Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Maple Cookies

photo by Obajoo on Flickr

Okay, okay. I apologize. I've been totally slacking on this blog thing lately! But it's spring and my new schedule has me riding in the forest as often as I can get in there!

For instance, today I had a blast finding a new trail called 'Maple Gravy'; a nice, winding track that takes you into the heart of Durham Forest. So beautiful. While the winds pushed and swayed the tops of the towering trees above me, I stayed nestled in among the trails nice and warm and having fun.

So as an ode to the Maple Gravy run, and since it's my turn to bake for the boys' group home this week, I give you Maple Cookies. Ooey, Gooey goodness but don't skimp on the syrup, people! Use the real stuff. Especially if you're Canadian-blooded. Think I'll throw in some chocolate chips with this. Think that'll work out? I'll let you know...

Maple Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter; softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup maple syrup - the real deal! None of that Aunt Jemima crap
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
white sugar for decorating

Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg, syrup and vanilla. Throw in the rest of the stuff and mix well. Shape into 1" balls and roll in white sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spider vs. Speed

photo by Cynthia's photos on flickr

Last summer, as my vehicle took me through the intricacies of my world, I had a traveling passenger everywhere I went. I'd drop the kids off at school and he'd be riding right along with me. I'd drive to work and there he would be, keeping me company as I cruised the 30K towards the office. He never took up much room and his presence didn't hinder the space needed to tote six kids alongside me for band practice.

This little stow-away was a spider who lived in my side mirror. Every morning when I'd throw the truck into gear, he would crawl off his web and find security within the framework of the mirror's casing. As his webbed home clung desperately to what it hoped would secure a day's residence, I felt guilty as its grip would become victim to the wind force caused by my lead foot; its threads catching a ride on the force that would carry it off.

Lo and behold, the next morning a new home would be constructed in its place and each morning for the entire summer. At day's end, its home would be in ruins as I parked in the driveway and, every morning, a new one would be in its place. I had to admire this eight-legged creature's dedication and commitment. "I can definiltey learn something from him," I thought to myself.

I thought of my little passenger at the car wash, on the highway and in thunderstorms. And every morning, a reconstructed web would glisten in the sunshine hoping for the meal it promised to bring. It made me want to borrow some of this determination for an obstacle I've come across ever since I started biking.

Even though I enjoy running, I find the warmer months the most challenging to stay the course. After all, summer is bike season, and I'm having a hell of a time staying focused on my runs. Man, it takes much longer to cover the same pavement when you don't have two wheels propelling you forward.

Last summer, I completely bailed and traded all my running time for me and my bike. But the guilt of not sustaining my running regiment took its toll and I vowed this summer to commit to a balanced routine. Guilt is a powerful force.

So the other day, I went for an 8K run - nothing too extreme. I surveyed the long country road that lay before me and it seemed to go on forever. Knowing I usually cover the same distance within minutes when I trade in my runners for bike clips, the task was feeling too arduous.

Then I remembered my little buddy, the spider. Every day he creates something and every day it's destroyed. Yet, he perseveres and holds his ground. So I plowed ahead and tried to make the best of this run that I just didn't have the heart for this one particular morning.

As I reached the half-way mark, I cursed the road that still spanned before me. If I had my bike, this patch of asphalt would be completely behind me, I muttered. I kept treading forward as a new song escaped through my headphones. A song that once held empowerment but, due to repeated plays, has metamorphosed into a droning bore. I tried to skip to the next one but my fingers fumbled with my i-pod and it fell to the ground - the wire dangling from my water belt. Damn. I never have to worry about i-pods when on my bike.

A faint (and familiar) twinge of pain shoots through my left knee and my left hip (running is brutal on the joints). A pain I never feel when on my bike, I realize.

The sun rises to greet the day, I feel its heat on my skin; no breeze to cool me off. I've underestimated the potential of this early morning temperature and realize I've dressed in too many layers.

I'm now hot. Tired. My knee is aching and my hip is flaring up. None of the elements I experience when on my bike, I curse.

I finally assemble my music again and keep thinking of my eight legged friend. How he never gives up. In his honour, I forge ahead.

I reach for my water bottle and try to quench my dry throat. None left. I hate carrying a lot of water when I run so I always use 6 oz. bottles. Not like my bike bottle that carries well over what I would drink on an 8K route such as this.

I finally plod home; thirsty and aching. I eye my bike sitting in the garage. Its sight invites me over and I place my hands on its bars; my feet moving the pedals as they ask to go for a spin. I remember the long, dry road I had just come from and I decide to tackle it in the way it's meant to be tackled. After all, my poor bike has been sitting in storage for a good few months; the only action its seen is on the wind trainer or in an indoor riding arena. In fact, how dare I turn my back on it when the weather calls him out to play?

I do a quick shoe swap and wheel my bike out of the garage. I glance over at my truck and spot my little spider working away at his web that, in about 2 hours, will be laying on the highway somewhere as it gives way for the millionth time on the drive to work.

As I see him working diligently at his task, I think: Why the heck would a spider pick a moving vehicle to make a home? Maybe this spider aint' too bright. Maybe he's a little bit challenged when compared to his other spider friends. In fact, maybe they all laugh at him when he consistently builds his web on moving structures. We're in the country, after all. What's wrong with the hedge? The bushes? Look around, spider! You're in a rut with this whole mirror-obsessed carnage!

