Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ciambella alla Carote

As many of my guests and friends can attest, I am a recipe junkie. I love browsing cookbooks, magazines, newspaper clippings and websites for new recipes or twists on old ones, using these as jumping off points for creating my own concoctions.

You can imagine my delight, then, when repeat guests of ours gave me a wonderful gift last year: The Silver Spoon cookbook. It's a mammoth tome—nearly 1,500 pages of (mostly Italian) recipes organized by main ingredient or category of dish. It's a staple in every Italian kitchen and has been since the first edition was published in 1950.

It's unlike any traditional North American cookbook I've seen (and I've seen many!). It has chapters on Guinea Fowl, Scorpion Fish, Garbanzo Beans, Anti-pasto and more. I turned to the chapter on Family Cakes for a few reasons. For one, I wanted to make a homey dish, one that would be found in a typical Italian kitchen on any unremarkable day. I also have a practical streak so I wanted to try a recipe that would also be at home at our breakfast table (thus I bypassed the "Calf's Head" chapter).

The first recipe in Family Cakes was for Ciambella alla Carote, or Carrot Ring Cake. Familiar yet different. Just what fits my bill. The recipe called for a "6-cup capacity tube pan". Judging by the picture in the cookbook, it's more shallow and has a larger centre hole than North American tube or bundt pans, and holds about half the capacity. There are a number of ciambella recipes in this section so I assume it's a common pan size in Italy. I used a loaf pan instead. You could also use mini-loaf pans or muffin tins instead. I think I'd have to double the recipe if I wanted to try it in a bundt pan.

The resulting Carrot Loaf was delicious. Moist, not too sweet. Perfect for the breakfast sideboard or for an afternoon snack. I thought I'd share this with you now since a carrot dish seems appropriate with Easter just around the corner. Bake up a loaf or two to have on hand should friends, family or an Easter Bunny drop by.

Buona Pasqua!

Carrot Loaf

Slightly adapted from The Silver Spoon Cookbook's Ciambella alla Carote

The original recipe calls for the batter to be baked in a 6-cup capacity tube pan. If you have one, by all means, use it. If not, use a loaf pan, mini-loaf pans or muffin tins.

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground ginger
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons oil (sunflower or light olive)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for the pan
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium-large carrots, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Make a well in the centre. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, butter, milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until almost combined. Stir in carrots, raisins and walnuts.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes for a loaf or ring, about 25-35 minutes for muffins or mini-loaves.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then unmold. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Buon appetito!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring Events in Muskoka & Almaguin

Here's a list of events in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands this spring. Got a local event to share? Let me know and I'll add it to the list!

BONUS: Book by April 19 for a two-night stay between April 20 - June 23 and get a free $50 gas card and $50 in spending vouchers as part of Explorers' Edge Fuel & Fun promotion.

: : : : : :

TriSummit Triathlon Conference
Second annual triathlon and endurance sport conference brings together the top educators, experts, coaches and athletes in the field. Three days of speakers, workshops, clinics and events to help you reach your personal best. Visit TriMuskoka for details.
April 11 - 13

Easter Long Weekend
Fern Glen Inn
The first long weekend of the spring! Treat yourself to a little getaway to Fern Glen Inn to renew, recharge and rejuvenate yourself. (p.s. There will be chocolate!). Book online or send us an email to reserve your weekend getaway.
April 18 - 21

Mother's Day 
Fern Glen Inn 
Treat your mom, your wife, your sister or yourself to a weekend away and let someone else do the cooking and cleaning. Our famous breakfasts are fresh, healthful, indulgent -- just what every mom deserves!
May 11

Muskoka Heritage Place 
Museum, pioneer village, and portage flyer train open for the season. For more information please visit Muskoka Heritage Place.
May 17

Victoria Day Long Weekend 
Fern Glen Inn
Better known as the May Two-Four, it's the unofficial launch of the outdoor season, a weekend to get out of the city and into the woods! Spend the weekend at Fern Glen Inn and we can help you with plans to go canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, shopping, golfing or just chilling out in the fresh air. Book online or send us an email to reserve your weekend getaway.
May 16 - 19

