Monday, November 2, 2009

Garlicky Kale and Black Bean Soup

I love it when the two thoughts of "I should clean out my fridge" and "What's for dinner?" converge to inspire me to create something tasty and delicious. Last night was the perfect example. I knew already that I was going to make mac 'n cheese, Klassen-style, for my dear husband: macaroni baked in a thick, creamy cheese sauce topped with cornflakes, thick slices of bacon, and baked until the bacon is crisp and the cornflakes and macaroni have soaked up the fatty goodness. But my heart started palpitating at the mere thought of eating that, and only that, for dinner.

So I rummaged through the fridge, looking for anything with more nutritional punch than mac 'n cheese. I found some cooked black beans leftover from bringing soup to a friend's house. I also found one lonely potato. Thankfully, I had recently bought a bunch of kale, thinking, "I need vitamins. And kale is tasty vitamins." Add sauteed onions, garlic, and broth, and we had dinner.

The soup was hearty yet brothy, filled with color from the kale, black beans, and potato. We topped it with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese. You could definitely add homemade garlicky croutons to increase the interest and crunch-factor of this soup. And, this soup can be a good winter-time staple, since kale is a hardy winter green, and potatoes, beans, onions, and garlic are all easy to have on hand. Kale is also a really easy green to grow, so if you have some in your garden, use it up! Enjoy!

Garlicky Kale and Black Bean Soup

1 onion, roughly chopped
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 medium potato, roughly chopped
4 - 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and sliced into ribbons
about 4 cups vegetable broth (using bouillion is fine)
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, grated

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions. Saute on medium-high heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the potato pieces and the black beans, a little water (to cover the bottom of the pan) and the chopped garlic. Stir, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes. When the potato is tender, add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, simmer for a few more minutes, and adjust your seasonings to taste (add salt, another bouillion cube, etc.).

While the soup is simmering, thoroughly wash your kale, especially if it's curly. Dirt and little bugs can get caught and stay hidden in its leafy folds. De-stem* each leaf (the main rib of each kale leaf is really tough and probably not tasty, although I've never tried eating one). Chop the kale into thin ribbons.**

About 4 minutes before you're ready to serve, plunge the kale into the hot soup. It will begin to wilt and turn bright green, and stay bright green for about... 10 minutes.*** Serve it immediately, while the kale is still pretty. Top each bowl with a healthy pile of grated parmesan cheese. Slurp and enjoy.

Makes about 6 servings.

*To de-stem your kale, lay each leaf down on your cutting board. Using a small paring knife, run the tip of the knife along the stem, taking the leafy parts off both sides of the tough stem.
**To do this, pile your de-stemmed leaves on top of one another, and try to cut along the longest part of the kale leaf. Chopping kale into ribbons ensures that it doesn't turn to green confetti, but maintains some shape and structure in the pot.
***Kale tends to turn a dingy brownish-green when it's overcooked... or when it's sat too long. It doesn't affect the taste at all, but it does lose some of its vibrant, colorful green. Serving your soup immediately after you throw the kale makes it more visually palatable.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rooftop Farms: Brooklyn, New York

Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, New York, has transformed the roof of this old warehouse into a thriving urban farm. The farm supplies organic food to local restaurants and cafes, as well as providing protection for the roof its built upon.

The creation of urban farms can (and I believe will) slowly transform a barren urban landscape into a place where slow food and neighborhood connections can thrive. Read one Brooklyn-ite's experience of Rooftop Farms. He and his wife went for a Sunday afternoon visit, and came home with produce for the week. They walked there, and walked home. How many of us, living in cities where it's easy to pass a day without anyone recognizing you or knowing your name, would benefit from this kind of neighborhood interaction?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bobby McFerrin and the Wizard of Oz

In this video, Bobby McFerrin proves his incredible mastery of vocalism, and of performing! In seven minutes he sings through the entire story of Dorothy, Toto, and her friends in Oz, and brings the entire audience into his performance.

When I was in college, my choir conductor used to talk about 'completing the circle' between performer and audience. If you have ever given a performance (musical or otherwise), you might know what I mean. The key ingredient in a transcendent performance is an audience who becomes as deeply invested and involved in the performance as the performer herself. Often it takes the form of some sort of response: clapping, cheering, and sometimes, breathless silence at the end of a piece.

Here, Bobby McFerrin brings the audience into the performance. He cannot perform without them. That, my friends, is a perfect example of 'completing the circle.'

