Friday, December 31, 2010

That Chickadee Feeling

Yesterday, we took advantage of this spring-type weather and decided to hike through the forest. We brought along black birdseed with us and soon had a few visitors asking to be fed. I highly recommend a walk like this for you and your family. It was really cool to have these little guys trust us. The kids worked really hard at being very still and were rewarded with lots of feathered friends.

I love this shot that captured the one flying to his hand. Notice the one atop his head!

Remaining still with her hand held flat

He counted each one and had a total of 108 Chickadees perch on his hand

Monday, December 27, 2010

Joyride 150

photo by Ana Nisio on Flickr

You know what we did today? The family and I went for a lovely bike ride together then had a picnic lunch.

Were we on vacation, do you ask? Nope.

What warm-weather place did we travel to, you wonder?

Why, we stayed right near our own neighbourhood, that's where! We hit Joyride 150 for the day; our first visit back since last winter.

For those of you who have never heard of it, Joyride 150 is a 90,000 square foot riding facility located in Markham, Ontario. They have everything from a sweet, cross-country track that loops the perimeter of the building to tabletop jumps and log overs.

Now, I know some of you think an indoor riding park may be similar to a skateboard or BMX park. In other words, a place for stunt riders only. Wrong.

I was clipped in for my entire ride today and had a blast on all the skinnies, teeter-totters and rocky descents. Totally the perfect fix for any mountain biker or cyclist. Even beginners or riders looking to just spin a little will have their bikes thanking them after a visit to Joyride.

If you've been missing the forest and want to work on your switchbacks, they've updated a great little section nestled among lit Christmas trees. They've also added some new sections off the main track; a nice surprise after a season away. Check out this video for a glimpse of the X-Country track and other trails from last year.

Of course, they do have a section for BMX riding and my boys were itching to try out their new rides they found under the Christmas tree.

My daughter heard the foam pit calling her name and attacked this jump section with fervor. Telling them they'll be spending the day at Joyride ranks right up there with Canada's Wonderland so we were in their good books for sure.

Picnic tables are available in the main section of the park and if you get there early enough, you can score the comfy couches located in front of the fireplaces and flat screen TVs. You can pack your own food or order pizza at the snack bar.

Yep, great to know that winter holds many more trips to Joyride in our future. Be sure to schedule it into yours as well. We consider it our little piece of summer during these cold months. Winter Shminter. Joyride rocks.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gramps' Butterscotch Pie

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope this blog finds you all prepping for the holidays in good spirits. The fridge is full, the presents are wrapped and the kitchen simmers with lots of wonderful flavours roaming through all rooms in the house. Lots to be thankful for.

As I type this by the fire, my butterscotch pies cool on the counter. Every year, fortunately for all of us, my husband's family remains true to the tradition of serving this for dessert at Christmas. Every time I make this, I have a new found patience for Gramps, the originator of the recipe. Lots of slow stirring with steady and persistent care as this comes together in a double boiler. I've also topped it with his meringue, and I have yet to do this perfectly. For the life of me, I can't figure out how to prevent meringue from 'weeping' or shrinking.

However, I think I've mastered it this year. So I will pass this along to you in hopes that all your culinary traditions come with great success. And if they don't, so what?! Enjoy each other and all the great memories that are born from Christmas.

Gramps' Butterscotch Pie

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour (sifted)
2 cups scalded milk (I use whole milk for this recipe)
1/8 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

In double boiler, add sugars and flour. Add scalded milk gradually while stirring. Add salt. Cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour 1 tbsp. of milk mixture into eggs. Repeat. Combine the eggs with the rest of the mixture. Cook 3 minutes. Stir in butter. Cool, then add vanilla.

Pour into baked 9" pie crust. Cover with meringue and bake at 325 until meringue is browned.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This past weekend was about so many beautiful things that only winter can bring. Because I live with a certain someone who does not emit an effervescence for this magically white-powdered time, I have to concentrate extra hard on the good things that will keep my spirit lively during the next couple months.

This year, I refuse to let that certain someone's negative take on the season bring me down. When the wind whips itself around the -20 temperatures, I must admit, it gets pretty tough not to chime along with him . But after the great weekend we've had, I am excited with what's to come and I'll perhaps read this blog weeks from now and consider myself an optimistic idiot, or be reminded of what to appreciate.

This weekend consisted of:

-a scavenger hunt in town after dark with a gang of 10 and 11 year olds. Running along with them down main street in the snow and slush while bundled up in our winter wear was revitalizing; their energy growing contagious (despite the grumpy horse carriage guy who demanded the kids stop scavenging up and down the sidewalks. And the store owner who shooed the kids away as they tried to lob snowballs at his shops gigantic icicles). See how optimism works? Just ignore the cold, grumpy people and find the good in winter.

