Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Snakes and Ladders Pasta Salad

photo by susancvineyard on flickr

I just came back from an awesome ride in the forest. Two hours of climbs and fast descents but now I'm starving and it's too late at night to eat anything. So hungry!

It must have been a great ride because I'm craving a carb-filler like pasta. So here's a recipe that is extra yummy. It's got lots of flavours and colours that'll keep your taste-buds intrigued; including a grilled head of radicchio. You heard me! Grilled! It's awesome. Throw in some baby bocconcini with fresh basil and grilled sausage -- you can't deny that this is a winner.

So I've named it after one of the trails I just came from that also keeps the senses stimulated. Enjoy the ride!

Snakes and Ladders Pasta Salad

3 cups whole wheat penne; cooked and drained
1 clove garlic; minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp pepper
4 mild Italian sausage
1 each of red, yellow and orange peppers; sliced
1 head radicchio lettuce
1 container of mini bocconcini cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

In bowl, whisk garlic, salt, oil, vinegar and pepper. Set aside.

Place peppers in a grilling basket for the BBQ. At the same time, place sausages on barbecue. Cook peppers until tender and charred and sausages run clear.

Cut sausages into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Toss peppers into dressing you had set aside earlier.

Cut head of radicchio lettuce in half, remove core and place on grill. Turn often until leaves are tender and slightly charred. About 5 minutes. Remove from grill and slice. Add this to the dressing and peppers.

Toss peppers, radicchio, pasta, sausage, bocconcini and basil together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

illustration by bradhallart on flickr

Life can be a mysterious thing. Why are we here? What's my purpose? Is there life after death, and all that sort of stuff. But sometimes, it's the small stuff that I find perplexing.

The other week, I was taking my pooch for a walk. With baggie in hand to prepare for the degrading act of scooping up yesterday's doggie dinner, I meandered down the street enjoying my neighbours' freshly mowed lawns and sweetly kept gardens (admittedly, these same gardens stir up guilt as I compare them to my own weed-infested displays; my ode to nature's version of 'Animal House').

A short time into our walk, the bag now the opposite of empty, I tie it in a knot and leave it on the roadside so that I can walk freely without its burden, with full intentions of collecting it on the way back (I have lowered myself to collect the poop, but I'll be damned if it will be company on my journey).

Upon circling back to do the poop pickup, the bag was nowhere to be seen. Leaving it unattended for only twenty minutes, I feel compelled to survey the street. No one in sight. Not garbage day. Oh well, I say to myself. Perhaps someone just came across it and scooped it up for me.

But here's the kicker: this keeps happening. Three times now I have left my doggie bag and three times, within twenty minutes, my bag has disappeared into the unknown.

I recently heard on the news of someone breaking and entering homes to steal dirty diapers. He said he liked to 'wear them' - no joke. Is this a twisted fetish I could be dealing with? Am I being watched? Is someone staking me out?

Or maybe my dog's digestive remains make great fertilizer for all these wonderful gardens I pass by. Despite these odd circumstances, I fail to feel like a victim here. They're stealing poop for #@!&% sakes.

I guess I may never come to realize the identity of these poop perps. I will, however, continue to leave my steaming, plastic loot bags on the side of the road and perhaps, one day, my consistent actions will 'flush out' the answer.

I'll tell you this, though. I think twice about stopping and smelling the roses anywhere along my street.

In the meantime, I will leave you with one of my childhood's favourite snacks. Completely unrelated to the story above, by the way.

Haystack Cookies

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups minute oats
1 cup shredded coconut

Place the milk, butter, sugar, and cocoa in saucepan. Bring to a boil for one minute. Remove from heat then stir in oats. Mix in coconut. Drop in spoonfuls on waxed paper. Place in fridge and cool until set.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Veggie Pizza Appetizer

Adam taking the first plunge of the season

Ah, summer. Gotta' love it. Nothing like spending time dockside with friends and family whether in Ontario or Manitoba (and all the while working up an appetite, thanks to waterskis and Sea-doos).