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Miriam's Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Last week when I went strawberry picking with my friend Miriam, she made these cookies to add to our picnic lunch at the berry farm. They were so tasty, I of course asked for the recipe.

My husband loves oatmeal cookies, and since I hadn't baked for a while I decided to give these a try. They looked super simple and called for ingredients that I had ready to go in my kitchen. I made a few modifications (I can't help it!) and popped them in the oven. We had plenty to take to our home group that evening, and lots left over to snack on for the next few days. Although I'm pretty sure I ate about four with my afternoon tea, reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The coconut gives these cookies a beautiful fragrance and well-rounded taste. The oatmeal, Jordan swears, keeps the cookies soft. There is just enough flour and egg to hold the two predominant ingredients together.

Miriam's Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (I prefer room temperature, so I leave the butter on the counter overnight or all morning)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and stir until just combined. Add the oatmeal and coconut and stir until just incorporated.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about an inch between each cookie, as they will spread a bit. Bake for 12 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown.

Eat warm with lots of cold milk.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, July 3, 2009

a sherwood forest of baking possibilities

My in-laws have been visiting this week, and that means lots of good eating. J.'s parents are famous in my book for their fabulous Sunday crepe lunches, where J.'s dad does the crepe-flipping like a pro, and his mum sets out her white sauce, fruit sauce, fruit salad, and of course, the cottage cheese.

Of course, you have to eat something mid-week. So I had prepared some sourdough-type, Amish-friendship-cake-y bread/pastry/quiche/biscuit starter from a recipe given to my from a friend. The dough is cleverly called Sherwood, as the recipes came from a Robin Hood flour cookbook. Little did I know that this bowl of bubbling dough in my fridge would feed us all week and become a staple to this family visit. I have made cheese biscuits... twice. And scones... twice. And a breakfast quiche. All from one batch of Sherwood. And I still had a cup left over to start a new batch.

We took mum and dad kayaking in Deep Cove on Canada Day, and we had a grand time. The weather was perfect for kayaking - clear and sunny, warm enough to kayak in a tee shirt, just enough breeze to keep you cool and to add a little excitement to the kayaking (a wave washed over the stern of our double kayak and down J.'s back!). But, since we had gotten up early and had worked hard for two hours, we came home and promptly took long, Canada Day afternoon naps. Then, I baked these scones for tea.

I wasn't working with a scone recipe... I was adapting a recipe for cheese biscuits. But I thought to myself... biscuits and scones really aren't that far apart on the pastry continuum, how hard can it be? So I took a cup of the 'Sherwood' starter, some oranges given to me from a friend-going-on-holidays-and-cleaning-out-her-fridge, and some dried currants that desperately wanted to be baked into scones, and went from there.

These scones, in my opinion, were my biggest success, because I've always been afraid of making scones. Too much cold-butter-cut-into-the-flour, folding-and-rolling, perfect-temperature fuss for me. But, because the moisture in these scones comes primarily from the liquid starter, it requires a lot less butter-fuss than a traditional scone recipe.
Once you get the starter dough set up in your fridge, the rest of it is easy. The trick is not to forget to stir your 'Sherwood' every day, and to feed it every 5 days. But, it seems to be a forgiving kind of dough. I fed it a day late and forgot to stir it for two days, but each recipe turned out just fine. I'll post the cheese biscuits and breakfast quiche recipes in a future post.

Orange Currant Scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
zest of one small orange
1 cup dried currants
juice of one small orange
1 cup 'Sherwood' sourdough starter
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup raw cane or turbinado sugar (as long as it's large grain)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the cup of currants with the orange juice. Microwave for one minute, and stir. This will plump up the currants if they are dry like mine were (and not the good kind of dry... but the hard, totally-withered-beyond-edibility kind of dry). Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. (I used a zester - a little hand-gadget that looks like teeny brass knuckles - to peel beautiful long strips of the zest off the orange, but you can use a box grater or microplane and get good results. But the zester will be prettier.) Add the orange-soaked currants, but reserve the juice. (A slotted spoon helps here.) Stir until all the zest slivers and currants are coated in flour.

Add your Sherwood and the melted butter. Stir until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead about 5 times. Pat or roll out the dough into a long rectangle, and cut into scone shapes. (Usually triangles, but you can really do whatever you like. Mickey Mouse heads... snowmen...) Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with the reserved orange juice. Sprinkle with a large-grain sugar, preferably turbinado or raw cane sugar.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the tops are crusty and golden brown. Serve warm, with butter and maybe the slightest drizzle of honey.