-taking the kids skating on the lake with their cousins. I love the sound of gliding skate blades on this town's frozen backyard. Yes, my fingers were frozen doing up all those skates in the snow. But that's okay, it's all the price to pay for the fun of winter! Yeay!

-eating barbecued hot dogs in the snow (thanks to Uncle Brad). They just taste better. Why? I don't know. But do it. Ingredients: hot dogs, buns, ketchup, snow bank. That's all.

-baking Cinnamon buns for Christmas morning and delivering the extras to some of my brothers. Getting my grandma's rolling pin back in action made it all the more special. Baking these in the summer months is just plain wrong. So without cold, we wouldn't have this tradition. One more pro to add to winter's list. Yeay again!

for recipe, go to:

-finishing a novel in record time because I couldn't put it down. Eventide came with heartbreak early on, but left my heart full by the end and I am left longing for more stories of the people of Holt County. Hibernation = Reading. By the fire. With a blankie. Awesome.

I even got that certain someone out for a walk in the snow this morning. And he...drumroll...enjoyed it! As the snow crunched under his size 13 boots, we even talked of going skiing one day this week. Perhaps he's coming around to my side this year instead of the other way around. Perhaps I will influence him. And we'll make it through another year in good health, restored spirits and an appreciation for all things winter.

Gotta' go. Skis are calling. Go Winter!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Denise's Napa and Arugula Soup

Well, she's done it again. Denise has whipped up another fantastic recipe that is just too good to keep to myself. We had it last night and the kids loved it too. It's a perfect meal for this time of year when I find myself diving into lots of cookie dough batter and baked goods as I prepare for Christmas.

Denise's Napa and Arugula Soup

1 med. onion; chopped
1 carrot; chopped
2 med. potatoes; peeled and sliced
1 head napa cabbage; chopped
1/2 cloves garlic; minced
dash of hot sauce
5-6 cups vegetable stock
2 handfuls baby arugula
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Melt 2 tbsp. butter and sautee onions until soft. Add carrots and potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add cabbage and garlic; stir for another minute or so. Add stock, hot sauce and arugula. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes (covered).

Throw in blender and puree until smooth. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

(for a time saver, use a can of potatoes and pre-chopped garlic in the jar)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grasshopper Cake

My dear, sweet Ma has been making this one for years. When she posted on her FB status that she was whipping one up for Christmas dessert, a handful of people were asking for the recipe. And no, Curtis, there are no real grasshoppers in the cake!

I think she first got this recipe from a magazine back in the 80's. Amazing how it's grown along with us over the past two decades - a family favourite for sure!

"Yes, Tracey, I will be happy to make you a grasshopper cake as soon as I'm done opening up your magic bubbles. Maybe one day, you'll post the recipe on something called a 'blog'. You are the best daughter ever and I don't know how you put up with those three stinky brothers of yours. Now go fetch your Dad his hammer so he can finish putting up this lovely wood paneling."

Cheryl, this one's for you!

Mom's Grasshopper Cake

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (you can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to regular milk as a substitute)
2 egg yolks
2 squares unsweetened chocolate (melted)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8" round cake pans. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add the 1/2 cup sugar gradually and beat well until stiff.

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into large mixing bowl. Add oil and half the milk. Beat 1 minute and add remaining milk, egg yolks and chocolate. Beat for 1 more minute. Fold in egg white mixture.

Fill pans and bake until done, about 30 minutes. Turn onto racks and cool completely. Split each layer and put together with 'Grasshopper Cream' (below). Chill for several hours.

Grasshopper Cream

1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup green creme de menthe
1/3 cup creme de cacao
1 pint whipping cream

Add gelatin to cold water and let stand 5 minutes. Heat, but do not boil the liqueurs. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Cool (do not chill). Whip cream until stiff and fold in liqueur mixture. Do not beat in. Chill 15 minutes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Figgy Pudding

Rahlen in his happy place

This year, I decided to join my husband for his annual recording of a Christmas album he does with his musician buddies. I have avoided this in the past because, well, every significant other of a musician can understand why it's not the most alluring party to go to. When you get a gaggle of musically talented people in the same place, the conversation rarely steers itself away from their obsession.

Don't get me wrong. I love these people! But they are very passionate about what they do. I'm certain they wouldn't feel as energized and engaged if I were to go on about Shimano clips or Specialized bikes (have you seen the new FSR suspension design with remote mini brain shock? Don't know if I should switch over to the 29'ers or not...what? Oh, sorry. Back to blogging...)