I jump on my bike and leave the spider to his business. I immediately enjoy the freedom of speed. The easy motion of my joints as the ache subsides. Its tires eat up the pavement my feet just pounded. No i-pod needed for distraction; biking is just too much fun to need one. I spend an hour and a half on my bike and glide back into the driveway content and at peace.

Now, I'm not saying I'm giving up running. And I'm not saying I don't appreciate the spider's perseverance. I'm just saying, "Spider. Maybe you want to look around and appreciate your surroundings while you got 'em."

And, spider, if you do change it up, if only for a few months, there's nothing to feel guilty about.

shoe photo by ingridesign
bike photo by eric magnuson

Friday, April 16, 2010

Brie and Prosciutto Dip

While at the grocery store in the check-out line, I got the urge to try a new recipe - particularly for an appetizer. Thought it would be nice to serve up something new this weekend. I skimmed through one magazine and was quickly swept up with the colorful pictures and plethora of recipes. Sold.

When I got it home and began my search for the perfect appetizer, I came across an article that offered this piece of crucial advice:

"Be prepared for minor emergencies by keeping a flower-arranging kit always within arm's reach."

What-the...?? The article goes on to list the essentials for said kit:

  • scissors
  • pruning sheers
  • wire cutters
  • floral tape
  • floral foam
  • florist's wireribbons
  • rafia (not sure what this is but apparently very important in unexpected emergencies)

photo by brianr78 on flickr

I'm perplexed. What kind of minor emergency would have you lunging for your flower-arranging kit?? Your do-good neighbour is walking up your driveway unannounced so you start arranging flowers in a fury? I honestly am trying to be devil's advocate here, but I cannot, for the life of me, think of anything that would constitute a flower-arranging panic. If someone could help me out with this one, much appreciated.

Drawing on real-life moments, I would classify the following as minor emergencies:

1. Realizing there is no toilet paper and no one is home. So you carefully arrange yourself in a way to get to the next bathroom right when the doorbell rings.

2. Your child announces that it's his turn to bring the kindergarten class snack this very morning and all you have is Teriyaki beef jerky and cracked peppercorn crackers. (hey, at least it packed well)

3. Your child is sleeping in bed with you and he announces he's not feeling well so you hold out your hands in a last minute effort to save the sheets you just finished laundering (ode to Jocelyne).

4. You are hit with a very productive sneeze while in the middle of a meeting. You have no other choice but to use your hand as a Kleenex and face mask while trying to gracefully exit the room.

If only I had my flower arranging kit with me. Hmmm, I could have...

1. ...made a nice arrangement to, you know, take care of business...
2....given the teacher a beautiful bouquet in way of saying, "Sorry about the 24 hungry children, but aren't these pretty?!"
3....quickly arranged a bouquet while your child yacks all over your bed. Nothing turns a frown upside-down like a beautiful arrangement.
4....used a quick flower arrangement to make a great diversion.

Luckily, the magazine also supplied this great recipe for dip. Who knows? Maybe a bouquet of flowers would do quite nicely with its presentation.


photo by sunflower catering on flickr

1 cup sour cream
1 8-oz package cream cheese
3 5-oz. containers triple cream brie
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped prosciutto (about 6 oz)
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, combine sour cream with the three cheeses. Beat until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Bake in 8" square dish for 15-20 minutes and serve with crackers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Empire State of Mind

Wow - just got back from New York with my hubby and what a place! There is more to my life than food (in case you all didn't realize that), but I haven't had lunch yet and my stomach is revisiting all the wonderful things it experienced during the last five days.

You see these cute little crabcakes? 5th avenue, baby. Dee-lish! Eaten alongside a beet and chick pea salad with a ginger vinaigrette. Must google that one!

These nachos were awesome. I say, the more you can pile on, the better. These were dripping with smoked barbecue beef and my husband was kind enough to share. He didn't even wince when I took the ones loaded with the most stuff. Now that is true love. Either that, or he was distracted by BB King's nightly entertainment. Either way, I scored!

Okay, see this dish served up in Little Italy? I ordered Lobster Ravioli. Do you notice the garnish they used? A whole lobster!! Plus butterflied shrimp hanging out on the side. Those Italians know a thing or two about ignoring waistlines. But I didn't complain...

I'm going to leave you guys with my friend's recipe. She served this up for us at the cottage using pork, but I think this would be PERFECT to simulate the nacho experience I had in Times Square. Just cook on a slow simmer and serve on top of nachos along with your other favourites (jalapenos, sour cream, cheese, guacamole...).

And since my fridge bares none of these wonderful memories...only a sad jar of strawberry jam that will accompany the peanut butter sandwich I'm about to have, my thoughts remain in New York. At least until I get to the grocery store.

Karen Kelly's Pulled Pork (but I'm changing it to beef!)

1 pork butt or Beef Roast

Dry Rub
4 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. black pepper
1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
And I'm thinking just a drop or two of liquid smoke to get the BBQ Flavour.

Mix ingredients together in a bowl (except for the roast, silly).
Rub mixture over meat and let sit for 3 hours. Place in slow cooker set to low for 6-7 hours.

Once roast is tender, pull the meat apart; shredding it in pieces.

More to Chew On...

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