Here is the recipe for the Sherwood starter. It's really simple - and you can keep it going indefinitely in your own fridge. You can also share it with friends a cup at a time, with the instructions to go along with it. It's also a good idea to give them the extra recipes for what to do with Sherwood once they have it going. Once you get the hang of all the different things you can do with it, let your imagination run wild!

adapted from Robin Hood Baking Festival recipes

On Day One: assemble the starter.
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
1 package (2-3 tsp) active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour

Proof the yeast by dissolving the sugar in a 1/2 cup of the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast in and let it stand 10 minutes. You'll see it bubbling a bit. This is a good sign - it means you have a live yeast culture!
Add the rest of the water and the flour. Beat it until smooth. Cover tightly and leave overnight at room temperature.

On Day Two: feed your starter.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

On Day Three: stir.

On Day Four: stir.

On Day Five: feed your starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
Stir until smooth and return to the refrigerator.

On Day Six: stir.

On Day Seven: stir.

On Day Eight: stir.

On Day Nine: stir.

On Day Ten: time to have fun!
Take a cup of Sherwood and give it to a friend, with accompanying instructions on how to care for it from Day Two until Day Ten. If you want to have a continuous supply in your own fridge, reserve a cup for yourself and feed it as you did from Day Two until Day Ten. This means you will have two separate bowls going - one that is ready to be baked into amazing things, and another that is getting ready to be baked in about 10 days.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guerrilla Gardening

I wish I could be this cool.

loynes after photo5
Keep up the amazing work, wherever you are!

Island Limeade

I won't lie to you: Hawaii is hot. Even when you lie completely still at night and have the fan going on full blast and are wearing as little clothing as you can get away with, you still sweat and steam. The coolest time of day, I imagine, is between 4 and 8 o'clock in the morning, which, of course, we never experienced in our two weeks on Kauai. Instead, we spent the hottest part of the day trying to escape the sun. We did our cooking after sundown, and finished the day by sitting in the dark with the fans going while we sipped cool, rummy drinks. 

On a recommendation from our library-loan guidebook, we went to a Guava Plantation, hoping to pick fresh guavas right off the trees. Unfortunately, the plantation had been shut down for a few years, and was undergoing renovations to become an organic farm and restaurant. 

We approached one of the guys doing some painting on what looked like the main building and got our info from him. "Sure, take a look around if you like," he said, pointing us in the direction of the 'Nature Walk'. "And if you find any fruit, just help yourself!" 

Despite taking a very buggy, itchy, and sun-beaten walk through the old plantation, we managed to collect a few stunted guavas, a jackfruit that we ended up leaving on the ground because no one knew how or dared to open it, and a big pile of beautiful limes. They turned out to be incredibly juicy. Limeade was definitely in order. 

Our limeade turned out more brown than green, mostly because of the cane sugar I used to sweeten it. That, and store-bought limeade is probably dyed green. But at the end of a hot day, it was the perfect accompaniment to this sunset. 

Island Limeade
*note: if you don't have enough limes to make a full cup, you can top it up with lemons, using up to a 1/3 cup of lemon juice

1 cup of lime juice, strained for seeds
1 cup of cane sugar
1 cup + 4 cups cold water (or to taste)
lime slices or mint/basil leaves, for garnishing

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of water to boiling. Stir in the cup of cane sugar, until it is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. 

(If you like, you can peel the zest off of your limes prior to juicing them, and throw those into the pot of water and sugar. It adds a little bit more flavor. Use a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife to do this so the zest stays in strips. Be sure not to boil the zest or it will get bitter. Remove the strips of zest before adding the sugar syrup to the limeade.) 

Meanwhile, juice the limes (and/or lemons) into a measuring cup. Using a spoon or your cupped hand as a make-shift strainer, get rid of all the seeds. I prefer to leave the pulp in, because it looks and tastes more real. 

In a large glass pitcher, combine the strained lime juice, the cooled sugar syrup, and the cold water, and give it a stir or two. Taste to test for balance of citrusy zing and sweetness, and add more water if necessary. Make sure it is really and truly chilled before serving. Garnish with a slice of lime or a sprig of mint. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

a bowl of vegetables... or the gardener?

