Sunday, December 16

Cross-country Skiing Lessons

Arrowhead Provincial Park has a great network of cross-country ski trails for a variety of skill levels, groomed for both nordic-style and skate-style skiing. Plus they rent skis if you don't have your own. It's a challenging sport, though, and can be a lot of work if you don't know what you're doing out there. Happily, we recently heard about a couple offering cross-country skiing lessons in the park.

Dan and Joan of Ski For Life have been teaching for years and frequently offer courses at Arrowhead Park. They are currently promoting classes on December 29th and 30th but have dates available throughout the winter. Here's the info from them:

Our first Northern Getaway Lesson of the year -- all equipment supplied.
Beginners, novices or those brushing up on long forgotten skills are all welcome. 
The lesson starts with preliminary info and outfitting, followed by instruction and trail skiing. Full-day lessons include a rest break in the warming hut for a half hour or so right at Arrowhead (bring a small packed lunch). On half-day lessons, eat a light lunch before arriving. The park trail fee for each adult skier, including ourselves, is $11. 
Date: Saturday December 29
Time: 9:30am till 3pm
Location: Arrowhead Provincial Park
Lesson Fee: $40/person
Park Admission Fee: $11/person
Date: Sunday December 30
Time: noon till 3:30pm
Location: Arrowhead Provincial Park
Lesson Fee: $40/person
Park Admission Fee: $11/person 

Contact Dan and Joan at Ski For Life directly to book your lesson or enquire about lesson dates.

If you're staying here at Fern Glen Inn, you know we'll start your morning with a hearty healthy breakfast to sustain you on the trails!

Monday, December 10

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

It's that time of year again! An abundance of holiday parties, open houses, potlucks and office socials mean it's time to break out your baking gear. And so I think it's the perfect time to share one of my very favourite sweets with you. 

These cheesecake squares are easy, quick to come together with few ingredients, travel well, freeze great, and can be kept simple for the novice baker but make a perfect blank canvas for the advanced baker to unleash some decorative flare. 

I've been making variations of them for years and years and have lost track of how many times I've given out the recipe to friends and coworkers. I hope you enjoy them too!

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 oz (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
2 250 gram packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup dulce de leche*
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9"x13" cake pan with parchment paper, allowing overhang so it will be easy to lift out.

Measure flour, icing sugar, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor process and pulse to combine. Cut butter into 1/2" dice and add to flour mixture. Pulse to combine then process until mixture looks like wet sand. Dump into prepared pan and press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread until dry on top and pale golden, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or with electric beaters), beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in granulated sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on low speed until just combined.

If dulce de leche is very thick, heat gently until it is spreadable.

Spread the dulce de leche evenly over hot shortbread. Carefully pour the cream cheese mixture over top, covering the dulce de leche completely. Bake until slightly puffed and dry on top, about 30 minutes.

Cool completely in pan then chill for at least an hour for cleaner slicing. I like to trim the edges off then cut into 1 1/4" squares (makes about 54) for snacking or a dessert buffet but you can cut into larger pieces for a more substantial dessert. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Can be frozen, well wrapped, for longer. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

* Dulce de leche is a rich caramel sauce available in the jams or baking section of most grocery stores. You can also make it yourself: Empty one can of sweetened condensed milk into an 8" or 9" ceramic or glass baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350°F, stirring occasionally, until thick and golden brown in colour, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature before continuing with recipe.

Make it Fancy

There are so many ways to dress up these basic cheesecake squares if you want to add some bling to your sweet, such as...

• Drizzle the cooled cheesecake squares with zigzags of melted dark chocolate

• Spread a thin layer of dark or white chocolate glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts, crushed hard caramel candies, colourful sprinkles, silver dragees or even edible gold foil

• For dessert-sized servings, add a dollop of whipped cream and a ribbon of bittersweet chocolate sauce


Raspberry Cheesecake Squares: Replace dulce de leche with good quality seedless raspberry jam. Drizzle cooled cake with melted dark chocolate (optional).

Blueberry Cheesecake Squares: Replace dulce de leche with good quality blueberry jam. Spread cooled cake with melted white chocolate (optional).

Gianduia (Chocolate-Hazelnut) Cheesecake Squares: Replace dulce de leche with chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella); add 1/2 cup toasted skinned hazelnuts to the food processor with the flour and process until finely chopped. Drizzle or spread with melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped toasted skinned hazelnuts.