It's great to walk around with a tray of something in the summer; good company is always looking for munchies to pair up with their frosty beers - especially when the steep walk back up to the cabin is avoided at all costs once those beer tabs are pulled (hence the reason for rounds of applause from all when you make your way down to the lake with any type of sustenance).

This one is a big winner, first served up by my Manitoban-cousin Karen. I've made this countless times and even my carnivore-obsessed brothers love this one:

Karen's Veggie Pizza

1 tube Pillsbury Giant Crescent Roll (I use the multigrain)
1 pkg. 8 oz. light cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing (or other creamy dressing of choice)
Diced Raw Veggies: Broccoli, Red and Yellow Peppers
Grated Carrots

Pat crescent rolls flat into cookie sheet (greased).
Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Let cool.

Mix together cream cheese and salad dressing. Spread over cooled crust. Top with diced, raw veggies and grated carrots. Slice 'pizza' into squares and serve.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This week, I've been feeling a bit sluggish. Slow on the bike. Drained energy. What's goin' on? Don't feel sick. Life is treating me well. Go figure. Tried to bike up the wall twice on Monday and couldn't do it.

When I got home, I had the urge to whip up some good ole' bran muffins -- tossed in some fresh berries, and voila! I whipped up the best darn muffins I've ever pulled from the oven! Jeremy's band was practicing downstairs and they all emerged from the basement drooling from the aroma that engulfed the kitchen. Those poor, starving musicians. They didn't stick around long enough for a sampling.

Check out this pan. Great for Yorkshire Pudding and even better for muffins!

I highly recommend getting a set of Yorkshire Pudding pans. These worked amazingly! Nice, high muffin tops - yummy! Scorfed one of these babies down before hitting the sack and then plowed into another helping for breakfast.

Well, let me just say that I have had a little bit more pep in my step! And the wall? Tackled it no problem on Tuesday morning - with gusto! Thanks, Bran, for bringing me back to life.

Tracey's Energy Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter; melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 or 2 cups berries (I used blueberries and raspberries)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease pan or line with paper liners.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until fluffy. Add bananas, milk, vanilla and eggs. Mix well. Stir in flour, bran, baking powder, soda and salt. Blend just until moistened. Fold in berries.

Pour batter into tins. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool. Eat. Live.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The cutest volunteers you could ever meet

To all you faithful followers, I know I haven't been checking in too much lately. I am on my summer blogging hours! How can one sit at the computer on these glorious riding days? However, this does not mean I have nothing to say (rarely the case!) and I wish to share with you an experience that I strongly suggest you create for yourselves as well.

Four years ago, I decided to organize a Survivor/Amazing Race for a group of friends. My secret dream to partake in the real 'Survivor' is sadly unrealistic for two reasons. I could not survive the 30 days without my kiddies and plus I am Canadian (through and through!). So I went on to organize a day that purges this ambition.

I deemed it the Slightly Incredible Island Race and, year after year, it has always been a fantastic day of events, but the stories and quick friendships that emerge from this race were the unexpected gifts in planning this day of mayhem.

The first year was a little tough to convince others to partake. Some were worried about the physical requirements and others deemed the idea lame (we won't name names, Jeremy). Since then I have had to add multiple teams to the roster to include others begging to do the event. We now have six teams of six people and a waiting list the length of my arm for others desperately hoping to sub in for an injured player (I feel that 36 people is the maximum on this kind of day).

This is a list of what us 40-year-old, frolicking contestants dove into this year:

-scavenger hunt
-running through tangled forests
-water throwing
-building fires, catapults, dinghy races
-frisbee golf

...and the best part...

...sprinting to the finish line located at the pub:

a little envy between contestants and the winning team is abundant

Topped off with a round of inebriated guitar singing on the patio, the handing out of the dirty-sock and clean-sock awards, this is now my favourite day of the year. We have had people bail on relatives' weddings in order not to miss another year of craziness.

If you're looking to create great memories, forge friendships and serve your competitive streak, I highly recommend planning a day for your own group. Not one person who has ever signed up for this race has regretted it. And, ironically enough, Jeremy's name is always at the top of the sign-up sheet ever year.

ps) Team Grey rules, Team Black sucks

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