Going away for vacation for two weeks in the middle of June is a bad idea when you are a gardener. Especially when those two weeks happen to be a hot spell that make your peas, lettuce, basil, and tomatoes overtake everything else in your garden. Especially when your peas are supposed to grow to 8 or 9 feet tall and you haven't put up anything for them to climb on yet! 

This first year of my gardening life has been a steep learning curve. Thankfully, Rodale's Encyclopedia to Organic Gardening and my friend Bob at The Natural Gardener have answered many of my crazy, first-year gardener questions. And now, I am learning that when you plant all of your seeds, you end up with a crowded, overgrown, and high-maintenance garden. I guess I'll live and learn? That is, if my tomatoes and peas live to produce... well, tomatoes and peas. 

The best part, though, of having an overgrown garden, is that you can start harvesting even the smallest arugula leaves and the earliest snap peas and the slightly-not-ripe-yet cucumbers, knowing that when the rest of it comes ripe, there will be plenty to go around! So, in July and August I will have an abundance of vegetables in my proverbial bowl, like the picture on the left. And, I will probably feel much like the fellow on the right - vegetables turned upside down, with a tin bowl on my head. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

the food of the garden island

We have been on Kauai now for almost two weeks, and we have been having so much fun I haven't had time to post! Our friends M. and L. from Australia met us 'halfway' for a vacation and reunion. We spent our first week on the North shore, and moved to the South shore at the beginning of this week. Apparently, locals from both sides are fiercely dedicated to their side of the island. Northern locals say, "Oh, don't go south, it never rains there," and southern locals say, "Don't go north, you'll always get wet!"

Personally, I loved the North Shore. We stayed in Princeville, but spent most of our time in and around Hanalei, an irrevocably laid-back surfer town. The main strip of town is easily walkable, with cute shops that managed to be only slightly touristy, because they were so rustic and authentic. On our first day, though, I got a taste of what life in Hanalei might be like... there are weekly farmers' markets all over the island, and we managed to roll into the Hanalei market on the Waipa Ranch just as the gates opened. I was so enthralled I completely forgot to take a photo of the place, but here is some of the beauty we picked up there: 

Fresh pineapple, papayas, limes, lemons, lychee, and apple bananas (the sweet tart kind) all freshly picked that day. We also got lettuce, basil, green onions, tomatoes, red peppers, fresh lemonade, and coffee blossom honey (sooo dark and intense). 

However, we had our priorities straight... even before thinking about the Farmer's Market, we picked up a huge plate of coconut shrimp:

And then topped it off with fried ice cream, lovingly prepared in what our side-of-the-road-van-chef guy called "The Big Hawaiian". 

It was the perfect way to kick off our visit to Kauai. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

o for a bit of earth...

Tonight I stole J.'s camera and shot some photos on my way to the last choir rehearsal of the summer. I'm so proud of my little seedlings that I couldn't wait to show them to y'all! I wish I had pictures of the garden-before-it-was-a-garden, i.e. a weedpatch. But alas. I was too excited to dig things out to take photos that day. 

How did our little garden come to be? We asked the dudes-in-charge if we could plant a garden in the weedpatch that bordered the parking lot on the west side of our church's property. Word got out, and a friend D. asked to plant a few things, too. So, we broke sod together, tearing out all the weeds, double digging the beds, and prepping the soil. It's quite sandy soil... perhaps because it's so close to the preschool's playground? :) D. brought in bags and bags of good ol' Vancouver Island Sea Soil, but I just added Gaia Organic Fertilizer to the soil. He already had seedlings started, but I had yet to order all my seeds. I bought them through Bob at The Natural Gardener, and he has become my most valued resource! Most of them came from West Coast Seeds, and I basically went through their catalogue page by page, making a list of everything I wanted to grow.  

Now, all the seedlings are coming up, including the yellow bell peppers, patty pan squash, and bush beans I planted in the last two weeks, and I will have to be creative about spacing and making room for all the plants I have going. I gave a cucumber plant to E. and M. tonight after choir... E. used to work in Africa as an agriculturalist, so I figured he would give the yellow-blossomed plant a good home. 

There were also some berry canes were in the weedpatch before we started. We decided to keep them in, to see what would grow. When I met a a few neighborhood friends (little two-year old W. and his nanny A.) I found out that they actually "harvested" the raspberries last summer! I pruned and fertilized them, and now they're showing beautiful buds and flowers. I'll have to bake a little tart for W. and A. when August rolls around. 

