kale Wraps 1-2

Kale and Bison Roll Ups

Ingredients

  • 6 large kale leaves
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed of excess moisture
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 500g extra lean grass fed ground beef or bison (or a mixture of the two)
  • sea salt to taste
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (optional garnish)
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced (optional garnish)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Cut the stems off the Kale at the bottom of the leaf. Flip the kale over and run the knife parallel to the leaf (along the stem) to make it flatter. This will also help when you bite into it.
  2. Fill a pot fitted with a steamer attachment with two inches of water. Bring to a boil and arrange leaves flat in the steamer. Steam for about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on towels. Set aside until needed.
  3. In a heavy saucepan (cast iron is best), heat coconut oil until hot. Place the onion and garlic in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions are browned. Add in the other vegetables and cook until softened.
  4. Add in the ground meat and cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until browned. Season with salt, pepper, coconut aminos and other spices. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Place a large spoonful of the meat mixture onto a flattened and laid out kale leaf, top with optional garnishes. Roll the bottom of the leaf over the meat, then each side into the middle and finally roll up like a burrito. Set seam side down on plates and serve.
  6. These are great dipped in creamy aiolis and served with a side salad!

Kale Wraps 2-2

Fall Comfort Food

One thing for which I am so grateful on a daily basis is the inspiration from other bloggers and from cookbook authors to make quick, healthy, filling meals for the boys with hollow legs who populate this house.  Left to my own devices, I’d probably just eat toast for dinner most nights, but you cannot grow healthy kids on toast alone, tempting though it might be.  I know, though, that if I spend a minute flipping through my cookbooks, or my bookmarked blogs, I will rise above my lethargy and get inspired to try something new.

Such was the case one cold night recently, and I made a stew that I knew would be my perfect comfort food.  The catch: I was fairly sure it would be a flop with the kids.  WRONG.  Youngest ate three bowls of this Chick Pea and Sweet Potato Stew, and then he asked for it in his lunchbox for the next day.  It was a lesson for all of us: do not be afraid to stray from the tried and true.

Sweet Potato Chickpea Stew

Here is the recipe, reprinted with permission, from Michael Smith’s Family Meals:

Sweet Potato Chickpea Stew

Serves 4 to 6

 2 tablespoons (30mL) of vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tablespoons (30mL) of curry powder

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

A 19-ounce (540mL) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 cups (1L) of water

1 teaspoon (5mL) of salt

A 14-ounce (400mL) can coconut milk

2 cups (500mL) of fresh or frozen green peas

1 pint (500mL) of cherry tomatoes, halved

½ teaspoon (2mL) of your favorite hot sauce

The zest and juice of 1 lime

A handful of fresh cilantro sprigs

Splash the vegetable oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook, stirring as the onions soften, 5 minutes or so. Sprinkle in the curry and stir for a few moments to brighten its flavor. Toss in the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, water and salt. Bring to a slow, steady simmer, then simmer long enough for the sweet potato to soften, 20 minutes or so.

Pour in the coconut milk, peas and tomatoes. Continue cooking just long enough to heat everything through. Season with the hot sauce and lime zest and juice. Serve and share with the cilantro sprinkled over every bowl.

 

Is it no reflection on the quality of this recipe that one boy got up from the table after eating a bowl full of this for dinner to make himself a sandwich.  See above re: hollow legs.

We also had great success recently with an apple galette, inspired by Kitchen Counter Chronicles.  Jen’s recipe is ever so kid-friendly, and the kids really loved getting involved in making dessert.

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10626648_10154651485075014_1125483120492747965_n

p_238_274_238And if you do not have the time or energy to make your own baked goods, either for dinner or for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, give thanks for the brilliant concept that is ShopBake, an on-line baked goods store with treats from over 50 Toronto bakeries.  They sent us a sample pack of some of their goodies, and I have to tell you that everything I tasted was delicious.  Best of all, because there are so many vendors, you can really narrow down your parameters: gluten-free, nut-free no problem!

Shop Bake sent us samples of their goodies, and Penguin sent us a copy of Michael Smith’s Family Meals.  Thank you for spreading the goodness!

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Guest Post by Aly Ruiz Tsourounis: Summer Sipping: Peach Vodka Fizz

peach fizz 3Our guest for this week is Aly from The Newlywed Life. Her lifestyle blog is a collection of healthy recipes, creative DIYs, affordable fashion and pretty fabulous parties; plus she’s Beth-Anne’s sister-in-law so she has it on good authority that she mixes up a tasty cocktail!

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My husband and I spend a lot of time entertaining and a big part of the fun in having dinner

parties is creating new recipes to enjoy with our guests. While my husband tackles most of the

food, I am usually in-charge of cocktails and appetizers, my favourite items at any dinner party!

My motto on summer cocktails is that they should be easy to prepare, easily doubled or tripled for

a group and refreshing. Say hello to the peach vodka fizz, my current go-to summer beverage.

 

Peach Vodka Fizz (serves one)

peach fizzIngredients:

• 1 – 2 shots of vodka (depends on the type of day you’re having!)

• 1⁄2 a peach, peeled and cubed

• Juice of 1⁄2 a lime

• Touch of agave syrup

• Club soda

• Ice

 

peach fizz 2Directions:

• Place cubed peach, lime juice and agave in a mason jar and muddle with a wooden

spoon

• Add vodka, place lid on mason jar and shake vigorously

• Remove lid, add ice and top mixture with soda

• Replace lid and give one final shake

• Remove lid and enjoy!