Spin the Lakes Cycle Tour
Huntsville and area 
Hit the road and pedal your way around Muskoka lakes, along routes with breath taking views and spectacular rock cuts, through several small towns and over terrain that consists of moderate rolling hills. Not a race, this event is geared for everyone to participate and enjoy. Choose your distance from 20k to 170k. Fully supported with vehicles, food and water stations. Visit Bike Muskoka for details.
May 24

Colonel Chris Hadfield 
Canada Summit Centre, Huntsville
Be inspired and enthralled by an evening of conversation, pictures and song as world famous astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield shares his story and lessons learned. Visit Huntsville Festival of the Arts for details and tickets.
June 2, 7:30 pm

The Huntsville Half 
Come on out and challenge yourself with a half marathon, 10k or 5k race, then follow it up with a post-race live music concert in River Mill Park. The race course is through lovely Muskoka scenery; the concert is all-ages with a beer tent and great food vendors. Visit Huntsville Half for details and to register. Runners staying two nights at Fern Glen Inn get a free upgrade to VIP status!
June 14

Live It! A Culinary, Home & Garden Getaway
Whether it is a love of gardening, a passion for food and wine, or a “how-to” home renovation aficionado, the Live It Getaway weekend will offer something for everyone. Experts talks, demos how-to's, culminating with a licensed dinner and dancing under the stars! Visit Huntsville Adventures for details.
June 20 - 22

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring Fuel & Fun

It's baaaack! The Fuel & Fun promo from Explorers' Edge is just the thing to get us thinking Spring! Book your Spring getaway now and get $100 in free gas and goodies!

Just book your Spring getaway by April 19 for a 2-night stay between April 20 and June 23 and you can be 1 of 500 travelers to receive a $50 gas card and $50 worth of vouchers to use-as-cash at participating restaurants, shops and attractions!

It gets even better, because you ALSO save $20 off your two-night stay with our Fern Glen Inn Spring Discount (save $10/night off the regular rate when you stay two nights or more between April 1 and June 23). And, yes, you can combine it with your Fuel & Fun freebies!

Jim and I love Fuel & Fun because it lets us give a great gift to our guests -- who doesn't like to get free gas and spending vouchers? -- but also because it lets us showcase the understated beauty of the fresh season. Whether you're looking for a quiet retreat to recharge your batteries or a few days of hiking and exploring, we hope to see you here this Spring!

Quantities are limited -- first come, first served -- so act quickly to avoid disappointment.

When do you stay?
Any two consecutive nights between April 20 and June 23, 2014

When do you book?
Make your reservation and register for your vouchers (we'll tell you how) by April 19, 2014

What do you get?
$50 gas card plus $50 in spending vouchers to use at participating shops, eateries and attractions during your stay. Of course, you also get two comfortable nights and two delicious breakfasts at Fern Glen Inn.

What's the catch?
There is none! You don't have to "buy one" to "get one" nor spend a minimum amount of money. Consider the free gas and vouchers as an invitation to come explore this beautiful region, courtesy of Explorers' Edge.

The Fuel & Fun Spring Getaway at Fern Glen Inn

Your getaway includes:

  • 2 nights accommodation for two people in one room
  • fresh and delicious breakfast each morning
  • $50 gas card
  • $50 in Experience Vouchers to use-as-cash at participating attractions, restaurants and shops during your stay
  • $10/night discount off the standard or holiday rate
Fuel & Fun Spring Getaway Price: starting from $216**

**Most dates are $216/package; the Victoria Day long weekend rate is $236/package.
Lower rates available for solo travelers. 13% HST is extra.

Call, email or book online. Visit Fuel & Fun at Fern Glen Inn for details.
: :   : :   : :   : :

* Quantities are limited. Only the first 500 "Qualified Bookings" within the entire Explorers' Edge region will receive the Gas Cards and Experience Vouchers. To be a "Qualified Booking", you must:
• book by April 19, 2014
• register your confirmation number directly at Explorers' Edge
• stay between April 20 and June 23, 2014
• stay for 2 consecutive nights or longer
Experience Vouchers may only be used between April 20 and June 23, 2014.

In partnership with

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy.... Spring?

Spring has sprung, the grass is.... still under a thick blanket of snow!

The calendar may say a new season is here, but until mother nature gets the memo, we'll make the most of the weather we do have. And for now, that's decidedly winter!