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the garden: 

Little bull's blood beetlings! I need to thin them out so they'll grow properly. I'm not going to have enough room for all my veggies... it's a serious problem. I've been so blessed to get permission to plant a garden in this space at all, but I have a problem with moderation. Meaning, I don't do anything half-way. So, I planted ALL of my seeds, not realizing that 2 summer squash plants feed a family of FOUR! Plus, they sprawl. I also planted ALL of my pepper, tomato, cuke, beet, carrot, and pea seeds. Oops. 

Arugula seedlings! My friend E. said they look like little hearts. Sweet little hearts I want to put in my mouth. 

We trellised our Alderman tall telephone peas on these metal trellises from Ikea. They come in boxes of 9 and you can screw them together to make any shape or height you need. We will definitely be adding to these. I'm sure J. was glad to be doing some "construction" work this last weekend putting these trellises together after digging and screening the last of our four beds last weekend! At the end of that day he said, "I feel like I've been digging holes and filling them back in all day!" Yup. Thank you, my dear husband. 

Our mixed greens (and reds) are growing! Okay, so maybe lettuce isn't sexy to everyone. But I think it's beautiful. Because this is my first year gardening, I'm just ecstatic that anything is growing at all! 

I've been noticing plants, flowers, and veggies everywhere. I've been especially impressed by the rising number of places where Vancouverites are planting veggie beds! It's incredible! 

I happened upon this one just the other day. 

It has been growing right under my nose for years. I walk past this backyard nearly every day on my way from home to my church. Maybe the gardener just put it in... or maybe I'm just growing a new pair of eyes. 

This garden is particularly interesting to me. First, the tall poles all lined up in a row there are deliciously exciting. What is the gardener growing? There were some berry bushes behind the poles, and I noticed at least one fruit tree. There are some things growing in pots, and good Vancouverite that this gardener is, the compost bin is in the front right. 

When I notice these little gardens springing up all over the city, what should I do? Try to take a photo surreptitiously... without seeming creepy? Introduce myself to the gardener in person or by a note left in the mailbox? I'm not shy about chatting with someone who's out in the yard working. After all, since I've started my little garden at church, I've met SO many people from the neighborhood! It's a lovely feeling to see little gardens coming to life in my neighborhood, and I want to make friends with the kind of people who would tear up the sod in their whole backyard to plant a veggie garden. At the very least, I have yard-lust. So, I will garden vicariously through my neighbor-gardeners, savoring my own small bit of earth. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Honey Hazelnut Cake

This morning I went to visit my friend M. for tea. And I always want something sweet and baked to go with my tea. My ideal cake is one that is light, moist, fragrant, filled with subtle flavors, with an interesting texture. Especially if that texture is slightly caramelized and crunchy on top. Going through the cake recipes on Chocolate and Zucchini (Clotilde's recipes never fail!), the Honey Hazelnut Cake filled all these requirements in my baker's imagination. 

Of course, I made my own adjustments. I find most recipes have too much sugar. This one definitely did, since it called for twice as much (yes, you read that correctly) sugar as it did flour. I changed that ratio around, and because of the addition of melted honey to the batter, I didn't miss the sugar one bit. In fact, next time I might try reducing it even more. I also took Clotilde's advice on doubling the recipe and toasting the hazelnuts. 

You could probably make some substitutions to this cake - trying other nuts instead of hazelnuts, for example - but who wants to mess with a good thing? (Apparently I do, blatantly thumbing my nose at even Clotilde!) The combination of toasted hazelnuts and fragrant honey is ethereal and earthy. (You ask me if this is possible, and I say "yes!") The crust is slightly crunchy, and the inside is a moist and cakey. And what a combo... honey and hazelnuts completely infuse the cake, making it absolutely irresistible. 

I would eat this anytime of the day. Breakfast, tea, dessert, midnight snack... you doubt my gluttony? This is what's left of the cake and it's only 5 o'clock! 

I'm pretty sure J. and I will polish the rest off for breakfast tomorrow. I am also pretty sure I will be making this at least two more times this week. 

Honey Hazelnut Cake 
(adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini)

1/2 cup sugar (or 1/3, if you want a little less sugar, like I might)
1 cup flour (of your choice, unbleached all purpose is just fine)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2/3 cups whole raw hazelnuts
10 Tablespoons butter (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
6 tablespoons honey

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a rack set in the middle of the oven. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is somewhat incorporated before adding the next one. 