 

Hot Summer Drinks: Teas from the Garden

039Most summertime drinks rightly revolve around icy, chilled concoctions to quench our thirsts on hot summer nights. I venture, however, to make a case for tea, even in the summer.

Maybe not on the very hottest nights (and fellow Torontonians will know there haven’t been that many of those this summer) but pretty much all of the rest of the time, I love a good tea. And never more so than when the goods come from the garden. It’s a cinch to grow some lovely herbs in pots or in the yard that make perfect summertime teas.

First up is Fresh Mint Herbal Tea. Almost too easy to grow, mint is best grown in pots or defined areas, because it will spread and take over your garden.  With a few simple steps, you can have some for the cold winter nights when a hot tea is perfectly intuitive: just wash the sprigs, bunch, hang upside down until they’re completely dry, crush the leaves, and store in an airtight jar. But use the fresh leaves for a tea now, and you’re in for a special treat. Bonus: mint is reputed to relieve upset stomach and enhance mental focus, and its menthol can relieve cold symptoms like coughing and congestion.

And next is my all-time favourite, Chamomile Tea. I’ve grown chamomile for a few years in the garden, and it’s so lovely. It’s flowers, from which you steep the tea, are small dainty things, white delicate petals encircling a yellow bulb in the centre.  Chamomile will propogate itself (although less dramatically than mint), and encountering new patches of chamomile throughout the garden feels like bumping into old friends. You pick the flower off just at it’s base to make tea. If you have extra, spread the clean flowers on a sheet until completely dry, and then store in an airtight jar for the colder months. For now though, enjoy the fresh flowers in a teapot on the porch, and you’ve got a perfect summer beverage for a leisurely summer night. Bonus: chamomile has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and sedative qualities.

Fresh Mint or Fresh Chamomile Herbal Tea

You’ll need:

1/3 cup fresh mint or fresh chamomile flowers
2 cups boiling water
honey (optional – I never add it, but you might want to)

Place mint leaves or chamomile flowers in a ceramic pot and add boiling water, steep for 5 to 10 minutes.  Savour, smell, and sip.  Summer.

Summertime Margarita

This summer we’ve been all about margaritas! They are so yummy and can easily be made without alcohol. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not comfortable in the kitchen and I have a tendency to “wing” it (insert disastrous result), and I do the same when it comes to mixology too. I like to go by taste, so every measure that I am about to give you is an approximation. Let your sense be your guide!

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Start off with some limes, both regular run-of-the-mill juicy limes and those flavour-bursting key limes. Juice 2 limes per glass. This is where the math comes in. If you’re going to make a pitcher of 8 drinks, you’ll need sixteen limes. It’s a lot of squeezing but it will be worth it.

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Pour the lime juice into the pitcher and add some club soda (1:1 ratio). Now add a healthy dose of tequila. I prefer white (or clear) and I figure about 1.5 – 2 shots per glass. Again with the math.  Squeeze in some agave nectar. This is where it gets personal. Sweetness is subjective, so be sure to taste and add accordingly.

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Pour in a touch of orange juice. That’s a very technical measurement. Don’t screw that part up.

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I’ve sampled several versions of this recipe over the summer and each time I tweak it slightly. I know nothing for sure, other than this drink tastes best served in a tall glass over lots of ice and a thinly sliced key lime.

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Elderflower Everything

stgermainliquuerI am obsessed with Elderflower.  Obsessed.  I discovered it a few years ago in a pop I found at Winners.  Do you know, I sometimes go to Winners just to shop in the crazy impulse buy aisles they have you weaving through miles of just to get to the cash register.  Seriously.  Just for that.  I find the best stuff in those aisles!  It’s where I found this elderflower pop.  It’s where my elderflower adventure began!

From a rare find at Winners to England, where elderflower pop is readily available at Tesco, and a habit was formed.  I drank a lot of it in England and brought home a bottle of elderflower cordial in my suitcase.

From elderflower softdrinks, I moved on to a discovery of elderflower liqueur.  St. Germain is available at the LCBO, and mixed with a splash of soda, it’s a little taste of heaven.

Also available at the LCBO is Rekorderlig elderflower and pear cider.  Serve very well chilled.  See above re: heaven.

Finally, a friend, aware of my passion, brought me a bottle of elderflower cordial from Ikea.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own!  Recipe here from the Tree Council.

So, I’ve got several ways to find it, and now I’m working on ways to mix it.

Elderflower Bellini

A really indulgent cocktail that’s perfect for summer, is a simple mix of Prosecco and St. Germain.  Pour half an ounce of St. Germain into a champagne flute, fill with chilled Prosecco and feel the bliss.

REKORDERLIG-ELDERFLOWERElderflower Elvis

I made this cocktail for my Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon.  It was incredible.  At the time, I left out the beer from the original Bon Appetit recipe because I’m not a big fan of beer cocktails.  I’m thinking, though, that the Rekorderlig cider would be a delicious substitute for the beer and would amplify the elderflower flavour.

I also adapted the recipe by substituting vodka for gin and soaking segmented grapefruit in the vodka for a few hours.  I then used this flavour-infused vodka to make the cocktails and used the grapefruit for garnish.  Delish!

Virgin Elvis

Just add Elderflower cordial to pink grapefruit juice and add a splash of soda water.  Yum!

Please tell me about any other elderflower drinks you may know about!!