The nice thing about spring snow is it can be wonderful for snowshoeing. The warm/cold cycle from day to night gives the snow base structure and strength to support snowshoes (instead of sinking up to our knees in fluffy powder). Plus the longer days and stronger sun make for some lovely mild temperatures.

Jim and I took advantage of a perfect winter-in-spring afternoon and went for a great off-trail snowshoe hike in the woods. The quality of the photos is not great since I just brought the ipod, but they still capture the depth and firmness of the snow.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stories in Snow

Deer tracks across the back meadow.

One of the many things I love about snow is the way it records—if briefly—the stories that play out in the natural world around us. Stories of intrigue and adventure, of exploration and romance, of wanderers and residents. Every creature who sets foot, paw, hoof, talon, wing or tail on the ground leaves a mark in the snow, but it's up to us to decipher the tale behind the tracks.

Pair of squirrel tracks.
A snowshoe hike in our woods reveals all sorts of activity from numerous mammals and birds. The dense softwood section of the property is like Grand Central Station for rabbits and snowshoe hares with their tracks crisscrossing back and forth and down the trails.

Squirrels, chipmunks and mice tend to stay on the top of the snow, while the long-legged fox leaves deep, narrow depressions. Bird tracks are unmistakeable for their fine features. Grouse leave a track like a string of crosses, whereas turkey tracks are large and spaced apart. 

Wing swooshes in the snow are rarer to see but they look so elegant. Every now and then we see a mammal track end abruptly at a wing swoosh and we know the story behind it ended sadly for the mammal, but with a life-sustaining meal for the bird.

Turkey feet and wings.
The snow also tells us when we're sharing our property with larger animals. Deer and moose tracks are easy to spot in woods and meadows. Not only can we see the tracks from their wanderings, but we also see the depressions in the snow where they've laid down to sleep. This year we found two moose "nests" with many sleep depressions in the same area, plus piles of moose droppings (those aren't chocolate covered almonds!) and numerous sets of tracks radiating outward. It's so rare to see the actual animals that I take heart in seeing the evidence that they are here and sharing our space.

So next time you're out snowshoeing, don't just look up at the sky and trees or down at your feet. Keep your eyes open to the signs of activity that came before you. Read the stories written in snow—and maybe even write your own!

Moose tracks heading off in the woods.

Small mammal tracks heading... everywhere?

Story of survival: mammal trail ends in wing swoosh.
See more about Reading the Forest here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Maple Chai Toddy

As you may know, we're big proponents for getting outside and enjoying these beautiful, exhilarating winter days... but what about the evenings? After the sun sets on a day of snowshoeing adventures, there's nothing like getting cozy by a toasty fire and warming up with a hot beverage -- preferably one that'll put a fire in your belly!

Irish coffee or a hot chocolate spiked with your favourite liqueur are good old standbys when it comes to hot cocktails, but for something a little different, try this Maple Chai Toddy. 

The warm spices of ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon in most chai tea blends are perfect for the chilly season. Whiskey adds a bit of belly-fire, though you could use cognac or rum. The almond in Amaretto plays a mellow note. The maple syrup adds a touch of sweetness and hints at a spring that is just around the corner. But until then, we'll keep enjoying this spectacular snowy season!

Maple Chai Toddy

Makes one serving
  • 1 oz whiskey
  • 1/2 oz Amaretto
  • 1/2 oz maple syrup, or to taste
  • hot, freshly prepared chai spice black tea (I use Stash brand)
  • sliced mandarin orange and cinnamon stick for garnish
In a heat-safe glass or mug, add whiskey, Amaretto and maple syrup. Top up glass with hot tea. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired. Garnish with a slice of mandarin orange and a cinnamon stick. Enjoy hot, in good company and preferably by a roaring fire.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's a Dog's Life!

Guests often comment that our dog, Saba, is lucky to live out here in the country on a large, forested property. We couldn't agree more! We got her as a wee puppy, just seven weeks old, when we were still living in Toronto. She started life as a city dog but, like us, couldn't go back to urban life now. 

Saba just turned 12 years old, so she's not a pup anymore, but she's spry and healthy and still bounces with enthusiasm at the prospect of a walk. I'm sure that's due in large part to an active life with plenty of fresh air. Hopefully Jim and I will see the same benefits!

We marked her birthday like we always do -- with a walk in the woods (with snowshoes for we bipedal animals) followed up by some especially tasty treats. It certainly is a dog's life!