Then, toast the hazelnuts. Rub them in a teatowel to remove the brown skins, which can get bitter. Chop them roughly (I pulsed them a few times in my food processor), and let them cool before folding them into the batter. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan, and let it cool just a bit before adding it to the batter. Fold in until just incorporated. 

Pour batter into a greased and floured cake pan or tart pan (I did mine in my tart pan, as you can see in the photo above), and make sure the top is level. 

Bake at 350 F for 25 - 30 minutes, until the middle of the cake is set and the top is golden brown. Serve with a little bit of whipped cream, or just as it is, slightly warm. 

I could also see this cake modified a little bit to make a stunning informal layered cake. Reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup, and make a double batch. Bake the batter in two separate cake pans, and layer the cakes when cool with whipped cream flavored with honey, and perhaps a little buttered rum? Go nuts. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snowboarding SnackPacks

Okay, okay, I get the picture. Post a new recipe already, Tora!

Last week some friends of ours flew in from Toronto for a weekend of skiing at Whistler. I was more excited to "play mom" than to get my rear end flattened and my knees knocked out by hard-packed snow. This is only my second season boarding, you know. Give me a break. However, being a dutiful wife to my snowboarding husband, I got up at 6.00am with everyone else to drive up to Whistler for a day on the slopes.

Wouldn't you know it? I barely made it down one run. One green run, nonetheless. By lunchtime I was ready to call it a day and go sip cocoa in front of a TV while wearing warm clothes. Oh, and get the feeling back in my toes.

But, the highlights of the day were: beautiful clear blue skies, a comfortable temperature, good friends, stunning views from the Peak2Peak Gondola, and tasty snacks. On the ride up we had blueberry-banana muffins topped with a oaty-cinnamony-brown-sugary streusel, and I sent everyone up the lifts with snackpacks of homemade granola bars and sugar baby mandarins.

So, my friends. Today, as penance for not posting since November 24 (shame, I know), you will get two recipes. For the days ahead of skiing and snowboarding which I hope will come to all of us. I, however, plan to stick to the local mountains (Seymour, Grouse, Cypress) in hopes of mastering the bunny hills by the end of this season so I don't continue this trend of breaking myself attempting to slide down a hill while nailed to a plank of wood, trying desperately to look cool.

Road-Trip Blueberry Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, using a pastry cutter, blend the following until it forms pea-sized lumps:

1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
dash of cinnamon

Set the streusel mixture aside. In a large bowl, whisk together:

1 large ripe banana, peeled and mashed
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla

Stir the dry ingredients into the banana-buttermilk mixture, until it is just mixed. DO NOT OVERMIX! Fold in:

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins. Top each muffin with a teaspoon of streusel, patting it down gently so it just sticks to the batter.

Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes until the muffins are puffy and the streusel is golden brown and you just can't wait any longer to eat them.

To make apple-streusel muffins, substitute one cup of unsweetened applesauce for the banana, and add 1 tsp of cinnamon to the flour mixture. Top with streusel and bake just as for the blueberry-banana muffins.

Granola Bars (to make you swear off Chewy forever)
adapted from a forum post on

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, stir together:

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup of dried fruit of your choice (I like cranberries, but cherries, blueberries, or raisins would all work fine here)
1 cup of nuts, whole or lightly chopped (I like whole almonds, but peanuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, would all be delicious!)
1/3 cup chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional... but highly recommended)

In a pyrex liquid measuring glass, stir together:

1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut or almond butter

Microwave for a few minutes until you can stir it into a smooth mixture. Add:

2 tsp vanilla

Pour the liquid honey/butter/peanut butter mix over the dry oat mixture, tossing to coat everything evenly (this is to ensure your bars stick together!). Pour the mixture into a 9 inch X 13 inch pan, lined with parchment paper (or greased and floured... but you don't really want more grease in these bars), leaving enough paper hanging over for you to pull the bars out of the pan. Press down firmly on the mixture to make sure it will stick together.

Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Then, getting your roommate, husband, or boyfriend to help, grab two opposite sides of the parchment paper while s/he grabs the other side (a large spatula slid under the bars helps immensely), and lift the bars out of the pan and let them cool on a rack (still on the paper) until they are completely cool and set.

Cut into small-ish sized bars and wrap in plastic or tinfoil. I underestimated the richness of my bars, and so cut pretty large ones. Taste a bit of yours before you cut so you know how much you can stand to eat in one sitting. These are pretty packed with energy!