So I decided to drag along a posse. My friend, Shauna, who easily fits into the music world (having been an editor of a music magazine and who also suffers from Musician's-Wife-Itis) and my niece, Jessica, who carries with her a set of pipes that could add to the album they were working on.

Jeremy with Shauna; Jessica Recording

However, these two were fully warned that they were there to entertain me if things went the way I assumed they would: me in a corner listening to musical-techno talk. If you need to know what I mean, here's an example:

"Is that just an arpeggio?"
"Yes it is! Arpeggios are actually far more usable than scale forms to the beginning soloist."


"Eric Johnson sets up a nice little loop using a footpedal..."

"Yeah, and he's got some insane shredding lines..."


"How does a Boss Loop Station work?"
"So Cool! Just insert it at the end of your effects chain...yadda, yadda, yadda..."

Sadly, I could go on. Shauna? Jessica? Where you at!? And where'd my drink get to??

But you know what? I had a fabulous time! I spent 13 hours at this recording party and had a blast with everyone there. Good food, great laughs and really, really fun people. Perhaps I'm being assimilated? Maybe Jeremy is slipping something into my drink.

ANy-HoO...this leads me to another reason I loved this party: Grace's Bean Dip. This girl's voice was like beautiful velvet and watching her record her pieces was a privileged thing. Maybe she put the same amount of love she has for music in this dip. Nevertheless, it was superb. And lucky me, she was willing to share.

Grace doin' her thang

Grace's Black Bean Dip

1 can drained kidney beans
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/2 jalapeno pepper
juice of at least one lime if not more
salt to taste
little spoon of mayo
handful of cilantro
green onion or a bit of red onion

Put it all in the food processor - start with the garlic and jalapeno so it gets nice and small then put the rest of the ingredients in and voila - easy peasy!

photo of bean dip by picks over peas on flickr

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

...and the Baking Continues...

I love, love, love this time of year! Pre-Christmas baking, pre-Christmas shopping and loads of gatherings with friends and family. All we need is a little more snow so we can hit the slopes and it would make for a perfect December.

Moving onward to more Christmas baking, I asked for others to post their faves. So here's one from Debbie Hignett. This girl knows what she's talkin' about. These look awesome and they're definitely going to find their way onto the cookie tray this year. Thanks, Deb!

photo by pinkbow on flickr

Deb's Mars Bars

8 Mars Bars (regular size)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 cups Rice Krispies
1 package milk Chocolate Chips

In a large glass bowl, melt Mars Bars and butter in microwave for 2 minutes until melted. Stir thoroughly. Reheat for another 30 seconds if not completely melted but do not overcook.

Pour in 2 cups of Rice Krispies and mix well. Gradually add 3rd cup until completely mixed.
Press out in a Glass 9"x13" cake pan. Cover, with plastic wrap, making sure plastic is not touching the Mars Bar mixture.

Put in refrigerator for 1 hour to set. Melt the milk chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave for about 1 ½ minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until completely
melted. Take Mars Bar mixture out of refrigerator and pour melted chocolate over. Spread evenly.

Return mixture to refrigerator for at least one hour. Allow mixture to warm up for half an hour before cutting in to squares so that the chocolate top does not crack.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

photo by

Let the festive baking season begin as the heart of cookies and catwalks comes to life! I have a slew of favourites that I whip up every year. If you have a traditional favourite, don't horde it to yourself! Share and I'll post.

Today, I started on the king of all Christmas cookies: Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies. An absolute must to bring in the month of December.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

The Cookie
1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

The Filling
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
4-5 drops of red food coloring

The Final Touch
Candy Canes; crushed or chopped in food processor

Making the Cookies:

Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric blender, beat sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat in the egg. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out a mound of dough and roll into a smooth ball. Place ball on prepared baking sheet, and repeat until cookie tray is full and leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.

Using the bottom of a glass, squish each ball to 2-inches round (edges will crack). Bake for about ten minutes (do not over-bake or cookies will become too dry). Set aside to cool.

Making the Filling:
Using electric mixer, beat icing sugar and butter until well blended. Add peppermint extract and 4-5 drops food coloring. Beat until pink, adding more food coloring for darker pink colour if desired. Spread 2 generous teaspoons filling on flat side of a cookie then top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently to adhere. Repeat with remaining cookies and peppermint filling. Be sure that icing squishes out the side of the cookie sandwich.

The Final Touch...Place crushed candy canes on plate. Roll edges of cookie sandwiches in crushed candy canes.

I usually quadruple this recipe as they're a favourite of many!! If you find it too dry from quadrupling the quantities, add one more egg to even things out.

More to Chew On...

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